2013 Hero: Richard Feren, AKA @TOMayorFrod

Torontoist

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2013 Hero: Richard Feren, AKA @TOMayorFrod

Nominated for: civic responsibility, a great sense of humour, and some smart ideas about how to combine the two.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

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For the denizens of the Twitter-verse familiar with the #TOPoli hashtag (through which all things City Hall are discussed, argued, and trolled), a select number of parody accounts have provided a wealth of entertainment and a modicum of sanity. From the beginning, though, @TOMayorFrod distinguished himself through his wit, his level of engagement with councillors and citizens across the political spectrum, and a depth of commitment to public service not to be found in the mayor’s official account. In among his scathing send-ups of Ford’s many troubling statements and activities, @TOMayorFrod gave weather warnings, noted holidays and special events, and pointed out many of the attractions and activities that make Toronto a delightful place to live, despite its unfortunate leadership. During the ice storm he provided better and more frequent updates than his official counterpart did. The irony that a parody account would be recognized and celebrated for offering such value was not lost on anyone, including the parodist.

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From the moment he arrived in Toronto’s Twittersphere on May 31, 2013, speculation abounded about the alterna-mayor’s true identity. Just over five months later, one of the city’s leading theatre artists—composer and sound designer Richard Feren—revealed that he was the pointed parodist and made a sobering admission: he himself had been a crack cocaine user for a year in the mid-1990s. He shared some cold-eyed insights about his experience with the drug, and then unleashed a torrent of merciless criticism of Ford for his lies, abusiveness, and incompetence—and of his family and cadre for not only denying the severity of his plight but also actively enabling it. Feren’s candour, and the dignity with which he spoke of past struggles, provided a stark contrast to the endless bluster and dissembling from the Brothers Ford.

Feren concluded his revelation with the welcome news that he would continue to maintain the @TOMayorFrod account in order “to shine the searing light of satire on everything that surrounds Ford.” He then added: “While humour might be the tool I have elected to use, I am not doing it for the laughs, either. I consider it to be a civic responsibility.”


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