On Tuesday at about 1:30 p.m., Scott Pilgrim marched to the south-east corner of the Yonge and Dundas scramble intersection. With photographer friend Carl W. Heindl perched on the south-west corner pretending to take photos of the massive building now known as 10 Dundas East, and videographer friend Steve Rock hovering nearby too, Pilgrim quickly stripped down to his boxer shorts, waited for the cars in all directions to stop and the pedestrian scramble to start, then pulled down the shorts and bolted into the middle of the road, totally naked. For school, obviously.
The Guelph-Humber student had been assigned to do a self-portrait—due Thursday morning—and got to thinking about involving others in it after hearing from a class guest speaker, who’d made video self-portraits in which he cast other people to play himself. Pilgrim, finding more and more examples of self-portraits planned, but not actually shot, by the photographers pictured in them, got Heindl and Rock on board, and prepared for a Monday streak through one of the street-level lobbies of the Eaton Centre. That was the plan, at least, until they found a Bell booth set up in the area they’d planned to do it at.
“I slept fine Sunday night,” Pilgrim explained in an email to Torontoist, “but then when we couldn’t do it Monday and the due date was coming up, I just started kinda freaking out, worrying I was going to be arrested, and it just psyched me out. I think what did it for me—what really made me commit to it—was that I’d told way too many people about it going down…I literally had to do it, for the sake of my reputation.”
So: Tuesday. As he stood at the lights, Pilgrim says, “people clearly knew something was going down before I even stripped. I mean, I was sitting there on the corner for a minute just in my boxers and it was pretty obvious that Carl wasn’t just taking photos of the buildings by that point.”
In the time it took him to take those first few nude steps out, Pilgrim’s reputation nearly took a big hit anyway, as he stumbled and nearly fell over his boxers while he took them off. (“I almost bailed so hard, naked, in the middle of Dundas Square.”) That’s why his smile is so huge mid-intersection: “That’s a result of me not dying,” he explains. That, and, “I mean, I’m naked in Dundas Square and that’s pretty fucking hilarious.”
As Heindl quickly snapped a burst of shots—some of which are above—and Rock filmed, Pilgrim flew across the intersection, landing on the other side and picking up and quickly throwing on a long blue jacket and a pair of slip-on shoes that the guys had strategically placed there earlier. Pilgrim barely had time to register the stunt’s reception (“I heard clapping and cheering and that’s really it”), but Heindl got a wider view from behind the camera. “Early on, before the actual crossing light changed, Scott was just standing alone on the corner in boxer shorts,” says Heindl. “People just looked away. Thought he was crazy maybe. It was when the shorts dropped people started smiling, cheering, clapping.” The stunt, says Heindl, was “like this thirty-second mystery. A tiny chaos in everyone’s day.”
“The overall feeling was overwhelming and definitely invigorating,” says Pilgrim. “I’ve never really done anything like that before, so it was pretty crazy to just propose a ridiculous idea like running naked across the busiest intersection in Toronto.” Guelph-Humber: an A+ for this man, please.
Photos by Carl W. Heindl.