It was 35 years ago this week that powerful forces—immigrants wishing to impose their twisted homeland religious culture on our peaceable frozen kingdom—stopped the presses of one of the nation’s biggest daily newspapers to censor my pride in being Canadian.
In my regular weekly column in the still-mourned Ottawa Journal, I had listed things that patriots could do to celebrate the July 1 holiday in 1977 and some suggestions have stood the test of time, like:
–“Argue with an American about who won the War of 1812.”
–“Bitch about the CBC.
–“Feel smug that we’re the only English-speaking people without an accent.” Etc., etc.
There were a couple dozen more appropriate zingers (Letterman hadn’t yet taught us to stop at 10), but the one that caught the eye of the foreign-born religious extremists was the sweet little admonition that suggested an effective way to mark the nation’s birthday would be to:
“Kiss a beaver!”
The ink-stained wretch who handled my copy that night (you get your paper in the morning because editors work the same hours as Dracula) liked that line so much that he turned it into the big bold headline on top of my column:
Wave the flag July 1
–and kiss a beaver!
Now, I worked with that editor for 10 years and can assure you that he was a guileless soul who didn’t have even one brain cell capable of finding anything salacious in such an innocent turn of phrase. Like me.
After all, another harmless item on my list was, “Take a moose to lunch”, so we’re just talking here about different takes on domestic wildlife.
Alas, the purity of heart, mind and soul that comes from working nights does not flow across the sunrise divide when the jaded daytime scum arrive to fill the newsroom with sleaze.
Because the sunlight set had no work to do (the heavy lifting having already been done by the pasty-white, coffee-fueled, baggy-eyed nightsiders) they could spend all kinds of time reading the paper and criticizing before wandering off to the press club for a long, languid, liquid lunch.
Marvin the Snitch, an oily sub-human of the City News Sub-Desk, loudly sounded the alarm.
“Holy shit! Lovelace has done it again! He’s urging our readers to engage in oral sex!”
I won’t bore you here with the many tales of the practical jokes I have inflicted upon Canadian journalism over the last 45 years (I’ll milk that in future columns), but it advances this story to know that I had a rep that had launched a thousand memos warning editors to watch my copy for “innuendo”. (I think this expression is Italian for “bend over so we can check for hidden satire and sophomoric gags.”)
Marvin’s outburst caught the attention of the immigrant religious fundamentalists—two anally-retentive Presbyterian Scots who just happened to outrank me by many miles as news editor and managing editor—and the creepy little rat was happy to explain to the clueless clansmen that “beaver” was a New World term for a part of the female anatomy never mentioned back home in Glasgow, let alone kissed.
With the classic Presbyterian call to arms of “W’ull nae be havin’ nae smut in a family paper read by wee bairns and yon vicar”, they stopped the press to exorcise this perceived affront to public decency.
Well, actually, being cheap-prick Scots, they waited until the press stopped anyway for a regular plate change, allowing at least another 20,000 readers to be morally ruined. But, finally, they got rid of the offending line and changed the in-your-face headline to something more Presbyterian: “Have a great national birthday.”
The kilted duo threatened me with all kind of dire circumstances should there be any great public outcry from the pulpits across the land, but there isn’t much left as a dreaded threat to a guy who had spent seven years working nights. Especially when the newspaper surveys showed his column topped all the polls.
Plus I denied any scurrilous intent and even got testy with these single-malt boat people pointing their fingers at my Canadian beaver.
Long story short, there was no reader reaction at all. Nada.
The Scots were relieved.
Frankly, like any dirty-minded scribbler involved with innuendo of scurrilous intent, I was a little disappointed….
Happy Canada Day, beaver-lovers!