Ankle Lickers, and Other Things We Don’t Understand in North Bay

By Wally Hourback | November 13, 2010

You’ll excuse me if I find the thought of The Toronto Star’s lite-opinionator Heather Mallick licking the ankles of New York writer and film director Nora Ephron less than fetching. But that’s what Mallick said she wanted to do in her Saturday Toronto Star wank. Ephron, who has made a number incomprehensible-to-people-in-North-Bay movies like Sleepless In Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and Bewitched was in Toronto flogging a new book she’s written about the chicken skin on her neck, divorce, and several other topics sensible people ought to say as little as possible about unless they’re dead drunk.  As far as I can see from here, her presence in Toronto, aside from causing Mallick to lose her mind yet again, caused a media riot amongst a sizeable portion of the Toronto media. This is the same sizable portion that wants Toronto to be New York, and probably pretty much the same portion that still occasionally reads books, or at least takes the free media copies home, reads the jacket copy, and puts them on their coffee tables.

This morning, the Ephron frenzy was the source of a lot of amusement at the Tim Horton’s outlet I hang out in. My buddy Larry Chadwick, who didn’t know who Ephron was but had a kind of half-assed bead on Mallick as “the Toronto broad who thinks that women should wear pearls even in the bathtub” said he thought her ankle-licking urge was retch-inducing, and then launched into an “who the hell is Nora Ephron-and-her-neck rant” that had most of the previously-bemused customers lying on the floor laughing.  Including me, despite its standard-for-him anti-female chauvinism portion, which I’ve long thought are surprisingly astute and moderate for a guy who drives an F-150 with a rifle rack in the back window. Larry thinks that city women these days are as contemptuous and ignorant about men as a group of Army generals would have been about women 50 years ago. (I happen to think he’s onto something, but that’s a topic for another day.)

His rant got me thinking about two things.  I’d heard Gian Ghomeshi’s fawning interview with Ephron on CBC—something I could never admit to the Tim Hortons’ crowd—and thought Ephron sounded like a self-centred motor-mouth who seemed to believe that the entire universe operated by one-liner homilies constructed to allow New Yorkers with household incomes over $200 grand a year to communicate with one another and order groceries on the phone from working class people from Brooklyn and South Korea. But the truth was that there wasn’t a single person in my North Bay Tim Horton’s this morning who’d had Ephron’s baseball bat/flying dishes-free experience with divorce, and not a single person in the whole damned city other than me who even knew she’d had an acrimonious divorce from Watergate primo Carl Bernstein—and no one at all who gave a shit.

The interview bothered me a little, because Ghomeshi treated Nora Ephron’s personal life as so infra dig that it didn’t even have to be mentioned. It was an interview with a woman who doesn’t know how small her world really is, done by an interviewer who seemed to have no inkling either.

The other thing is this. Shouldn’t the Toronto arts and celebrity-chasing media be tracking down Johanna Skibsrud, who just won the Giller Prize for a book called, wait a minute, ah, yeah, The Sentimentalists. She’s 30, from Nova Scotia, and she might have something relevant to tell people like us about the way we live. Ephron’s Upper East Side eye-view sure as hell doesn’t.

One more thing.  If you’re a journalist or a junk-yard dog, aren’t you supposed to bite people’s ankle’s, not lick them?


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