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The Toronto trip

The Toronto trip


The Advocate's arts and entertainment editor gets a new viewpoint in this first entry of his exclusive dailies from the Toronto Film Festival.

This is my third trip to the Toronto International Film Festival, but I doubt I've seen more than one entire movie here over the years. Until July, when I took over the role of arts and entertainment editor at The Advocate, I was a celebrity and corporate publicist, so my TIFF experience consisted mostly of cowering in the back for the last 20 minutes of dozens of films, waiting for the credits to roll, then watching for the exit of various editors and critics, trying to hear what they were saying before finding my client again and being whisked off to press or some ridiculous dinner outside the city. I've had good times here too, like the time my client Woody Harrelson's suit didn't fit, and with a studio breathing down my neck I offered him my own pants. He gave me a pair of brown hemp pants to keep, and we made it to the North Country premiere just in time for a few minutes of interviews, most of which Woody stopped to put his arm on my shoulder and announce to the camera, "This man gave me his pants."

As a publicist I never made my own travel arrangements. An assistant looked up flight times, and I chose like from a menu. As a journalist, not so much. I actually called my former assistant, a publicist now, to wax nostalgic about the days when she diligently awaited my every need on the other end of the phone. She was amused only until someone clicked in on the other line and she said she had to call me back. I never heard from her. Clearly I was on my own.

It never occurred to me that I would be flying on September 11. But it proved completely uneventful. I arrived in Canada, and going through customs I got a lovely young woman who asked why I was visiting. I said, "the festival." She asked what I was doing at the festival, and for the first time ever I replied out loud: "I'm a journalist." It just rolled off the tongue, people, and even I believed it. With a slam of her stamp she validated not only my visit but perhaps also my new chosen profession. I strutted off quite pleased with myself to a stunning young customs officer, who looked me directly in the face for nearly 30 seconds as he checked my form. It may have been profiling, but I like to think otherwise.

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