I have no desire to go to the Shanghai World’s Fair, Expo 2010, which opened yesterday. I didn’t even go to Vancouver’s Expo 1986, even though I lived a ten minute walk from the site and crossed the Cambie Bridge, which spanned the site, every day to and from the post office where I still had a job. In fact, my boycott of that event was so complete that when a year later CBC TV broadcast their documentary of the fair’s World Drum Festival I taped it and called Paul Plimley leaving a message on his machine saying, “Paul, I’m taping the drum festival and would like to give you the tape to watch for me because as you know I’m boycotting Expo.” His friend, Barbara, was visiting and heard me leave that message. She was so impressed that twenty-two years later Barbara and I are still together.
But Montreal’s Expo ’67 is something else. That was the last great World’s Fair. It was a hell of a fair and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Noel showed me his press pass.
“You have to get one of these,” he said. “Get in free, but the best part is no lineups. Just go to the head of the line, flash your pass, and walk right in any pavilion. And bring whoever you want.”
The more popular pavilions you could wait in line two hours or more.
“How do you get this?”
“The press office. But you have to be an accredited member of the media which, of course, you’re not.”
Oh yeah? I had just met a couple of guys from Ottawa who were planning to put out an underground weekly there. This was the era of underground papers. The East Village Other, Berkeley Barb, Boston’s Avatar, etc. Vancouver’s Georgia Straight was in the works. These Ottawa press barons had come up with the brilliantly boring title Canadian Free Press.
“Can I be your photographer?”
They had nothing. No office, no papers, no nothing. (They did eventually put out an issue or two, I think.) I had a partly used-up sheet of Letraset kicking around and some typing paper. I stuck “Canadian Free Press”, letter by letter, at the top of the typing paper. I didn’t even have enough Letraset for addresses, phone numbers, or anything. Then underneath I typed something along the lines of “To whom it may concern this guy works for us . . . etc.” I combed my hair and set out for the Media Office.
The assistant press officer pulls out a fat hardbound book and leafs through it. It’s the compendium of of all newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV, in the world.
“I don’t see any Canadian Free Press.”
“It’s brand new. Not in the book, yet.”
He consults with the main press officer and comes back, “Sorry, we can’t issue a pass for this.” Did they notice some Letraset peeling off the letter I handed them?
I fight my case in a back and forth lasting fifteen, twenty minutes. I’m an obvious fraud but don’t budge. “Freedom of the Press!” I insist. Utter bullshit. “Discrimination, anti-semitism, civil rights”, and on and on. They’re trying to ignore me and get on with their work but I stand there.
Finally, the main press guy says, “Give him the pass and get him the hell out of here!”