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On not being famous at Moses Znaimer’s IdeaCity

It’s a Friday night in Toronto’s Distillery District, a vast commercial, residential and “arts” space installed in a renovated booze factory close to downtown. I’ve come to attend one of Moses Znaimer’s “legendary” IdeaCity parties, held at this time every year as part of a three-day festival attracting “luminaries” to the city. There’s a rather elaborate entry protocol, which involves me standing around a long while waiting to be confirmed. Once in the door, I feel practically naked as I don’t have a giant badge with my name on it indicating that I’ve paid Moses however many thousands of dollars to listen to 20-minute snatches of wisdom selected by him. Among this year’s merchants of wiseness are Margaret Atwood, listed as a “Canadian literary icon”; Christie Hefner, written up as “CEO Playboy Enterprises” (now there’s an idea!); and Betty Krawczyk, “Head Raging Granny.”

As my fellow attendees pass me by, I get quizzical looks that are 95 per cent “Why aren’t you wearing a giant badge with your name on it so that we can relate to each other as equals?” and five per cent fear that I might be somebody famous that they don’t recognize. I try hard to return their glances with a cool affability, suggesting that I forgive them for not knowing who I am because this is a conference about ideas, after all, not about me.

As the party whirls around, my head begins to swirl at the sight of all the people I recognize and whose names I write down on a piece of paper so I can remind myself who they are. There’s Richard Rohmer and Harry Stinson. There’s Ezra Levant sipping wine with a baby attached to his chest. And there’s Dan Aykroyd. And there’s Ezra Levant and the baby again. No, wait: Dan Aykroyd’s not here, but every bottle of wine served at this swell affair has his name on it. That may be why I’m so confused.

At the end of the evening I stand waiting for a cab that never comes while several couples beside me argue various points of an idea clearly stimulated by their experience over the past three days.

“Did you say goodbye to Moses?”“No. Did you?”“One of us should. You go.”“No, you go.”“No way, you go.”

And on into the night.

ideaCity 08• The Prophet [Toronto Life]

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