The Filmores Hotel marquee, changed on Wednesday afternoon to welcome G20 leaders. Photo by Ryan Walker/Torontoist.
Until “Jesus Sucks” graced the horizon in 2008, perhaps the greatest publicity stunt in recent times to employ an aerial banner occurred twenty years before, during the 1988 G7 summit.
That year, management at the Filmores Hotel’s gentlemen’s club pulled off a stunt that, if repeated during the upcoming G20, would cause the Air Command of the Canadian Forces to scramble a squadron of CF-18s. (The hotel’s stunt for this year’s G20, the extent of which is pictured above, pales in comparison.)
In the days before no-fly zones, when Blue Jays fans weren’t considered a threat to Internationally Protected Persons, when it was still permissible for a kid to fly a kite during an international gathering, management at the Filmores’ peeler club concocted a spectacle that put the club’s name on the tongue of every person with an eye to the sky over Toronto.
It was a sunny day in June. On account of the G7, the city was under what, at the time, must have felt like a stifling security blanket. At Exhibition Stadium, the Blue Jays were playing a four-game home stint against the Baltimore Orioles. At one point during the ballgame, all eyes were suddenly averted from play on the field, upward, to a tiny, one-seater airplane buzzing around the stadium. The airplane pulled a long banner reading “Filmores Welcomes Leaders of the G7 Nations” (or something similar) behind it on a towline.
Waves of laughter rolled through the stadium. Players in the outfield were momentarily distracted. The plane continued a circuitous flight over downtown, circling the Convention Centre, where leaders were holding high-level meetings, several times. Following the shoreline east, the little plane then buzzed off in the direction of Scarborough and the Toronto Hunt Club, where additional meetings were in session.
At a time when Toronto was tense with security issues, the stunt amused the entire city. It proved to be just the comic relief Toronto desperately needed.
Toronto survived the G7 summit without incident. The Jays won that series three games to one. As for the official summit communiqué, if any world leader took Filmores up on their offer, there is no record of it.