If you would like a copy of THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE send a donation of $100 to Reg Hartt, 463 Bathurst, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5T 2S9 and I will send you one. It will help me fight my battle against the City of Toronto’s War On Fun. Please make it payable to Reg Hartt.
Jane Jacobs was more than my friend.
I first met her and her family in 1968, the year they arrived in Toronto.
She and her husband Robert looked at the fact their sons were coming of age to be drafted. To keep them from being killed in Vietnam they packed up and moved to Toronto. They moved from the world’s greatest city and all that it offers to a city where, as Mrs. Jacobs put it, “There is a continual war on fun.” In Toronto if it is fun it has to go.
The day I met them was a Saturday. Rain had come down all day in solid sheets.
I had a little venue just north of Bloor Street in Toronto on Yonge at Yorkville on the East Side where the library now stands which I called THE PUBLIC ENEMY where I showed films from my collection of 8mm silent classics. That night I was showing Lon Chaney in the original 1923 THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. I was certain with weather like that no one would be coming out. I was not going to go. Then I thought, “There might be people there.”
I arrived to find a father, mother, their two sons and a daughter huddled under umbrellas outside the door.
They had seen a street poster I had out up advertising the screening. They introduced themselves as Robert and Jane Jacobs. Their sons were Jim and Ned. Their daughter was Bergin. Jane saw street posters as I see street posters. They are the newspaper of the street.
“This place is just like Cinema 16,” said Mrs. Jacobs after going up the 39 steps into the venue I had named THE PUBLIC ENEMY.
They came every week after that until the City Of Toronto shut me down.
Toronto has a long history of shutting things down. It has, as Mrs. Jacobs put it, a war on fun.
It was not until 1970 that I discovered Jane Jacobs the writer after seeing her picture in a newspaper.
At that time I was Director of Cinema Studies at Toronto’s infamous Rochdale College. Mrs. Jacobs was a regular.
The City shut down Rochdale, too. How could it not for Rochdale was everything Toronto prides itself on not being. Rochdale was anarchic, frightening, free, and wild. Originally designed as an 18 floor student residence it had morphed into the boldest experiment in alternate education anywhere. The experiment? Each Rochdalian was called to be their own teacher. There were no teachers at Rochdale. What there were was what was called “Resource People.” It was thanks to one of those Resource People, Judith Merril, that I was there.
Wrote J. G. Ballard (author of CRASH and EMPIRE OF THE SUN) in 1992: “Science fiction, I suspect, is now dead, and probably died about the time that Judy closed her anthology (THE YEAR’S BEST SF) and left to found her memorial library to the genre in Toronto. I remember my last sight of her, surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men.”
Some people from Rochdale had come to THE PUBLIC ENEMY. They told me about a remarkable woman they knew whose name was Judith Merril. I knew that name from her anthologies of THE YEAR’S BEST SF. Pre-punk Punk, dressed head to foot in black and rail thin I went over to Rochdale to meet Judy who, when she found out I had 8mm prints of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE BIRTH OF A NATION, INTOLERANCE, METROPOLIS, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the first films of Charlie Chaplin and more said, “You belong here.”
The main reason most people went to Rochdale was marijuana. Part of the Rochdale experiment was the liberal use of hashish, marijuana, LSD, mescaline and peyote. I like to say Rochdale was 18 floors straight up. The higher up we went, the higher we got.
Boy, was Rochdale too much fun for Toronto.
When Rochdale finally closed around 1975 Judy Merril got my screenings into THE PALMERSTON LIBRARY next door to her SPACED OUT LIBRARY which was in an old house next door to THE PALMERSTON, a spanking new building. Jane Jacobs was a regular at my screenings there.
I do more than show movies. I introduce them. My introductions are controversial. Many tell me they would come to my programs if only I would not speak before them. Nonetheless, speak I did and do. Years afterward I learned that my programs set an attendance record equaled by no one else who has used that space. That was ironic. The women who ran the library were dead set against me. The caretaker, the man responsible for submitting the attendance figures, told me he always reported half the number of people I really had as the library might get upset if they knew the real numbers.
Eventually the women in charge of the library succeeded at getting me out. I moved the program to The Bathurst Street United Church. Mrs. Jacobs was a regular there, too. One of the films I programmed there, Leni Riefenstahl’s film of Adolf Hitler’s 1934 Nuremberg rally, provoked a storm of protest. Jane Jacobs wrote a letter defending my presentation.
One of the many letters Jane Jacobs sent me.eni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (1935), the film provoked a storm of protest demanding I stop showing it. Jane wrote a letter in defense of the presentation. It is one of the many she sent me.
Then they were at Innis College on The University of Toronto Campus. Though this was the Film Studies Building few UofT Film Students came to my programs. Those who did brought attitude by the truckload. They still do, though, thankfully, not all of them.
In 1979 I brought animation artist Robert Clampett to Toronto. Bob was one of the great Warner animation directors of the 1940s. Bob’s Emmy Award winning television puppet show TIME FOR BEANY was described by Groucho Marx as, “The only children’s show on TV adult enough for me to let my kids watch.”
I had asked Toronto’s then Mayor John Sewell to welcome Bob. His office replied he was spending the weekend with his kid. I wondered what kid would not want to meet one of the geniuses behind Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but then, as Mrs. Jacobs said, “Toronto has always had a war on fun.”
I needed someone better than the Mayor. I asked Mrs. Jacobs. She said, “I know nothing about cartoons. I do know and care about you. If I can talk about your value to the city of Toronto I will do it.”And she did to the consternation of many in attendance who had come for Bob. They were not interested in the fellow who had brought Bob here. Bob, however, was.
The space I am currently using I call THE CINEFORUM. It is actually the living room, the salon, of my home in Toronto.
I run it as a salon. Again, people say, “If only you would not speak we would come.”
In 2002 I called Mrs. Jacobs (a thing I did as rarely as I could). “I’m taking you to a movie,” I told her. “What movie?” she asked. “CHICAGO. It’s the latest version of ROXIE HART.” “I never heard of it,” she said. “I’ll drop you off some press,” I said.
I bicycled up to 69 Albany with a manila envelope filled with clippings and a note that said, “Call me when you’re ready to go.” I did not knock. I just shoved the envelope through the door.
When I first met her in 1968 she asked if I had heard of the movie ROXIE HART with Ginger Rogers. It was one of her favorites.
I walked in my door to hear the phone ringing. It was Jane. She was ready to go the next day.
We went. By this time she rarely went out. She had to use a walker. I had come by taxi. We went to the movies. She enjoyed the film immensely. Then I brought her home. It was a wonderful date. “Would you care to come in for tea?” she said.
Inside she plopped down four bottles of beer. She said, “I think you would like this more.”
Then she regaled me with the full back story of the real Roxie Hart.
When we got to our third beer each she said out of the blue, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”
As she had been coming to my programs since solidly 1968 she had heard more of what I have had to say than anyone else on the planet. I said, “Hearing that, from you, is better than getting an Academy Award.”
She said, “I would not say that.”
I replied, “I know the caliber of the people who vote on those things. I would.”
Mrs. Jacobs left us in 2006.
I often run into her children on the street. They always stop to say, “My mother loved you.” I reply, “I lover your mother.”
How could I not? I got from her something much better than an Oscar.
How am I celebrating the 100th birthday of my friend, Jane Jacobs?
I am doing what she did. I am fighting yet another battle in Toronto’s continuing war on fun.
You can read about it here: http://startouch.thestar.com/screens/1cb9b322-f604-45d4-9471-b2e463c42884%7C_0.html
You can hear Jane Jacobs welcoming Bob Clampett to Toronto by talking about the value of Reg Hartt to the City of Toronto here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D7J2ch2Tec
You can hear Jane talking about Toronto’s perpetual war on fun in this old CBC program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9833TPWSCY
Toronto is celebrating her 100th birthday in lots of ways that meant and mean nothing to Jane.
I meant much to Jane. My work meant much to Jane. The folks at those celebrations are not at mine. That’s fine.
What that means is that I have plenty of room at my party so come join me as I fight the real Jane Jacobs fight.
What fight is that? It is the fight to get cities to adapt to people not people to cities.
It is the fight to end Toronto’s perpetual war on fun. When we win, boy, won’t that be fun?
Come to my party. You’ll have fun. So what will I do if The City of Toronto wins this battle? Well, as Jane says in this old CBC piece, Montreal likes fun. Sounds like the place to go.
–Reg Hartt, 6/27/2016. P.S. Academy Awards are given for how good we are at faking it. Praise from Jane Jacobs came only for how good we were at being real. People can and do get paid millions for how good they are at faking it. No one gets paid for being real. Being real is payment enough. More than enough. Cheers.
For more on my battle against Toronto’s War On Fun just read the posts below.