Tim Boxer

Nina Boxer

Conan O’Brien at the

Turns Over A (Maple) Leaf
By Taping An All-Canuck Show

HANKS to Conan O’Brien I spent my one day in Toronto exploring the world’s tallest tower. It happened this way.

I came to Toronto to see Conan tape the first of four shows of his Late Night stint on NBC. Thousands of frenzied fans braved the bitter February cold, standing since 6 a.m. in lines that wrapped squarely around the block.

The 1,200 who were admitted into the Elgin Theatre on Yonge Street for each afternoon’s taping were not disappointed. They whooped, hollered and clapped with each appearance of a stagehand until the star came out to welcome “my Canadian babies.”

With Conan seated behind a desk carved with maple leaves, Mike Myers, of Austin Powers renown, talked about his roots in Scarborough, Ontario, and going to Stephen Leacock Secondary School with Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack (a guest later in the week).

While Canadian native Myers is presently comfortably based in La La Land, Conan rolled out homegrown, home-based Canadian talent in the form of humorist Ron James.

C-Lounge bartender

As Ron held forth in plaid shirt and sneakers, I wondered how many American viewers understood the Queen’s English that spewed from his mouth. I was barely able to decode one line – and I’m Canadian born!

Most people here speak a language that Americans can readily understand. Not Ron James. He reminds me of my grade school Latin teacher in Winnipeg who would get upset and holler, “Get your hoot and your coot and get oot!”

“We’re not a big military power,” Ron said.

“My American friends ask, ‘How come you didn’t help us in Iraq?’

“You need weapons for that, don’cha?”

Every show was maple syrupy, with all the requisite cultural stereotypes thrown in (the beaver was spared), but the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Mounties were represented.

Conan’s monologue was heavily sprinkled with Canuck references:

In a new poll, 54 percent of Canadian teenagers say they use marijuana. The other 46 percent say they grow it.

Here, rapper 50 Cent is known as 75 Cent.

Gay marriage is legal here, which makes sense because the city’s most famous symbol is an 1800-foot penis.

The next day I decided to take a gander at that giant erection, otherwise known as the CN Tower. A high-speed elevator, zooming up at 15 mph, brought me to the top in 58 seconds. The observation deck, the world’s highest at 147 stories, gave me a magnificent view of this visitor-friendly city.

CN Tower

I dare you to step on the glass floor for a look down 1,122 feet to the ground. Believe me, it takes nerves of steel to walk on the glass floor. The floor consists of 20 pieces of composite glass that are 2½ inches thick.

Don’t worry, the floor will hold your weight. In fact, it will hold 14 hippos (85,000 pounds), although it was never tried as they’ll never be able to get them up in the elevators!

The 360 Restaurant features outstanding food fare with a revolving view of the city 1,000 feet below.

The American Society of Civil Engineers classified the CN Tower as one of seven modern wonders of the world.

I hope Conan made an effort to scope out the city before heading back over the border at the end of the week. In my one day in town I had time not only for the CN Tower but also to explore the thriving Entertainment District, walking along Queen Street, sprinkled with interesting boutiques, and King Street, filled with quaint clubs, inviting restaurants and live theatres.

I stayed overnight at the imposing Holiday Inn on King strategically located a block or two from the Financial District. It’s an excellent business/tourist hotel offering all amenities you could ask for.

Restaurants on King St.

My compliments to general manager Marlin Keranan whose dedicated staff provided the most comfortable lodging and outstanding service.

The locals had advised Conan to keep stereotypes at a minimum. Stereotypes? They held his first night party at the C-Lounge Nightclub where the bar, the buffet table and some of the lounging chairs were cut from ice, and where Mayor David Miller presented him with a Maple Leafs hockey jersey and a foot-long key to the city made of—ice. By this time Conan was wearing leather gloves.

“They told me to say something funny,” the mayor said. “I don’t have anything funny to say.”

“I know what that’s like,” Conan retorted.

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