Rob Ford photo-ops cause viral fireworks as Bala rehab site revealed
By Mark Clairmont / MuskokaTODAILY
BALA — Tim Hudak was a no-show, but Rob Ford more than made up for it with his own photo-ops.
The PC leader cancelled a burger-flipping media event with the ‘Key Man’ at Webers Friday afternoon for commuting cottagers.
But Toronto’s infamous mayor emerged from rehab hibernation at the same time to the delight — and disdain — of locals in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge.
The embattled head of Ford Nation was taken to the cleaners in Gravenhurst, the Bank of Montreal and lunch at Marj’s diner in Bracebridge.
And the photogenic Ford — whose love-hate affair with the cameras — found the people’s paparazzi more friendly than the blackflies in Muskoka.
He was seen smiling and posing for cellphones with staff inside Fabricare and customers outside Marj’s.
The pictures were widely shared on Facebook, on news sites and the front page of the Toronto Sun Saturday.
Muskoka was buzzing with the news, as digital images went viral, a TV helicopter chased another Ford and everyone’s cell was cocked to click a selfie for TMZ, Gawker or the Toronto Star.
Not since rumours of Goldie Hawn skin-dipping on LakeRosseau has there been such frenzied citizen paparazzi.
The fireworks started early this holiday weekend, and even if the weather was unusually cool, the reception Ford got wasn’t unusally warm.
People said Ford was polite, well-dressed and friendly.
Gord Crosby saw him at BMO. He was accompanied by a chaperone (security guard?) and by a short blond woman behind the wheel of the black SUV, who Crosby suspects was his wife.
“He went inside, came out, talked and went back inside,” said a bemused Crosby.
So, what was the elusive chief magistrate of Ontario’s capital city doing making the rounds of Muskoka?
Electioneering with Toronto cottagers?
Well, if you believe most people here, in Toronto, across Ontario and beyond the borders, he wasn’t enjoying the Victoria holiday weekend at his family’s Huntsville cottage.
He was at the other end of the district in the ‘Cranberry Capital of Ontario,’ where he appears to be enjoying some R&R&R.
Bala residents say they’ve known “for weeks” that “Rob was rehabbing here.”
He’s apparently been here since the beginning of May.
Word first leaked out when a Purolator driver reportedly saw him at the Greenstone resort and tipped off The Star, which has been riding Ford’s bumper since he got elected in 2010.
And while some could care less — or worse — if they saw Ford, others are now on the Ford watch.
He was the talk of town in Gravenhurst Saturday afternoon at the first annual Enjoy Muskoka real estate barbecue and food bank fundraiser across Muskoka Road from Fabricare.
Toronto talk radio station CFRB 1010 (where Ford formerly had a talk show) was interviewing people on the main street and getting mixed reactions.
Most joked or were understanding, like the ladies out at the Bala General Store, who wished him god-speed in his recovery. They’ve heard the ritzy resort costs $30,000 a month; which they say at $1,000 a day for an all-inclusive resort/health care centre that welcomes family stays during treatment is not really all that bad for a rich businessman.
Employees at other Bala businesses felt snubbed he didn’t stop in their shops.
“If you see him, tell him to come in,” a Bear Paws employee yelled when asked about any Ford sightings.
Staff at Hook & Ladder Pizza said they hadn’t received any order
Cottage Cravings owner Randy Brown said he’s seen other Greenstone residents and their family in his deli-gift shop.
“Mostly they come ask for directions.”
But the big guy has not been one of them.
“It’s not a prison,” said Brown. “They can get out.”
He’s had to drive a few back when they were late for a two-hour curfew.
While he can empathize with the demons Ford’s battling — “we’ve all got them” — he said he “hates to see a man of some means throw it all away.
“He has multiple personality disorders.
“He’s addicted to fame.
“But I have no sympathy if he doesn’t get care.”
Out at Greenstone, the gates were closed — something just new recently, say Bala residents who drive by the Hwy. 169 property daily.
Greenstone is a private “resort” and medical care facility that opened a few years ago as getaway for corporate health.
It’s just on the outskirts of Bala, close to Glen Orchard en route to Port Carling. The old Hacienda hotel and most recently Enricos and Pub 169.
But Saturday afternoon, staff there wouldn’t confirm Ford was in residence and receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, as Ford said he was on leave from the city to receive at an un-named Canadian facility.
A man behind the gate who identified himself as “Dave Spencer” the “manager,” said there was no one there named Rob Ford.
And he’d “never heard of him.”
Two other men, one smoking a cigar, who were in the driveway lighting firecrackers and tossing them in the air, claimed to be security.
A later check brought out another man who wouldn’t give his name, but who asked whether Ford was expecting a reporter.
He said “the media is not permitted” on the site, and “could you please leave, or I’ll call the police.”
And while Fabricare staff too has a gag order, they said Saturday Ford reveled in the notoriety.
And if he comes back to pick up his suit this week — watch for more possible photo-ops.
Maybe he’ll be stop for a selfie at Webers with the ‘KeyMan.’
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