If you were asked to think of someone who is the epitome of cool, Pat Boone probably wouldn’t be the first to spring to mind. Yet ol’ vanilla Pat had his day once. He was a chart topping artist in 1950’s America, second only to Elvis in popularity. In certain parts of the USA, he was number one. The word most often used to describe him is “wholesome”. Most of his early hits were covers of songs originally performed by black artists to be played in the markets that didn’t play black music. Check out this performance of Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti. You may want to prepare yourself a tuna with mayo on Wonderbread paired with a glass of milk for full effect:
The original lyrics were scrubbed quite a bit but “I got a gal named Sue, she knows just what to do” managed to slip through. It has absolutely nothing to do Sue’s ability to get you a shake at the malt shop. His attempt at hip seems so wrong, yet it’s nearly impossible to look away. So gloriously chintzy. So ridiculously white.
Chris Alexander’s interview with VICE last week was very much a Pat Boone-as-hipster moment. At 46, Chris’ days of the three egg hangover breakfast in the same bar he was in the night before are probably long past. He looks the part though; hair slightly disheveled, grim expression holding back a headache, day two of the same wrinkly dress shirt (mystery stain off camera, tie in the lost and found), eyes squinty from one too many shooters close to closing time. Perhaps he was partying with his old Oxford chums, his days in England and time in the diplomatic core giving him that charming hint of mid-atlantic accent you can’t quite place as it is the voice of no actual place. Rows of bottles loom in the background soft focus like a frat boy dream. It’s about as believable as Pat Boone’s rhythm and blues ability.
The attempt at myth making is instantly shattered when Alexander pricks himself and bleeds blue blood. Perhaps the bad coffee hadn’t cleared his heavy head yet when he slides into nudge-nudge mode with a fellow cracker. I’ve overheard the discussion countless times at bars not unlike the one he is in; smack talking others by saying wearing the hijab (he likely means niqab) is “not how we do things here”. He drives his foot much deeper into his mouth with “people…don’t want their co-citizens to be terrorists”. When confronted about these comments later in Question Period, he rambled on about historic racism perpetuated by Trudeau The Elder and Mackenzie King. I’m not racist says he, but the Liberals sure are! He neglects to mention the true Tory blue (and hungover prone) John A MacDonald’s well known views regarding the Indians and the Chinese. They were far beyond the level of your average pathetic other-blaming drunk. It is a sad, unwritten rule in many parts of Crackertown that bashing the black or brown or anyone wearing headgear that isn’t a hockey helmet is fair game. If you have trouble understanding what white privilege is, this behaviour is a massive component of it. Alexander slides into it so easily you know it wasn’t an error or mistake. No apology was rendered.
Politicians are heavily scripted these days for good reason. Freewheeling leads to trouble because most of them aren’t very good at it. Are the Conservatives so desperate for three or four votes from Millennials that they’re willing to let Alexander go it alone in this scenario? Content aside, the fatal flaw of this interview is the overpowering faux-ness of it all. At the precise moment it starts to nosedive, one almost expects Borat to pop his head into the frame to start ranting about the Jews. That might have actually worked in Alexander’s favour here. Tequila poppers with interviewer Justin Ling may have also turned the tide. Our pure bianco bro Chris would get full vindication if he’d admitted to a belly full of Jose Cuervo, Rob Ford style. Instead we get the same old shit. Another high order poseur. It’s Peter MacKay in a toy F-35. It’s PM Harper in his beige vest of many pockets playing Commander-In-Chief on a battlecruiser. It’s Pierre Poilievre or Paul Calandra as experts on the issues. No one believes this act for a second. They keep striving for a knockout punch with a distinct lack of a whomp bomp a loo bomp. Will our nation ever turn it up a notch and quit settling for the pale imitators?