Robertson: Sears Catalog model good looks
On Wednesday night I was among a few parents invited to attend a gathering organized by local elementary school administrators. I had just jumped off a plane from the Island, and had only enough time to grab a quick change of attire from home and get down to hear a speech by Mayor Gregor Robertson.
When I arrived, I sat in the back of the room beside the school administrator who invited me just as Robertson began talking. The topic of his speech was supposed to be on how to raise a child with a social and environmental conscience. What Robertson did deliver was an off-the-cuff, rambling 25-minute speech. Gregor, apparently, likes to keep it real.
I've never seen one of Robertson's ad libbed talks in person – only on YouTube and through TV sound bites. As much as I'm sure many in the room felt honoured by the presence of the City's top elected official, it felt to me like he phoned it in. I didn't stick around after the speech to ask what others felt, but from my vantage point at the back of the room it was clear that he got through to at least some of the audience. I could see the heads of some women sitting before me nodding as he spoke.
Robertson's talk was hardly original stuff. He took his key platform planks – moving people from sleeping outside to pews and mats in empty warehouses, greenwashing Vancouver, and paying lip service to the arts community – and wove them into a feelgood spiel about children. "It's important that our kids see us taking action," Gregor said. "We need to walk the walk so they can follow in our footsteps." No cliché was safe that night.
To me the Mayor's remarks were meandering, and his speaking style reminded me of a valedictorian. Inside I was screaming, get thee to Toastmasters – stat! But for the folks who were nodding at Gregor's remarks I can only guess that Robertson's aw shucks mannerisms endeared him to them.
It's a puzzle to me that halfway through his term instead of considering the substance (or lack thereof) of Robertson's words, many media still concentrate on his appearance. Oddly it's male journalists who seem to discuss Robertson's Sears catalog good looks the most. For example, last weekend in a story published by the Vancouver Sun reporter Jeff Lieberman gave this sensual account of Robertson in New York:
Robertson's youthful good looks didn't go unnoticed in New York. During Monday night's panel, the moderator, David Owen of The New Yorker magazine, assured the crowd that Robertson was in fact mayor of Vancouver, and not president of the student council. The mayor smiled bashfully.
Of course, we've provided multiple examples of this phenomenon that has seized Vancouver City Hall.
"His brown hair slightly mussed, coloured by sprigs of grey, Mr. Robertson leads officials and reporters on the line's inaugural run. "Smooth," the smiling mayor comments, "a sweet ride."
And of course we talked about when another local scribe wrote this:
Gregor Robertson must have had a blithe, well-adjusted upbringing. He's always smiling....
Now that his city has just presided over a smash-hit Olympic party that won raves around the world, his boyish grin is bigger than ever. His political ambitions may be as well.
Given this media obsession with looks, those who might think about taking on Gregor in 2011 are probably wondering whether a facelift or tummy tuck is in order. But for the general public clearly there is something else that the Mayor must represent to them. He may fumble for words and at times he won't make sense, but as long as he comes across like the boy next door, Robertson might be unbeatable in politics.
- post by Mike