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Montreal Mirror 28 Mai 1998

Puff-pastry empowerment

A behind-the-scenes anatomy of Jacques Duchesneau's sticky-sweet political debut

Date: Thursday, May 21. Time: 6;30 p.m. Place: Windsor Station. Event: the inaugural rally for New Montreal, the municipal party led by former police chief, Jacques Duchesneau.

Tonight, Duchesneau is getting his first real taste of politics. Over 1,000 people are in attendance. Duchesneau is making the rounds, glad-handing everyone he bumps into. News photographers follow his every step. Everyone seems genuinely glad to meet him. If this is what politics tastes like, Duchesneau must be thinking, it tastes pretty sweet.

He has no idea how sweet it tastes.

Just as he is finishing his rounds, he sees a man with a red clown nose. It's a sure-fire giveaway that a covert action-comedy is in play, but Duchesneau doesn't get the tip. Instead, he naïvely approaches the man to shake his hand. Little does he know that his barely-masked interlocutor is former Rhinoceros Party stalwart François Gourd, and behind Gourd stand three accomplice jokers, each with a cream pie in hand.

Before Duchesneau's cop instincts can kick in, Costello (not his real name) moves in for the smooshy kill. He reaches over Gourd's shoulder and hits his target dead centre. Nyuk nyuk nyuk. As Duchesneau tries to peer through his thick, creamy makeover, the cameras start clicking rapid-fire, a second round of incriminating ammunition. Woo woo woo. The nutty terrorists escape, leaving a trail of merry carnage in their wake.

Funny. But what does it mean? "It's puff-pastry empowerment," Abott (not his real name) told the Mirror. "People feel powerless when it comes to politics. But there is something they can do. They can pie."

It's a movement in the making: Gourd and his henchmen used Duchesneau to inaugurate the Quebec chapter of the internationale des anarcho-pâtisseurs, a movement bent on the globalization of the farce. The group will hold its inaugural congress in Montreal on June 12, with special guest Noël Godin, the man who creamed Bill Gates. All public figures in Quebec and around the world are hereby put on notice. "There will come a day," Gourd proclaims, "when the last person on earth who has not been pied, he too will get a surprise!"


If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, then the pie-in-the-face is the world's oldest gag. You'd think that, over the years, it would get easier to pull off. You'd be wrong.

Three days before the coup, four clowns conspirators (all of whom shall remain nameless) meet for a final strategy meeting in their jolly bunker, located somewhere in North America. They begin their meeting by watching video footage of the Bill Gates gloupinesque, and they do so as much for inspiration as for tactical reasons.

The footage lasts about 12 seconds. Gates smiles at onlookers as he turns a corner, completely unaware that he is walking right into a trap set by silly snipers. As he heads up the steps, he is gunned down in a shower of milky white ammo. "Look at how fast it happens," they comment, awe in their voices. "You'd swear it came out of nowhere."

They replay the tape frame by frame, and tactical secrets are revealed. A total of three stooges struck the billionaire target. The first of the three was deliciously accurate, landing his creamy cannonball squarely upon the tip of Gate's nose. Every member of Gates' entourage is struck by flying fluffy schrapnel.

The rules of comic warfare dictate that the pie cannot be thrown from a distance; it must be deposited upon its target, hand-to-face."That doesn't mean it has to be gentle," Abott reminds the group. "In the rush of adrenaline and the determination to finish the job, the whip will fly."

They have already scoped out the scene where the hit will take place. Discussion then focuses on weaponry: what kind of pie shall be used? Does ordinary whipped cream turn to liquid when left at room temperature? How long will the snipers be standing at their perch, pie cocked for action? Would a good, stiff cream be best? Should we insist on paper plates rather than aluminium, to ensure no lasting scars?

It's a sad scene, watching clowns take themselves this seriously. As funny business goes, this is awfully heavy-handed. At one point, two people are spotted peeking into the window of the bunker. Everyone gets worked up into a big fuss, thinking someone's bees sent to spy on them - until they realize the people outside were merely admiring the bunker's in-house kitty perched on the still. They do allow visitors to go to the bathroom unescorted; but, then again, the bathroom has no door, making for easy surveillance.

There are final details to wich even this reporter is not privy; they insist upon completing their meeting in camera, and I am shown the door.


In terms of strategy, the Duchesneau pastry putsch was a total success. But in terms of its true objectives -to subvert media control, to make political figures seem human again- its success was questionable. The hilarity of any pie-in-the-face is directly proportionnal to the haughtiness of the target. Duchesneau was momentarily enraged, but he spun it to keep his image intact. And the media played right into his hands, unable to ask a pertinent question.

"How does it feel to take a pie in the face?"

"I like whipped cream," Duchesneau responded.

"How does it feel to become Montreal's Bill Gates?"

"It's a flattering comparison. Bill Gates runs a good company. I want to run a good city."

"Did you think it was funny?"

"Well, for the first couple of minutes, no." Aha! What's this? A hint of humanity? An admission of wounded self-esteem? Then, within a split second, he's back on track: "But, like I said, I like whipped cream"

The final lesson of the slapstick: if your teflon coating is thick enough, even whipped cream slides right off your face.



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