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The Gazette 10 Septembre 1998

Pie in the eye

Please. Haven't we had enough of these characters who go around tossing cream pies in VIPs' faces? This week, they hit Mayor Bourque squarely with not one but two pies. The point was for the public to laugh at the man. But that was hard. With the mayor, the pie-throwers may have hit their target, but they succeeded only in making people feel sympathy for him.The idea behind pie-throwing, after all, is to poke fun at pompous people. Now, taking some air out of stuffed shirts can be a noble calling (hi there, Aislin). But doing exactly the same thing to a whole series of people is not very amusing. It's just tedious.

Besides, say what you want about Mayor Bourque, pomposity is not one of his problems.The first of the high-profile incidents occurred last winter in Belgium, where the target was Microsoft mogul William Gates. True, there was something delicious about the world's high-tech potentate getting creamed in a low-tech stunt. But almost overnight, the Belgian nobody behind the incident became a media celebrity. Shoving dessert up someone's nostrils somehow became an imaginative political statement.

The Belgian hit man's admirers quickly sprang up in Montreal, where they've ambushed mayoral candidate Jacques Duchesneau and Alliance Quebec president William Johnson. Both of these targets, as well as Mr. Bourque, painfully tried to be good-humoured as they wiped the mess from themselves. A new kind of political etiquette has evolved: one cannot be cross, since that would show that one really is pompous. The targets therefore have to laugh and pretend it's hilarious, when it's not. It's a form of assault.

An aide to Mr. Bourque, Madeleine Champagne, put an ingenious spin on the assault on her boss. She said the mayor's camp took it "as a compliment" - after all, she reasoned, it did happen to Mr. Gates.

A pie in the face has thus become a status symbol: it means people take you seriously. If this keeps up, wanna-be VIPs may soon be staging their own ambushes.


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