RSS Feed

1996 – The first time Salmi did this he went to Granville Street, found a hippie (the definition is unclear), tore a $50 bill in half and promised him the other half if he showed up at the Niagara that night. When he showed, Salmi says he covered him in hockey gear and for a dollar allowed patrons to take a whack at him with dried-out children’s hockey sticks

The Province
January 18, 1996
A14
Wise city councillors extend Niagara’s hours
Mike Roberts

In a rare display of common sense and decency, Vancouver city council approved an application last week to extend the Mighty Niagara’s business hours by one hour.

A first for a downtown pub-slash-nightclub.

Despite all the humming and hawing about rowdiness and the noise that may disturb the residents of the Victory Square Development Plan — which won’t even be off the drawing board for another 15 years — the application went through.

No $25,000 referendum to tell the owners and operators of the hugely popular nightspot what they already know — no one in the area has a problem with them staying open till 1 a.m.

In fact, most of them agree that an infusion of youngsters with cash to spend is the kind of revitalization the area around the 400- block of West Pender needs.

“It took a lot of work,” says a rather relieved Brian Salmi, who books the acts at the Niagara. “They’re not in the habit of extending hours, but we made a good case.”

Making the case involved sitting in the lobby of city hall for three days picking off councillors as they shuffled from meeting to meeting.

Salmi says it’s hard to pull off an evening’s entertainment or a special event when you have to shut the doors early. And it means one fewer band gets its time on the stage, which doesn’t help the thriving local music scene one iota.

The application’s gone over to Victoria for a rubber-stamping by provincial authorities. Salmi sees no problems there and expects the extended hours to come into effect the first week of February.

Meanwhile, the Niagara has joined forces with the Town Pump to buy an old school bus to shuttle wayward revellers to the two Gastown-area clubs.

The old 40-seater will shuttle club-goers from UBC, the Jericho Hostel and various big-name concerts and sports events to the clubs starting next week.

Salmi says they’ve painted the party buggy up “pretty funky” and they’re slapping in a “kick-ass stereo” to warm up the club-bound passengers as they head downtown.

It’s free, by the way, and if you need more info — schedules and all that jazz — give the Niagara a buzz at 688-7574.

The Province
March 3, 1996
A14
Instant urban beach + movies = fun
Mike Roberts

Talking about putting on a good show, the Granville Beach Outdoor Cinema is coming to an empty lot near you this summer.

Beginning the Victoria Day long weekend, the lot across from Eaton’s in the 700-block Granville will be transformed into a 1,000- person-capacity theatre.

Organizers are fencing off the lot and dumping down several truck- loads of sand to create a beach in the middle of the city.

Throughout the summer, a classic flick — Planet of the Apes to Lawrence of Arabia — and two student films will be projected on the wall of the Vancouver Block Building every Saturday night at dusk (Fridays on long weekends).

Something Old, Something New, they’re calling it.

“We’re hoping this will catch on in the spirit of the drive-in,” says Brian Salmi, one of the organizers.

“You can’t see these old films anywhere except on TV or on video now, right?” he adds. “The grandeur of something like Lawrence of Arabia is seriously diminished or completely lost when you’re watching it on a 26-inch TV, wearing sweats and eating microwave popcorn. It’s not the same.”

You can bring a blanket, a lawn chair or just flop down in the sand and enjoy, says Salmi, who’s charging $6 at the gate with a portion of the proceeds going to the city’s four film schools for scholarships.

It’s a great location with limited traffic and few residents and Salmi’s counting on it being quite the festive affair.

No popcorn, mind you, or Dolby Surround.

Vancouver Sun
March 9, 1996
F3
A silver screen replaces sun and sand this summer at the Beach:
Peter Birnie

Coming this summer to the Granville Mall — a beach.

If Brian Salmi and Shiera Frankel can gain approval from the city, an empty lot across from Eaton’s, once the site of the Castle Hotel, will be fenced, buried in sand and turned into Beach Cinema, an open-air venue for screening classic films on summer Saturday evenings.

For $5 or $6, patrons will be able to plant their blankets and lawn chairs and watch movies projected on to the south face of the historic Vancouver Block. Salmi happily reports the building was recently given a fresh coat of light-colored paint, making it “perfect as a movie screen.”

Ready to seek city approval, Salmi and Frankel hope to open Beach Cinema by the Victoria Day long weekend, when they plan to screen Casablanca. The idea is based on a successful open-air cinema in Seattle, where up to 1,000 patrons attend screenings, weather permitting.

Salmi doesn’t expect to get rained out often, but plans to adapt the schedule so any film rain-delayed will be seen the following week.

Other titles to be offered on Saturdays and long-weekend Fridays include Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Some Like It Hot, Jaws, Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, Psycho, The Godfather, On the Waterfront, The Sting, Planet of the Apes, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, My Fair Lady and The Wizard of Oz.

“We’re quite excited about the innovation and uniqueness of the proposal,” says city planning analyst Ben McAfee. Plans for the sound and projection systems have yet to be finalized, but Salmi says consideration is being given to a radio-transmission sound mode so people can bring their own radios to hear the movie.

“Not only is the noise consideration made easier by the fact that there isn’t a residential component in the immediate area,” says Salmi, “but traffic noise won’t be a problem for our patrons either, because all you’ll hear from the mall are electric trolley buses and taxis.”

The Province (Vancouver)
April 11, 1996
Page A14 
Metal lives, seriously
Mike Roberts

A one-armed drum solo competition?!

Sick-ola.

What kind of . . . .

But there I was at the Mighty Niagara Tuesday night for the One Armed Beat Off: A Tribute to Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen (who lost his arm in a 1984 car accident but carried on with one stick and some fancy footwork).

Right. Tuesday night had nothing to do with Rick Allen and everything to do with reliving the glory days of the ’80s when heavy metal ruled and a PC was something your math teacher was saving up for.

Admit it, if you hit your teens in the early ’80s, you still give the volume knob a quick clockwise twist every time you hear the opening riffs to Ace of Spades or Jailbreak.

Heavy metal, as its name implies, sank into the folds of our brains and settled there like that wad of Double Bubble someone dared us to swallow back in grade school.

Whatever comes along, neither really passes.

Metal’s like a bad smell that won’t go away. A lingering undercurrent (which a lot of people still take seriously).

At the Niagara pub, they don’t take it seriously.

While other venues play disco on Tuesday nights, Metal de Fromage is the odeur du jour at the Niagara — big hair, smoke machines, mini-skirts, snake-skin boots, lemon-gin shooters.

“It’s kind of weird ’cause I haven’t been getting excited about music for quite a while,” says club manager and metal revivalist Brian Salmi. “It’s a nostalgia trip for most people coming down, but we do get a few metallers here every week.”

Real metallers, I saw them myself. Too many levels of parody going on for me to discern fact from fiction.

You thought a one-armed drum solo competition was tasteless? Oh no, wet-T-shirt contest . . . swear to God. And a free lemon-gin shot for every pair of knickers handed over to the bar. I’m telling you, too much.

Underwear to the Underprivileged was the cause.

“So those women in the Third World don’t have to run around naked any more,” hollered Salmi from the stage as two pairs of skivvies floated forward.

(Salmi told me later he’s got a contract with a vending-machine company in Japan. At that point, I could have believed anything.)

With ribald patrons — some pierced, many poodle-coifed — openly singing all the lyrics to Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills and hollering “Give me an R! . . . R! . . . Give me an O! . . . O!” it was a bizarre spectacle to behold.

Then came the wet- T-shirt contest.

Five contestants vying for $100. Some people.

Guys and gals leaping over chairs and tables, launching glasses with the tips of their buckle-boots, lunging for high ground to get a view.

“Somehow I don’t detect any irony in this,” said the self- described ironic observer who joined me for a night of metal.

“It’s just good old-fashioned ogling.”

I could have sat around and argued the point, but the contest was under way.

“Back up, you (expletive) perverts,” said Salmi, trying to get the crowd under control.

“This is (expletive) heavy metal. Whatdya mean, `Do they have to take their bras off?’ ” volleyed Salmi with Metal de Fromage gusto.

With a throat full of fake smoke and vapor from several dozen jettisoned beers, I was unable to puncture the wet-T crowd. Just as well, this is a family newspaper.

Falling back from the melee, I bumped into local pop artist Jim Cummins.

So, Jim, do you find all this inspiring on an artistic level?

“It’s only inspiring me to watch another wet-T-shirt contest,” admitted the off-duty painter. “Or be the boy in the wet-jockey- shorts contest, that’s about it.”

With the shirts dried off and things back to relative calm, it was time for the band.

“From the deepest, darkest depths of Planet Surrey . . . THIS IS MORDOR!” hollered Salmi as a group of competent long-hairs began the helicopter head routine and other metal posturings.

“Metal’s still alive in Vancouver and disco sucks!” mused the Mordor frontman, white high-tops and a $10 Timex complementing the heavy couture.

Funny thing is, they really believed they were being taken seriously, the lads of Mordor, even the lead axe man, unlit cig soggy in his mouth.

“We’re going to milk this till every head-banging, metal low- life doesn’t get it any more,” said Salmi as I dodged out of metal city.

Ah, yeah.

Heavy metal. We can run but we cannot hide. See ya at Lollapalooza. Metallica’s headlining.

The Province (Vancouver)
May 9, 1996
Page A14 
Shock value … some s-t-r-e-t-c-h: Wet T-shirts as pub `events’ are one thing,
but the flip side’s a bit much
Mike Roberts

Warning: This column deals with mature subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.

There’s little that can shock a generation jaded around the edges and blase to the core.

No amount of corruption, no level of violence, no twist of perversion.

It’s all old hat . . . nothing new under the sun and all that.

The apathetic “Whatever” and the ironic “What’s your point?” are the stock reactions to anything or anyone attempting to illicit shock.

It takes a lot these days to offend, outrage, sicken.

That said, the reaction to an “event” that went down at the Niagara pub on Tuesday night was a collective, “Oh-my-god!”

It’s billed as the “sickest bar in Vancouver,” and now I believe it. And if the Mighty Niagara is to be held up as a cultural barometer, oh boy, strange days indeed.

The “event” wasn’t unprecedented. Iggy Pop was at it in Romeo in 1968; Perry Farrell had a go in Hawaii in ’90; Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon followed suit in Vancouver in ’93.

But those guys weren’t in a contest. Those “events” were a little more, shall we say, spontaneous.

The shock wave wasn’t restricted to the pub in question. The graphic posters for Tuesday night’s contest went up last Friday.

“Not even at the six-foot level, right down at three feet on an empty pole,” said a woman who works at a travel agency on Commercial Drive. “Kids couldn’t miss it.”

“I’m not opposed to what goes on in strip joints,” added the woman, who didn’t want her name connected with this issue. “I have a few dancer friends myself, but that’s behind closed doors and it’s the person’s choice to walk in there.”

Over at city hall, the permits and licensing department reported no pre-event complaints concerning the contest.

The Niagara certainly got an earful.

“We’ve had a lot of calls and complaints about it,” the bar’s manager, Brian Salmi, said Tuesday morning. “I’ve never seen a poster disappear so fast in my life.

“Nothing from organizations,” added Salmi. “Just some blue- haired conservative types from Kerrisdale. I don’t really understand the whole thing myself . . . what’s the big deal?”

The “event” — part of the weekly Metal de Fromage night — was a response to the wet T-shirt contest the pub held a few weeks back — the women wanted “equal time,” according to Salmi.

“I can spend 200 bucks and get the whole town talking about the bar,” he added. “Of course, it’s shock value, all the way. I have no problems with that at all.”

But is such a contest legal? I wondered.

“You’re kidding,” Brent Thompson with the ministry of the attorney-general, said yesterday. “Actual penises were shown? Good grief. Actual naked flesh was shown? Wow. I’ll get back to you.”

Turns out there is no prohibition against full male nudity in a licensed establishment.

As a hotel pub, the Niagara is a member of the B.C. & Yukon Hotel Association.

The association has an ethics committee, but it takes a complaint from one member about another to fire it up — a rare occurrence.

“We don’t monitor or know— unless I read the newspaper — what they’re doing,” admitted BCYHA executive vp, Jim Chase.

So anyway, I went down to this “event” Tuesday night. I really didn’t think it was going to happen. Who’d sign up for such a contest? Wouldn’t an inspector of some sort jump in and zip things up?

Well, six guys did sign up. And there was no one there to stop it.

Up on the stage, the John Thomas’s were out and gaff-taped to emcee Blondie Butler’s “table of love” for the official measure.

Much laughing, much groaning, but not nearly as popular as the wet T-shirt event.

Some things are best left under wraps.

For the record, the winner measured in at six and three-quarters – – relaxed, shall we say.

Rick, the winner, was put up to it by his friends. Did he feel objectified?

“Not at all,” said the 25-year-old who pocketed $100 for his effort. “I got drunk, I did it. I’ve got what I’ve got, what can I do about it.”

Strange days indeed.

Vancouver Sun
June 20, 1996
D3
Beach Cinema opens Saturday with Godzilla climbing the walls: Brian Salmi and Shiera Frankel have “jumped through more hoops than Lassie or Rin Tin Tin” to get the project projecting
Peter Birnie

Saturday night’s big-screen test of the outdoor cinema set for an empty lot in the 700 block of Granville Mall still faces a few obstacles.

Planning permission from the city has yet to arrive, along with fencing, sponsorship and a solution to the problem of ambient lighting from neighboring buildings.

And, most important, there’s no evidence yet of the 250 tonnes of sand needed to complete what’s been dubbed the Beach Cinema.

Despite all that, Brian Salmi and Shiera Frankel remain optimistic that their ambitious scheme, modelled after a successful outdoor cinema in Seattle, will see King Kong Vs. Godzilla climbing the walls of the Vancouver Block for this weekend’s preview of what the duo hopes to make a weekly summer event.

Every Saturday at dusk, weather permitting, all ages are invited to haul their own beach blankets or lawn chairs down to the lot opposite Eaton’s, once the site of the Castle Hotel, to see classic films like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz.

“It’ll be an outdoor museum,” says Frankel, whose job running Vancouver’s last operator-driven elevator a block away in the Medical Arts Building could come in handy when working with a vintage 1930s 16mm projector — dubbed “the Beast” — taken from the old Shaw Theatre on Hastings.

Frankel and Salmi are now waiting for final approval from the city.

“I’ve jumped through more hoops than Lassie or Rin Tin Tin,” says Salmi, bartender and Terminal City columnist.

City planner Greg Yeomans said Wednesday he doesn’t expect any delays in the approval. “It’s still being reviewed but they could get their permit on time.”

Salmi says volunteers would be appreciated. Call 878-7920.

The Province (Vancouver)
July 11, 1996
A14
Green light for film fest
Mike Roberts

Call Vancouver what you like. Just don’t call it the City of Festivals.

Getting a fest off the ground in this town is an exercise in frustration.

Case in point: The Something Old Something New Vancouver Outdoor Cinema Festival.

The idea is simple — take a large, empty downtown lot, fill it with sand and film buffs and show a few old movies on summer Saturday nights.

I wrote about this undertaking ages ago. Hey, it’s a cool idea. I even announced the June 22 sneak preview in a second column.

It didn’t happen. Not that week, anyway.

The festival became a circus — a full-on three-ringer involving city hall, the Vancouver Police Department and the property owners’ agent.

For opening night June 22, festival organizers Shiera Frankel and Brian Salmi thought they had the green light. They had the sand, they had the technical gear, they had 273.7 permits from the city.

But, say Frankel and Salmi, a cop at the community police office on Granville Street failed to pass the necessary permits up the line for a rubber stamping.

At the eleventh hour the police pulled the plug, claiming their resources were stretched too thin, with the Dragon Boat and Jazz Festivals demanding extra cop-power that particular Saturday night.

“They were erring on the side of caution, bordering on paranoia,” says Salmi who figures a few cops, not a battalion, would have sufficed that first night.

When people showed up June 22, there were no movies. Frankel and Salmi’s credibility took a right hook and a few sharp jabs.

“In the meantime, we look like fools to our sponsors,” laments Salmi. “And our patrons think that the whole festival is off.”

After sorting things out the following Monday, it was situation- Go for June 29.

Three hundred people showed up. A good turnout, but not exactly a full, er, lot.

Enter the agent for the owners of the bare patch at 780 Granville Street.

James Soo demanded a $5,000 security deposit for use of the lot.

He also demanded $1,000 a night in rent for the empty eyesore.

A lot of cash for a charity-status cinema festival.

Since there aren’t that many large, empty lots downtown, Frankel and Salmi acquiesced and signed on the line.

They paid the $5,000 up front but couldn’t make the rent (they were expecting 1,000 people out, not 300). They begged for leniency, a chance to get the festival going before forking over the “extortionate rent.”

No way said Soo: $3,200 in rent owed and due or pack up your sandbox and go home.

“A thousand bucks a night for an empty lot? You tell me that’s fair market value? There’s nobody who can justify that,” barks Salmi. “I can’t believe for a second these wealthy landowners are desperate for our last nickel and dime.”

I haven’t been to a good office storming in years.

So Tuesday last, I joined Frankel and Salmi and a handful of supporters for a surprise visit to Soo’s office in east Van.

Frankel: We’re trying to keep the cinema. I’m here to ask for you to reconsider and hopefully we can re-negotiate.

Soo: I’m very supportive of the festival but I’ve been concerned from the beginning about your organizational and financial resources. (For the record, Frankel and Salmi’s first two rent cheques were as rubbery as week-old calamari).

Soo: I’ve rented to other users on that basis. And you did sign at that rate. I have an accountability to the owners.

Salmi: I can’t imagine the owners are this ruthless, this concerned about this amount of cash. Where’s their civic responsibility? Their community pride?

Soo: What will make your festival work? You came to us with the proposal. It was not as successful as you wished it would be in the first few nights . . . .

Salmi: Let’s move on, James. Right now we need to promote this thing to make it work. Look, (the owners) can have everything after we’ve covered our expenses. We’ll open the books right up.

Soo: OK. You go ahead this Saturday and then we’ll talk. Good luck.

Why the property owners couldn’t just donate the use of the lot one night a week for a summer film festival is anyone’s guess.

Still, film buffs of Vancouver, you read it here. Saturday’s a go. Dun dun, dun dun . . . Jaws at dusk.

Vancouver Sun
July 13, 1996
D8
Be grateful for these annoying, passionate people
Frances Bula

As anyone who works in government or the media can tell you, there’s nothing more annoying or exhausting than people who care passionately about a cause and have decided to Do Something About It.

They phone you up at odd hours of the day and night to get you to take action on their particular passion.

They send you endless faxes. And books. And press releases. And letters. Videos. Reports. Invitations to their group’s meetings. They make you feel guilty because you haven’t done more (or anything).

They never make their points quickly or succinctly. They want you to know everything and they are puzzled and frequently hurt that you’re less interested in the topic than they are. Don’t you care about making the world a better place? is their unspoken question as you talk to them – as many people did this week – about government action on AIDS treatment, making the city more accessible for cyclists, stopping developers from cutting down trees.

And they’ve got all the flexibility of concrete. They don’t see the other side’s point of view. They aren’t willing to compromise. They want you to change the rules, the policy, the world, now.

As I said, exhausting.

And, in spite of that, the kind of people who make me optimistic.

Better them than the other kinds of people I read about in the news, the helpless groups at the mercy of social forces they don’t understand and have no control over.

This week’s examples: The proportion of young Canadian men who appear to be stuck permanently in low-paying jobs is growing dramatically. Lower Mainland residents everywhere are ground down by the traffic sewers that run through their neighborhoods. B.C.’s coastal villages may be devastated by the federal plans to cut the salmon fishery.

There’s a lot more of that kind of news out there, too, which doesn’t get covered very well by news media. It is much easier to focus on the groups who are acting than on the millions of people who live passive lives of quiet and unfocused frustration as they are battered by change after change sweeping over their workplace, their city, their province or their planet.

They complain over the dinner table to their families, over the fence to neighbors, but they don’t act. They don’t go to city hall and protest, they don’t join committees or groups or boards, they don’t believe they can change anything. It is far easier to stay at home, unhappy because something seems wrong with the world but they don’t know what.

What a relief it is to read about the people willing to take on what seem like hopeless fights – people who aren’t paid to go out and change the world but decide to do it just because they have a vision of how things might be different.

My favorite, for the week, is the Brian (Godzilla) Salmi’s hyperbolic account in Terminal City of his battle with the forces of darkness (property owners, city hall, police) so that he and his group of co-conspirators can show classic movies against the wall of a building next to an empty lot in the heart of downtown Vancouver (a subject covered in more detail by Elizabeth Aird on page 6 of today’s Saturday Review).

There is Salmi, taking them all on, for what? A belief that the city would be a better place (and a vacant lot could perform a useful function) if people got together to watch movies outdoors after dusk at Georgia and Granville. That’s the kind of obscure and monomaniacal passion that does make the world a better place.

The same for the AIDS activists, tree activists and bike activists who have been out and about this week, getting up everyone’s noses. You might completely disagree with what they do, but they’re doing something, forcing people into examining their values and deciding where they stand.

It’s not a fun job, either. For every media soundbite some group gets, there have been months of phone calls and research expeditions and those endless, boring meetings that are the nightmarish foundation of all activist work. Meetings where the conversations go on forever, the factions form and polarize and come together and reform, where the same arguments are thrashed out over and over again because someone missed it the first time or thought of another point.

And that’s just among the supporters. When they go out to do battle with their institutional foes, it starts all over again and the change is so slow that it feels like a single swimmer is trying to nudge the bow of the Queen of Nanaimo.

The only thing that keeps anyone going is imagination.

Through the maze of details and in-fighting and out-fighting and other people’s boredom with their fanaticism and constant defeats and very small victories, they see the shining vision of a new and perfect world.

Vancouver Sun
July 13, 1996
Page D.6 
No matter how you view it, $1,000 a night is quite a lot
Elizabeth Aird

They don’t mince words. “Rich Asian Land Owners Threaten to Kill Outdoor Film Festival. . . .” said the headline on the news release.

Three fledgling film festival producers are protesting against their treatment at the hands of – well, rich Asians.

Since June 28, Yummy Girl, Brian Salmi and Darren Atwater have been screening movies on Granville Mall. They’ve turned the long-vacant lot between the Vancouver Block and the Royal Bank at Robson into cinema al fresco, using the wall of the Vancouver Block as their screen. Admission is $6, BYO-Popcorn and chair.

The festival, called Something Old, Something New, kicked off with Casablanca, and has drawn about 150 people to each of its three screenings. It’s supposed to end with the Wizard of Oz Aug. 31. In between is a string of pearls including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Cool Hand Luke, The Birds, The Pink Panther, The Sting, Planet of the Apes, and My Fair Lady.

Surely, this is just the kind of tonic Granville Mall desperately needs. Imagine the lift you’d get walking the mall, catching a lyric or two from My Fair Lady’s On the Street Where You Live. “I have often walked down this street before/But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before” would certainly have new meaning on sad old Granville.

But, Vancouver being a town with money, not music, in its soul, the first-time outdoor film festival is struggling.

Yummy and Salmi blame James Soo, the agent for the investors who own the lot. Soo wants $1,000 a night for the lot. Yummy and Salmi say that’s outrageous, although they signed a contract agreeing to pay it. Salmi says they signed in desperation, after putting a year’s work and all their savings into the project. “Soo pretty much knew we were in a position where we couldn’t have gone anywhere else.”

Say what you will about Yummy and Salmi’s naivete in signing the rental agreement, the two ask some valid questions.

What is a fair rental rate for a vacant lot? Surely $1,000 – plus GST – for a few hours’ use is over the top. Salmi and Yummy want a break until the festival finds its feet. They’re also a registered non-profit society, which means a tax deduction for anyone who donates money.

Why can’t they talk to the owners? Soo won’t tell them who the owners are.

Soo won’t tell The Sun, either. “Some shareholders, they don’t want to disclose who they are,” he said. Some are in Canada, some elsewhere, he says, and the vacant lot is the only Vancouver property they own.

Title searches didn’t turn up an owner. They’re in Singapore, says an employee of Globe Realty Management Ltd., the next-door neighbor to the vacant lot.

“What does some guy with a billion dollars care about a thousand dollars?” Salmi asks. “I don’t understand why James Soo won’t let us talk directly to the owners.”

The rental agreement raises a few other legitimate questions. Soo reserves the right to evict the festival on two days’ notice, and wants the $1,000 paid two days in advance of a screening. Remember, this is a vacant lot.

Salmi and Yummy haven’t been able to pay their $1,000 nightly rental yet, but they did put down a $5,000 security deposit. This, says Soo, is to cover “anything the owner has to spend in restoring it.”

Restore a dirty, desolate patch of gravel? This is a piece of land held in sufficient esteem to have sat vacant for at least five years, collecting nothing but garbage and stray cars and blighting an already surly part of town.

At least one neighbor likes the new activity next door. “The theatre is just fine. It gets all kinds of people out, it’s like Theatre Under the Stars,” says Globe Realty receptionist, Carmen, who wouldn’t give her last name. She says the lot has been spic-and-span the Monday mornings after screenings.

Absentee ownership always raises questions of civic responsibility, as this one does in spades. Some young Vancouverites are trying to pump a little life into the city’s once-bright heart, and they aren’t getting any help from anonymous owners.

“We’re not attacking them for their race, we’re just giving the facts,” Yummy says. “I think it’s a sad statement on the civic responsibility of absentee owners or any owner. If you have an empty lot you’re not developing, you’re not hurting for cash.”

Soo says he is merely doing his job looking after the owners’ interests, and that he based the $1,000 on “other uses,” including renting it out as a parking lot to movie trucks.

“I can’t imagine that somebody would be so bloody ruthless as to say, we’ll take your last penny,” Salmi says. “You don’t squeeze somebody out of business as soon they start up. It’s all going to be karma, it’s all going to come back on them.”

Salmi and Soo met Tuesday. Salmi asked for free rent until the end of the summer, when the two would sit down with the festival’s books and settle their accounts.

The festival may not make it that far. “I said okay for this weekend, I will not charge him,” Soo said this week, “but I didn’t want to promise anything further because I want to think it through. I never misled him. He signed the contract.”

Maybe James Soo has seen the civic good in allowing a few hundred people to watch a movie on a summer’s night.

Meanwhile, in what may the outdoor film festival’s last gasp, tonight’s movie is – entirely coincidentally – Jaws.

The Province (Vancouver)
October 4, 1996
A22
City hall sore at beer hall election draft

City hall is scrambling to deal with a prankster’s threat to sign up 1,000 mayoral candidates for next month’s election.

Brian (Godzilla) Salmi, promotions manager for the Mighty Niagara bar, is offering free beer to anyone who’ll run for the top job at Vancouver council.

“My psychiatrist tells me I didn’t get enough hugs as a kid,” said Salmi, who founded the Gnu Democratic Rhino Reform party after being turfed from the Rhinoceros party. “I think it was because I didn’t get a pony.”

Until 1993 candidates had to pay a $300 deposit and get 50 registered voters to back their nomination. But the NDP changed the city’s charter so that anyone can run for free with the backing of two voters.

In 1990, when the deposit was required, four people ran for mayor. In 1993, after the changes, 23 people ran, including joke candidates such as Province columnist Shane McCune, Rotten Ethyl and Sandy Beach.

“When we did this last time I thought they would change the laws,” said Salmi, 33. “If they are stupid enough to do that, we’re a- – – – -e enough to do this again.”

He hopes the ballot is “150 feet long.”

The threat of a 1,000 mayoral hopefuls has city clerk Maria Kinsella in a panic.

“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” she said. “We’d have to print as many ballots as are needed to accommodate the names.”

Mayor Philip Owen found Salmi’s stunt distasteful.

“That is disturbing, to make a joke out of democracy,” he said. “People have died around the globe for democracy.”

Owen will press Victoria to rewrite the election rules if joke candidates interfere with the Nov. 16 election.

Salmi said he’s also pulling the stunt because voter turnouts of only 30 per cent in Vancouver mean “the civic election is a farce.”

Candidates can register until 4 p.m. Oct. 11.

Vancouver Sun
October 12, 1996
A16
Prospect of 57 challengers infuriates Owen : Vancouver’s mayor says the flood of candidates — many enticed by an offer of beer — makes a mockery of democracy
Frances Bula

Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen will be hunting Tuesday morning for any legal way to eliminate nuisance candidates from the civic-election ballot.

Owen was furious Friday afternoon when he was told that a record 58 candidates had filed nomination papers for the mayor’s position — including the Trash Terminator, Zippy the Circus Chimp, Bugger, Lupo the Butcher, Barb E. Doll, Yummy Girl, Ingrid, L. Ron Moonbeam and Frank the Moose.

“Fifty-eight. I was hoping we would get it down to the low 30s,” Owen said wistfully. “This is quite a sad day for democracy.”

The provincial government changed the rules for Vancouver’s nomination procedure before the last civic election in 1993, which has made it extremely easy for anyone to run. There is no requirement for a deposit and candidates only need to get supporting signatures from two registered voters in Vancouver. As well, candidates don’t need to use official city forms and they can fax their nomination papers in. And, for the final insult, candidates are not required to use their real names.

The operator of a local hotel and alternative newspaper, Brian Salmi, made a public offer of free beer to anyone who signed the nomination papers, which presumably produced the flood of candidates.

Deputy city clerk Gil Mervyn said at least 30 other nomination papers were rejected by the 4 p.m. closing time, most of them because they had not been signed by registered Vancouver voters. Some of the supporting signers were from Surrey and North Vancouver.

Mervyn said he tried to contact everyone by telephone to let them know if there was a problem with their nomination papers and some people refiled with eligible supporters. Twenty-seven of the 58 candidates filed their papers Friday.

Owen said he would be looking at whether everyone filed the necessary financial disclosure papers, but Mervyn said everyone had.

Under the city’s election rules, other candidates or voters, but not city staff, have the right to challenge nominations. Last year, when Salmi also encouraged people to run, there were 23 candidates for the mayor’s position. Candidates in the bottom two-thirds of the voting got between 30 and 400 votes each.

Owen said he also plans to bring the matter to the attention of the provincial government, so the rules can be changed. Before, candidates had to put up a deposit of $300 and get 25 signatures.

Besides the candidates with unusual names, those running for mayor include Marc Emery, who has gained national attention with his hemp stores and campaign to legalize marijuana. Emery said he plans to use the mayor’s office to aggressively distribute any currently controlled drug and provide a get-off-welfare package that will provide people with enough money to start their own home marijuana grow rooms.

The mayoral candidates for the major parties are Owen for the Non-Partisan Association, Carmela Allevato for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, Jonathan Baker for Vancouver Organized Independent Civic Electors and Paul Watson for the Green Party.

Along with the record number of mayoral candidates, there are also 59 candidates for the 10 councillor positions, 28 candidates for the nine school board positions and 26 candidates for the seven park commissioner positions.

The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
October 15, 1996
Page A.1
58 names gives race for mayor circus air:
Barb. E. Doll in Vancouver bid
Ross Howard

If Zippo the Circus Chimp and The Trash Terminator have anything to say about it, the stereotype image of wacky West Coast politics won’t suffer as a result of this city’s mayoral race.

The number of contenders for that job registered as of Friday’s deadline for nominations stands at an almost unbelievable 58 names.

And, several of the names appear certifiably unbelievable. There is the previously mentioned Zippo the Circus Chimp and the Trash Terminator along with A Red Hot Pepper, Barb. E. Doll, Lupo the Butcher, Bugger, Ingrid, Yummy Girl, L. Ron Moonbeam and Frank the Moose, among others.

They are, however, real people, which is almost the only qualification necessary to seek municipal office in British Columbia, a situation that is threatening to turn the Vancouver mayoral race into something of a circus.

Combined with the list of eligible contenders for the two dozen seats on city council and the city parks and school boards, Vancouver voters will face 191 names on the municipal ballot in the Nov. 16 municipal elections.

“It’s absolutely silly. A mockery of the democratic process,” says Philip Owen, the incumbent mayor of Vancouver who is seeking re-election.

Under rules imposed by the provincial NDP government in 1993, the traditional requirement of a $300 deposit and 25 supporting, registered voters for would-be candidates was waived for municipal nominations. Candidates also are not required to use their real names.

Contenders need only obtain supporting signatures from two registered voters, do not have to fill out a specific nomination form, and can send their notification of candidacy by fax machine.

The waiver of traditional qualifications was purportedly intended to make political office more accessible and democratic. It also may have reflected the antagonism between the provincial NDP government and the Non Partisan Association party whose anti-NDP members have controlled city hall for the past several years.

It has certainly looosened things up. Among the candidates with unusual names was Brian Godzilla Salmi, who zipped into VancouverCity Hall on in-line roller skates on Friday to deliver his nomination on the back of an envelope.

Mr. Salmi, who operates a local watering hole, made a public offer last month of free beer to anyone who sought nomination as a mayoral candidate, and he is blamed for many of the contenders who have come out of the woodwork.

Mr. Salmi, whose platform includes putting all city councillors to a lie detector test, and closing all bridges to the suburbs, says his intention is to protest against Vancouver’s abysmal turnout rate of 30 per cent in municipal elections, which he calls an equal mockery of democracy.

Also running is Marc Emery, owner of a chain of hemp stores and prominent campaigner for legalization of marijuana. Another candidate running under his own name is the Green Party’s Paul Watson, a one-time Greenpeace founder who now sails the seas in defence of whales and the environment.

In addition to Mayor Owen’s NPA party, the other major civic parties and mayoral candidates are Carmela Allevato for the Coalition of Progressive Electors and Jonathan Baker for the new Vancouver Organized Independent Civic Electors group.

The proliferation of less plausible candidates on this year’s municipal ballot and the traditionally low voter turnout is likely to reinforce the Vancouver pattern that candidates with the greatest name recognition, or whose names start with a letter that is at the beginning of the alphabet, are most likely to be elected. That is, unless voters are in a quirky mood.

Vancouver Sun
October 16, 1996
B1
Goofy candidates show `system stinks’: Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen was furious when he learned 58 candidates were seeking to take over his job
Frances Bula

Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen says the city’s record showing of fringe mayoral candidates with weird names is the product of a disrespectful prank abetted by faulty provincial policies.

But others say that having 58 candidates — including Zippy the Circus Chimp, the Trash Terminator, Mr. X, and Barb E. Doll — has more to do with a serious problem with local government than with pranks or process.

“What they’re saying is `The system appears to be so undemocratic, the system stinks, so why not make fun of it?’ ” said Marvin Rotrand, a 15-year councillor in Montreal who read about Vancouver’s peculiar election in the news.

Owen was furious when he learned last week about the large number of mayoral candidates. He said he would hunt for any legal way to eliminate nuisance candidates from the ballot and bring the matter to the attention of Victoria so the rules can be changed.

The list of 58 candidates is more than double last election’s 23. Brian Salmi, an editor at a Vancouver alternative newspaper, Terminal City, offered people free beer if they would file nomination papers for the mayor’s job. He considers his campaign responsible for at least 50 of the candidates running.

Salmi said the city ignores young people and disenfranchises them by making them think they have no voice.

“There’s a reason why people are doing this. They don’t feel like they have any effect on the system,” he said.

Rotrand said pranks like this wouldn’t gain ground if people weren’t feeling disaffected already. He singled out Vancouver’s system of electing city councillors for the whole city, instead of electing councillors to represent particular neighborhoods, as part of the malaise.

“Vancouver is basically a city where you get elected if you’re wealthy,” he said. Other large cities have moved to a system of voting in districts to get away from that problem. But Vancouver hasn’t, leading to people’s perception that the city is run by a small group of people who have no connection to most of the voters.

Montreal, along with Toronto and Calgary, as well as every municipality in B.C., puts relatively few barriers in the way of anyone wanting to run for election. That’s part of a national trend towards making both voting and running as a candidate more accessible.

When the B.C. government changed Vancouver’s charter in 1993 to eliminate the $300 deposit and 25 signatures required to run for office, that put the city on the same level as every other municipality in B.C. Now there is no deposit and running requires only two signatures of qualified electors from the city.

In Montreal, the requirement for a deposit was eliminated in 1986 and, in 1990, the rules were changed so that potential candidates could get 25 signatures from anyone in the city, instead of having to get them just from their district. In Toronto, candidates are required only to get the signatures of 10 qualified electors. In Calgary, they need 25 signatures and a $100 deposit.

“There has definitely been a movement to enlarge access for elections,” said Rotrand, who has heard the subject discussed frequently at Federation of Canadian Municipalities meetings.

Karen Harris, from B.C.’s municipal affairs ministry, said the provincial government is committed to the idea that money should not be a barrier to participating in campaigns.

“The fringe candidates may wish to highlight a particular issue” and that kind of campaigning is important to elections, she said.

What issue some candidates might be highlighting is questionable.

Jennifer Dunnaway, a 19-year-old second-year arts student, said she filed nomination papers on “pretty much a whim” when she heard about Salmi’s campaign.

But others are more serious.

One candidate, who will be identifying himself on the ballot as Zaius, said he’s running for mayor because he’s tired of the city’s apathy over homelessness and poverty.

Zaius has been a child-care worker at the Raycam community centre on the east side and describes himself as “a personality in the Vancouver alternative scene.”

“I’ll be campaigning almost exclusively on the Downtown Eastside, trying to get to the people who don’t normally have a voice.”

Vancouver Sun
November 2, 1996
Page F5
Godzilla strikes back: 
Funster Brian Salmi is happy creating a bit of chaos in the mayoral elections, his mischief as monstrous as his nickname
John Mackie

His name is Brian Salmi, but he’s known by his nickname, Godzilla. And he’s having a monstrous effect on the Vancouver city election.

A record 58 people have signed up to run for mayor of Vancouver in the Nov. 16 election, including Sage Advice, A. Red Hot Pepper, the Stainer, Figgg Freud, Buzz, Frank the Moose, Lupo the Butcher, L. Ron Moonbeam, Zippy the Circus Chimp, the Trash Terminator, Mr. X, Barb E. Doll, and Yummy Girl.

Salmi claims to be responsible for 54 of them. A few weeks ago, he offered free beer to anyone willing to run for mayor. About 200 people took him up on his offer. Many guzzled the beer and ran, while others applied and were rejected.

But enough of them followed through to create big headaches for city officials like Mayor Philip Owen, who feels Salmi and his fellow fringe candidates are making a mockery of the electoral process.

“People are offended by the fact that this is a big joke, ha ha ha,” says Owen. “I think that being elected is a bit more serious. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t very funny.”

Getting Owen’s goat seems to suit Salmi just fine.

“Philip Owen and the rest of the blue-bloods and blue-hairs may not find it funny, but everybody else {does},” retorts Salmi, who is running for mayor under the name Ronald F. McDonald. (Civic candidates can file under pseudonyms, which many did.)

So what’s the big idea?

“It’s what I do for fun,” says the 33-year-old native of Thunder Bay, a columnist for the alternative newspaper Terminal City and entertainment booker at the Niagara Hotel (which he has helped make the hot alternative night spot in Vancouver).

“But it’s partially taking a kick at the whole farcical nature of a system where you get 30 per cent of the people who vote and basically put the aristocracy back in. It’s not a democracy, it’s an oligarchy where everybody in Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale and Dunbar and the west side anoint a mayor and city council.”

(A recent study by political scientist Kennedy Stewart at Simon Fraser University found that from 1958 to 1993, voter turnout from the three wealthiest west side communities — Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale and Dunbar-Southlands — was 22 per cent higher than in three of the poorest east side communities, Grandview-Woodland, Mount Pleasant and Strathcona. Voter turnout citywide was a mere 35 per cent in 1993, less than half of the voters in a normal provincial or federal election.)

Salmi’s own platform is a bit . . . unusual. He wants Vancouver to secede from Canada and join Japan because it has “the strongest economy in the world.” He wants to shut down all the bridges to Surrey. He wants to hook up all politicians to lie detectors, and “have baseball mitts surgically implanted on their hands so they can’t raid the till and stuff their pockets anymore.”

It’s all in a day’s work for a guy who seems to have had a hand in almost every protest movement of the past decade.

The Godzilla file:

– Arrested for protesting at Clayoquot Sound in 1988, spent 20 days in jail for contempt of court.

– Ran federally for the Rhino Party in 1988 as“Godzilla.” (“Who the hell is going to remember Brian Salmi? Godzilla they’re going to remember”). Lost big. Split from the Rhinos to form the Gnu Democratic Rhino Reform Party in the 1993 federal election, when he ran against then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell. Lost. Ran for mayor of Vancouver in 1993, ran provincially in 1994. Lost again.

– Ran Whole Lotto Work lottery/job creation scheme with a friend in 1992, selling $10 tickets to 120 people, with the winner getting a week’s free labor from Salmi and friend. Ran two before the government shut it down as an illegal lottery.

– Raised a ruckus in the Legislative Press Gallery in Victoria when he wrote a fictitious, Hunter S. Thompson-esque account of a night on the town drinking and snorting illegal substances with members of the gallery.

– When then-Bloc Quebecois leader Lucien Bouchard lost a leg to flesh-eating disease in 1994, caused a small furor in Quebec by inventing a tasteless board game called “Pin the Leg on the Separatist.”

– During the Vancouver Canucks drive to the Stanley Cup final in 1994, wrote a column for Terminal City encouraging fans to “booze up and riot” if the Canucks won the Cup. The Canucks lost, but fans rioted downtown, anyway.

In light of what happened – over $1 million in damages and 150 people charged with a variety of riot-related offences – does he regret writing the riot column?

Nope.

“How can you feel bad about it? They overplayed that so much. They made it sound like it was Beirut or Belfast or something. I was there. It’s the only riot I’ve ever been in, but it was hardly a riot. I walked down Robson Street the next morning. Sure you could still smell the tear gas, and there was broken glass everywhere.

“{But} I equate it to a giant Greek wedding. I’m pretty sure there was more glass and alcohol flying when Aristotle Onassis married Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy than there was at the riot.”

Moreover, Salmi argues the riot was instigated by police – and that continuing harassment of youth may result in another disturbance.

“I met a kid about three months later who was in the riot. I said `you enjoy yourself?’ and he said, `yeah yeah.’ `What got you into it?’ `I just get sick of being {screwed} around by cops and everybody.’

“He told me a story where he was driving and a cop pulled him over and said `listen, you’ve got to put your baseball hat on forwards. We’ve got a new bylaw in town that says you can’t drive around with your baseball hat on backwards.’ ”

If this all sounds like the rantings of a wild-eyed anarchist, that’s because it is. With his long, frazzled blond hair, crazed grin (enhanced by a gap in his lower teeth from his junior hockey days) and air of I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-you-think, Salmi certainly looks like one.

But he’s not the kind of anarchist who religiously studies his Kropotkin and Bakunin before he shuts off the light at night. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon may have said “property is theft,” but Brian (Godzilla) Salmi says he wants to be “filthy rich.”

“What are my politics? I’m an anarchist. An iconoclastic anarchist,” he explains. “Most people are just too serious about it.

“I studied politics, and was pretty serious about politics for a long time. But I’ve realized that most of it is futility. I see all these anarchist rags coming out, `smash the state.’ It’s not going to happen. I see a lot of people that I went to school and studied politics with and they’re out on the corner of First and Commercial every Saturday trying to sell the Socialist Worker.

“If you’re happy that’s fine, but if you seriously believe this {stuff’s} going to happen, you should be in the looney bin. These guys are going around representing labor – they’ve never been in a union job in their lives! I’ve worked in union jobs before on the railroad and the grain elevators and steel factories, and they don’t give a {bleep} about labor politics. They’re not left wing. And these guys are claiming to represent the people and the masses. Give me a break.”

What does he think of people who take civic politics seriously, and are trying to effect social change through less radical political involvement?

He laughs for a good 10 seconds. “Well good for them. More power to them.”

Hence, he spends his days dreaming up ludicrous election platforms and offbeat cultural events like a film festival in an empty lot on the Granville Mall and a one-armed drum solo contest in honor of one-armed Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen.

“Frankly,” he says, “I don’t think anything I’ve done is insane. You look at the world around you, what’s insane? If you want insanity, pick up the newspaper. What I do is nothing in comparison.

“I think the most insane thing I could possibly do in my life is retire, take it easy, go out to the suburbs and get a station wagon and a dog and have some kids. To me that would be the most insane thing anybody could do.”

The Province (Vancouver)
November 3, 1996
A6
Ex-Rhino: Mayor hates my guts
Michael Smyth

Brian (Godzilla) Salmi’s devious laughter cackles over the phone line when I ask about his latest scheme to raise hell in British Columbia’s political circles.

“We’ve signed up 54 people to run for mayor,” he howls. “Cost us a fortune in free beer, but who cares? Philip Owen hates my guts, and that’s the main thing.”

The Vancouver mayor has indeed condemned Salmi as an enemy of democracy for offering free suds to anyone willing to file nomination papers for the Nov. 16 civic election.

Salmi’s outrageous campaign packed ‘em in at the Mighty Niagara tavern last month, where the 34-year-old prankster is head of promotions.

The former Rhinoceros party activist (he quit because they were “gutless”) has taken advantage of a loophole in the election laws that says people can run for free, under any alternative name, if they scrape up two nomination signatures.

The result: Owen will share the ballot with Frank the Moose, Yummy Girl and Zippy the Circus Chimp among dozens of others.

Salmi is running as Ronald F. McDonald — a fact that says a lot about the laughable inadequacy of the election rules.

He is legally ineligible to run because he failed to file expense- disclosure forms the last time he sought the mayor’s chair — though under a different name.

“The whole thing’s a joke,” he chortles.

Salmi has a knack for getting under people’s skins, and his activities are not confined to municipal politics.

He was once thrown out of the Ontario legislature for trying to confront then-premier David Peterson over the province’s reliance on nuclear power.

On the B.C. provincial scene, Salmi has targeted Liberal leader Gordon Campbell over the years, especially in 1993, when he ran against him in the Vancouver-Quilchena byelection.

After he was barred from a cable-TV debate because of his Ronald McDonald costume, he protested outside with a sign reading: “Don’t vote for Gordon Campbell. He’s a dirty little lying dung beetle.”

“I looked up and there was Campbell staring at me from his car window,” Salmi recalls. “He smiled and waved. I smiled and waved and gave him the finger.”

People still talk about Salmi’s visit to staid old Victoria a few years ago.

I was president of the press gallery at the time and agreed to give Salmi a hallway pass because he was writing for Vancouver’s Terminal City magazine.

When Salmi showed up in striped pink tights and a Chairman Mao jacket, Tony Humphrey, the legislature’s very proper sergeant-at- arms, was not amused.

“There’s a person in my office who looks as if he’s about to perform in a circus,” Tony muttered to me in his flawless dry English accent.

Salmi was barred from the legislature corridors but exacted his revenge on Humphrey by writing an extremely embarrassing column about him (see Terminal City, May 4, 1994).

Humphrey confronted me a few days later.

“You told me Terminal City was a legitimate news publication,” he said in his lofty nasal drone.

“What criteria did you rely on to draw this conclusion? I’m absolutely appalled by this fellow and am thinking of consulting my solicitor.”

Humphrey never did sue Salmi, who threatens to return to the legislature dressed in a latex- rubber dress, fishnet stockings and crotchless panties.

“Democracy ain’t pretty,” he sums up. “Say hi to Tony for me, will ya?”

The Province (Vancouver)
November 10, 1996
B3
TV gumshoe Jim Rockford once said there were two things he wouldn’t do for money: Marry and murder.: Add sports to that list and I’m with you, Jim, baby
Mike Roberts

Somehow, I ended up front-and-centre at The Grizz season opener last Friday night at GM Place — sweat-fly zone, right near Donovan Bailey (a standing-O, no less, for the fastest man in the world).

Despite the fact I had Vancouver Magazine’s Pamela Swanigan giving me an earful of play-by-play — on court and off, I might add, holy hot gossip — and some woman dropping reams of stats in my face every half nanosecond, I can’t pretend to know what the heck went on.

Colin James opened things up with an electric guitar version of O Canada. Which was fine with me; no one knows the words anyway.

In my naivete, I thought the Grizzlies might actually kick Portland’s butt. Not that I cared, it’s just that the audience seemed to.

Blue Edwards (that’s blue as in his sister found him suffocating as a baby — thanks, Pam) walloped a serious slam jammer in the second quarter (sports term, no probs) and it was downhill from there.

Monday night at the Railway Club was more my scene.

The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie thought he could hide out and drown his rock-star woes in Sleeman’s Ale. Ha!

But talk about blood from a stone . . . what a tight-lipped turnip.

His favorite band? “The Inbreds.” What’s he up to? “Same as you, checking out the scene.” What does he think of The Grizz? “Sports are great. I follow everything. Sports are life, life is sports.” Margaret Atwood? “She’s deadly.” Best spot for brunch? “No favorite brunch spot, none.” Why don’t you get a proper beer? “OK, it’s the last Sleeman’s I’ll ever drink.”

End of interview. Hey, I tried.

All was not lost. Solo songwriter Bob Kemiss put on a wickedly intelligent show. Lyric sampler: “Kindergarten kids eating paste/ It’s an acquired taste.”

Music notes: Hasn’t quite mastered that big ’68 Gretsch Falcon guitar.

“If I arrange it properly, it comes across,” he said post-set. “I’m not a great guitar player.”

Hey, don’t be too hard on yourself. This ain’t basketball.

Trust Brian Salmi, promotions manager at The Mighty Niagara pub, to go “out there,” baby, and bring it back.

The band Tuesday night was Uz Jsme Doma from Czechoslovakia.

They cried, they wailed, they ran through some operatic punk layered with Slavic melodies.

They wore yellow smocks with cat-toy skull caps.

And they were a hoot.

I couldn’t quite tell where the songs began or ended, or what they were about, but what a show. The crowd was lining up for shirts and CDs after the double encore and rightly so.

The lads got into town at 7 p.m.; they were off to San Francisco at 3 a.m. You don’t develop that kind of work ethic living under a capitalist regime.

This week’s interpretive dance award does not go to the funk flunkies making like first-day SFU modern dance students all over the floor of Richard’s on Richards Wednesday night.

No, sir. It goes to Beret Boy and Liquid Legs Lucy who made the New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass Band gig all the more low-down funky- cool.

You know who you are. Call for the movie pass of our choice.

The Province (Vancouver)
November 17, 1996
A5
Business as usual on the fringe
Stuart hunter and Barbara McLintock

The Buzz has caught on.

While mainstream candidates got the vote out yesterday, the more than 50 fringe Vancouver mayoral candidates such as Buzz, Frank the Moose and Ronald F. McDonald were practising their own peculiar breed of party politics.

Kerry Kotlarchuk, a.k.a. Buzz, spent the day contemplating the higher purpose of politicking.

“I’m hoping my dog can vote for me,” marketing consultant Kotlarchuk, 29, quipped, entering a voting station in his Dunbar neighborhood with canine Nara in tow.

“I’m voting for me and if she can vote for me, too, it could put me over the top.”

Frank Ackerman, alias Frank the Moose, spent the day working — a concept he said is foreign to the mayoral seat.

“That’s why I want to be mayor, so I don’t have to work for a living,” said Ackerman, 32, whose anatomy earned him his Moose monicker.

Brian Salmi, who ran as Ronald F. McDonald, jump-started many of the fringers’ candidacies by promising them free beer.

“I guess I owe Philip Owen a beer because he’s a joke, too,” mused Salmi, 33, a Niagara Hotel employee. “But I’m fighting the flu, so I’m not sure if I’ll be filling the toilet or voting — what’s the difference?”

Meanwhile, in Victoria, two fringe mayoralty candidates almost ended up spending their election day in jail.

The pair, along with one of their supporters, were arrested Friday.

Now their supporters are charging police brutality.

The problems started when candidates David Shebib and Jonathon LeDrew, representing OnEarth Media, picketed city hall while the advance poll was on.

The Municipal Act prohibits candidates from campaigning within 100 metres of a polling station.

Police were called, and the pair were pepper-sprayed, then arrested.

Shebib was charged with obstructing a peace officer.

LeDrew was charged with assaulting a peace officer and obstruction.

They’ll all appear in court at a later date.

Vancouver Sun
December 14, 1996
Page D3
Scene and Heard
Kerry Gold

Vancouver city council’s biggest muckraker Brian Godzilla Salmi, the man who ran for mayor as Ronald F. McDonald and convinced 54 people to run as gonzo politicos in Vancouver’s civic election, is spending his nights booking acts at the Mighty Niagara. As usual, his imagination is working overtime, which can be a scary thing.

Salmi’s been running Metal de Frommage nights on the occasional Saturday, and as you might guess from the name, they are a cheesy celebration of heavy metal sludge. Tonight is one of those nights, and contrary to the rumour mill, Judas Priest will not be making an appearance, says Salmi. Instead, JP5, an ensemble of veteran Vancouver headbangers from Slow, Spank Machine and Tankhog will be grinding out metal covers from Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath ands Wasp. You might think that’s all the stale smoke and condensed sweat your poor lungs can take, but there’s more. Think of it as experimental therapy, and Salmi is the patient. Metal lovers will also get a chance to, “hit-a-hippie for a buck,” which may sound like a case for the BC Human Rights Commission but it will be done humanely, he insists.

The first time Salmi did this he went to Granville Street, found a hippie (the definition is unclear), tore a $50 bill in half and promised him the other half if he showed up at the Niagara that night. When he showed, Salmi says he covered him in hockey gear and for a dollar allowed patrons to take a whack at him with dried-out children’s hockey sticks (if they hit too hard the sticks broke). After 20 minutes the hippie was unharmed and got his full $50 plus several pints of beer. Tonight they’ll be using sponge whiffle bats. Now for the really big question: Why?

“I hate hippies,” growls Salmi. “I was working for Greenpeace five or six years ago, and my job was to round up people and bring them down to Vegas for a protest at the Nevada nuclear test site. We had 5,000 hippies, and I had to put up with hippies for five days in a row. Now I can’t stand hippies.”

Vancouver Sun
December 24, 1996
F10
Here are a few of our favourite things
Kerry Gold

Nobody can peg the true meaning of Christmas. Christ’s birthday means too many things to a variety of people. Some dust off the nativity sets and break out the eggnog, while others retrieve the shimmery party clothes from the back of the closet for a night on the town. For a lot of folk, Christmas means a trip to grandma’s retirement lodge, an evening playing cards around the dining room table with out-of-town siblings, a day spent dodging insults from the in-laws, or a cold march to midnight mass. With the aid of a brief questionnaire, we checked with a few local personalities to find out what kind of Christmas they most enjoy. Most people began their answers with something like, “Well, I don’t do the usual Christmas stuff …” It turns out some people even take advantage of the opportunity to be, of all things, alone.

Joe Average, Artist

Favorite carol: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Perfect gift: “I give myself a trip to Hawaii every January 1st. This year I go for three weeks.”

Favorite charity: “A Loving Spoonful. Anything AIDS-related. I donated 50 teddy bears this year to children with AIDS at B.C. Children’s Hospital.”

Christmas Day activity: “A walk on the beach with a thermos of mocha. By myself.”

Evelyn Lau, Author

Favorite carol: “After seeing The English Patient, I’m partial to Silent Night right now. But I don’t really have any.”

Perfect gift: “I don’t know…What I do like about Christmas is that it’s a time where I get a lot of work done because the phone stops ringing and faxes stop coming through. I get so bored, I find myself at the typewriter and I start writing. I guess now, for the first time in many years, Christmas is easier and happier for me, because it used to always be a time where I felt really uncomfortable not being with my family. Now, going out with friends and to Christmas parties and feeling loved and included is really nice for me.”

Favorite Charity: PEN International

Christmas Day activity: “Not a lot. I’m going for dinner at a friend’s house. I’m swamped with work, so I’ll be working — but not writing. I can’t say what it is. But I have to read 10,000 pages between now and late January.”

Susan Musgrave, Author

(at home, sick with the flu)

Favorite carol: “I don’t have any favorites. One I do like is an Irish tune called Christmas Morning in the Drunk Tank”

Perfect gift: “I always prefer giving to receiving. I get embarrassed by receiving. But anything I give I’d like to receive, I suppose. Anything made by somebody else. I don’t like the whole plastic side of Christmas. Something for my home, ethnic art. My house is almost like a museum, people walk in here and look around. Lots of angels and things from Thailand and Bali and Mexico. Also, I have always wanted a vacuum cleaner.”

Favorite charity: CHIKA, aid to Chernobyl orphans

Christmas Day activity: “We get up and open presents and that takes five hours. Then we go to my mother’s for turkey. It’s the same every year.”

Chuck Davis, Former Broadcaster and Publisher of the Greater Vancouver Book

Favorite carol: Good King Wenceslas

Perfect gift: an unlimited gift certificate from Duthie Books

Favorite charity: The Food Bank.

Christmas Day activity: Eat: turkey, tons of Turtles and shortbread

Blaine Culling, Owner of the Vogue Theatre

Favorite carol: Joy to the World

Perfect gift: “Probably a first class trip to somewhere like the Pritikin health clinic, or one of those super spas.”

Favorite charity: “I usually do two — the Food Bank and AIDS Vancouver.”

Christmas Day activity: “I like to spend Christmas with my parents, both of whom are quite elderly and my sister and her husband and their kids. It’s fun to play uncle on Christmas, that’s my favorite. We make a gingerbread house, and this year we’ll have snowball fights.”

Angus Reid, Pollster

Favorite carol: O Holy Night

Perfect gift: “An all-expenses paid trip first class to Chile, where it is currently summer and the sun sets at 11 p.m.”

Favorite charity: UNICEF

Christmas Day activity: “Reading a book.”

Bill Richardson, Writer and Host for CBC Radio’s as You Like It

Favorite christmas carol: “This year it’s In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Perfect gift: “A day by myself in a great big bed with 12 back issues of the The New Yorker and food brought to me when bells are rung.”

Favorite charity: Salvation Army

Christmas Day activity: “Lie low, take it real easy. Just to be with very close friends and not do a whole lot. Food is no longer the most important thing. We’re going to Seattle this year.”

Brian (Godzilla) Salmi, Political Muckraker, Impresario

Favorite carol: “A song I heard on CITR radio, to the tune of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man.”

Perfect gift: “I’m looking for something by which to communicate with all the animals on the planet, because I have this sneaking suspicion I’m not all that connected to the human race.”

Favorite charity: “It concerns Mother Teresa.”

Christmas Day activity: “We have a long-standing tradition of getting {drunk} on Christmas Day.”

The Province
December 29, 1996
What B.C. needs now: 20 visions of a better future
Tracy Holmes

As the new year and the new century draw near, many of us wonder what is needed to survive the hopefully long road. Do we need better leadership? More environmental protection? More sports facilities? Or do we need to do more for the children? Take a stand for the homeless? Perhaps it’s as simple as buckling up our pets and coming up with more coffee flavors? Whatever it is, Staff Reporter Tracy Holmes took the question to a host of British Columbians — from singers to lawyers to bus drivers — to find out what B.C. needs now. Here’s what they had to say.

1 Bob Lenarduzzi, coach of Canada’s national soccer team

“In sports we need facilities. Starting from, in the case of the sport that I’m involved in, more fields.

“I know that some of the municipalities have wonderful fields, some of them don’t, and I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on more and better facilities, in that it’s been proven that sport and involvement in sport is obviously good for your health.

“What I believe that our sport needs, as does rugby, is a mid- sized outdoor stadium somewhere in the Lower Mainland.”

2 Colleen McCrory, head of Valhalla Society, New Denver

“What we need is a government that again cares for the environment, cares for its forests. We need to protect the key areas that still need to be protected.

“We need to have a government that has moral and ethical values to protect the environment. We need a major reduction in the annual allowable cut that the corporations are doing, and rather than catering to the large multi-nationals . . . we have to get back to listening to communities’ needs and the values.

“I want to see a government that doesn’t just see trees as a commodity. I want to see a government that recognizes the value of our natural forests for future generations.”

3 Veena Sood, actress, North Vancouver

“The biggest complaint around Vancouver, of course, is the traffic, and so I would like to see — instead of them bringing in more highways and adding more lanes and basically encouraging more people to drive — I would like to see more encouragement for people to not drive. Like a better, more expanded LRT system or cutting off certain streets and downtown to all traffic altogether, so people have to be a bit more creative in finding ways to be car-less.

“One thing I do think we need more of (is) nude beaches.”

4 Bonita Elliott, patient-care manager, operating and recovery rooms, Royal Columbian Hospital

“I really think what B.C. needs is an increase in health promotional activities, to facilitate greater wellness throughout the population.

“With the explosion in our population and a lot of people coming from other areas of the world or other areas of Canada to live in B.C. . . . it’s becoming a major problem to get access to the outdoors and to do the activities that help people get healthy. We really need to look at developing a few more provincial parks. Not only within the Lower Mainland, but in other regions as well.”

5 Richard Israels, lawyer, Vancouver

“I would like to see more honesty and accountability in government. While the deficit must be addressed, remedial measures must not be instituted at the expense of health care, education, or social services. The independence of the judiciary and the Legal Aid program must receive full government support, as both are essential to the proper administration of justice.

“Furthermore, society would ultimately benefit if available resources were targeted more toward prevention of crime and rehabilitation.

“Gun control laws ought to be tightened, and a milieu for sexual equality, religious tolerance, and multicultural diversity fostered and maintained.”

6 Dr. David Suzuki, environmentalist

“The greatest challenge we face as we head to the next millennium is the beliefs and values we cling to. They profoundly shape the way we perceive the world and our place within it. We will continue to be destructive if we believe that we are special and lie outside the natural world, that everything on Earth is a resource for us to use as we wish, that science and technology provide us with the knowledge to understand and control everything around us, that economics is the dominant priority that must set our political and social agendas. Such beliefs impel our actions, which become ecologically destructive.”

7 Pat Burns, executive director, Vancouver Food Bank

“What B.C. needs is a Donation of Food Act. Already in place in six other provinces, a Donation of Food Act would encourage restaurants, hotels, caterers and food wholesalers, producers and distributors to support their local food bank without risk of liability.

“There are now 65 food banks in B.C. helping feed hungry people who simply don’t have enough money to feed themselves and their children properly.

“Food banks have experienced 20-per-cent increases in need during the past year as governments focus on reducing deficits rather than on treating citizens humanely. A Donation of Food Act would help deal with the symptoms of a much deeper issue.”

8 Wendy Grant, former vice-chief of B.C. Assembly of First Nations

“One of the first things B.C. needs now is more understanding from the different interest groups. We’re becoming so isolated in what we want for our own selves . . . that we’re losing sight of what the good for the whole group is.

“It really causes me concern, especially being in university right now, seeing these young people who are struggling so hard, and they have to work their fingers off during the summer in order to get enough money to pay the loans out, and they’re being told that at the end of this, there’s no promise that they’re going to have a job. Where is the future of B.C. if the young people that are in university right now are being told that there’s not necessarily going to be a job for them?”

9 Angela Kelman, of vocal trio Farmer’s Daughter

“Speaking for the sister who’s not here (Jake Leiske), she always says if she becomes president, of anything, she’ll opt for dogs in seatbelts. She thinks that dogs out of seatbelts are a big cause of accidents in traffic. We’re in for pet pain prevention.”

10 ShaunaRae Samograd, Farmer’s Daughter

“It would be a good idea for B.C. to put some preventative air pollution bylaws into effect, because every time we fly home from being on the road, it looks a little more like L.A., and it’s starting to scare me.

“I think something that’s really important for the coming decade is for B.C to come up with a lot more micro-breweries, because I think the natural British Columbia beer is one of the finest in the world.”

11 MariLynne Abbott, president of WISHES (Women in Search of Housing Society)

“More housing for women, of course. Believe me, women need it more than men; they are 17,000, compared to 69,000 women, and they have already established many, many, many societies that can help them. Women have nothing. Women live longer than men. They have more illnesses. They earn 70 per cent of what a man earns.

“I think if the government really acknowledged the fact that they had this crisis they’d have to do something about it.”

12 Tim Stephens, astrologer

“Above all, B.C. needs honesty in government, especially in the premier’s office. Our province does little for children who are out of the mainstream. Schools by and large have no programs for bright children and little aid for disturbed kids.

“B.C. has a once-in-a-century opportunity to re-orient its economy around a high-tech engine, now through 2003. They’ve already begun this process, but a more intensive push seems indicated. Hi- tech multimedia communications would be the natural partner to our locally emerging film industry.

“We should allow mega casinos in B.C., but only within a mile of the legislature — that way, people could bet on politics, or whatever. Last of all, we need more money, and can I have some of it too, please?”

13 Const. Elly Sawchuk, Abbotsford police

“If our elected officials truly believe in law and order, then safety must be given priority when decisions are being made as to funding.

“Public safety is being compromised with all the downloading. Crime prevention programs, community policing initiatives and targeted enforcement of drugs (and) gangs could be funded easily through proper proceeds-of-crime legislation. There is very little the police are not able to accomplish with adequate funding.

“I would like to see a DNA databank; mandatory minimum sentence . . . in all cases involving violence; car manufacturers install anti- theft devices. I find the Young Offenders Act frustrating and ineffective. The sentencing for some of these crimes has to be stricter to act as a deterrent for other offenders.”

14 Dean Gagnon, president, North American Pipe Reconditioning

“The vision W.A.C. Bennett had decades ago for B.C. has given us the foundation for all the successes we are enjoying today. Without a new visionary, I’m afraid B.C. will not enjoy the prosperity in the next 50 years as we have had in the last 50. The signs of this are clear: High unemployment, billions of debt, unmotivated students and Generation X who will be the first generation that will have a lower standard of living compared to their parents.

“I am sure there are hundreds of plans that lay out what B.C. will look like in the next 25, 50 or 100 years, but if they do not capture the hearts of British Columbians they are doomed to fail. B.C. needs a vision.”

15 Dr. Jack Forbes, co-director, Oak Tree Clinic — Woman and Family HIV Centre

“One of the things I think that B.C. needs is an AIDS strategy.

“I think that the provincial government has been responsive in many ways to the needs of people with HIV and AIDS . . . but my biggest concern, and what I am really worried about for the future in this field, is where are the health cuts going to stop and who is going to be affected by it? This leads to an enormous amount of uncertainty for all those people who are working with HIV and AIDS. What I’m seeing more and more are programs that are losing government funding and supports to keep going. “

16 Brian Godzilla Salmi, five-time electoral doormat and frustrated Vancouver entrepreneur

“The concept that I basically had is sort of a Monte Carlo of debauchery zone — kind of a Vegas thing — basically grab a section of town and turn it over to people who don’t really like the influx of suburban moral values. Fence it off — and just let people who like to live that lifestyle come down there. Let all the whores down there, let all the drunks down there, let all the gamblers down there, get the casino, bring it on down there, and build gates around it.

“For all the moral puritans, we can do little checkpoints all around so anybody entering . . . will have to check in. We’ll pay all of our taxes, ’cause God knows we’re going to be making all of the money down there. Twenty-four-hour drinking, gambling, that sort of thing . . . Just let us have a little section of town — we’re not fussy about it, we don’t care where it is. It’d be great for tourism dollars. It all goes on anyway.”

17 Ken Dickie, transit operator

“B.C. needs more people riding transit to get that congestion off the road.

“I think we really need some legislation to close these abortion clinics. I don’t agree with this abortion legislation that we have.

“I’d like to see the abortion clinics closed right off. I’m a real believer that . . . everyone is entitled to life.”

18 Laura Sverdrup, esthetician

“They need to do something about Granville Street, with the kids who are homeless.

“B.C. needs to focus on their youth because it’s the future of B.C. B.C. also needs a permanent law for recycling. We need more areas for the youth to do things, like more skate parks, more youth groups.

“We also need to try and help out the prostitutes a bit, I think. We need to legalize it . . . stabilize them — like regular STD check-ups — and tax them.”

19 Trevor Linden, captain, Vancouver Canucks

“I think we could use better leadership. Our economy could be a lot better for what we have here.

“We scare a lot of business away because of our circumstances. It’s difficult to do business in B.C.

“With our government, there’s always controversy instead of being progressive, forthright and honest.”

20 Sherry Newstead, snowboarder

“A better bus service to remote areas, like Pemberton. A lot of my friends live out there, and one of the complaints that they have is that they wish there was a bus service.

“Education in remote areas. Here in Whistler, some courses are offered down at the Squamish campus, but . . . there’s really not a whole lot up here you can do. Pretty much this whole corridor up here is . . . as far as adult education, pretty much left out in the cold.”

%d bloggers like this: