Ho ye, Toronto. Rebel Mayor has at last been unmasked, or, as he might tweet, "de-frocked."
And for the record, he isn't me.
But before I reveal his identity, there are a few things you need to know.
According to his Twitter bio, @rebelmayor is the reincarnation of William Lyon Mackenzie, "Toronto's first mayor - 1837 rebellion starter - back & pissed & running for Toronto mayor in 2010."
He was the unofficial court jester of the 2010 mayoral election, posting tweets that brilliantly skewered politicians, flaks, the media and Toronto itself.
The whisky-swilling, musket-toting, wise-cracking character claimed to live in the 18 Yorkville condos with a "team" of perpetually soused staffers who worked on his ultimately unsuccessful write-in candidacy for mayor.
"'Team' been working w our firm Navigator 2 test tweet new ideas. They suggest we uniquify RM2010 by being the anti-children #voteTO choice," he wrote Oct. 6.
"'Team' restructuring. Trying to get @PeterMilczyn here @HQ 2 suggest architectural improvement from #voteTO design champion. Shag carpet?" he wrote Oct. 16.
The project was a little like Primary Colors for the social-media age, and generated much speculation: Who was plugged in enough to drop a reference to the political PR firm Navigator - whose principle, Jamie Watt, worked on George Smitherman's campaign - or to know that Etobicoke's Peter Milczyn is council's only architect? Rebel Mayor's tweets displayed such an uncanny understanding of the city and its politics that the National Post, Toronto Life and Torontoist, among others, got sucked into the guessing game about his identity.
That's why I was as anxious as a teenager on a blind date when Rebel Mayor agreed to meet me for his first post-election interview at 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Rebel House, the Yonge Street watering hole that figured regularly in RM's tale. (He and his team were banned from the bar after a mysterious "musket incident," according to RM's feed.) There was an outside chance Rebel Mayor was a high-profile political figure.
Instead, in walked a tall, bespectacled man I didn't immediately recognize. He wore chunky black glasses, a skinny tie and carried a bike helmet. I was a bit crestfallen that he wasn't politically famous. Then he told me his name.
Of course! I thought.
Rebel Mayor is Shawn Micallef.
Mr. Micallef, 36, is a senior editor at Spacing Magazine, columnist at Eye Weekly and author of the recent book Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto. He's a politically astute Toronto-phile who happened to spend much of the last few years buried in the Toronto Archives researching his book - ideal preparation for creating Rebel Mayor.
Mr. Micallef opened RM's account last November, just as election speculation began to mount.
"At the time there were rumblings - it got much more explicit later - of the angry electorate," he said. "I felt like William Lyon Mackenzie seemed to embody the angry electorate. It was like his time to come back was now. He could channel the anger of Torontonians, just as he did in 1837."
RM is his first fake Twitter handle. A prolific tweeter under his own name, Mr. Micallef didn't tell a soul about his alter ego, not even when Rebel Mayor signs popped up at recent launch parties for Spacing Magazine. A few people asked him point-blank if he was behind the account. He lied.
"I knew if I told one person, it would leak out," he said, apologizing profusely for the fibs he told to protect his secret.
He set about quietly building his Twitter audience, which topped 1,000 followers by the end of the campaign. He endowed Rebel Mayor with an absurd blend of tics: RM used old expressions like "Ho ye" and new ones like "LOL" and "CU L8TER." He and his team of Liberal, Tory and NDP staffers were always getting drunk at the Spoke Club. RM was pointed, but never mean.
He developed light-hearted feuds and conversations with public figures, including budget chief Shelley Carroll, Scarborough councillor Paul Ainslie, and Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Brad Ross.
"When these people started conversing back and forth, I felt really good because I felt like they kind of respected the character," Mr. Micallef said. "If they thought it was just some loony, crazy, angry person, nobody would talk to him."
On election night, Mr. Micallef was at Councillor Adam Vaughan's victory party at Kensington's Supermarket, where the crowd was so stunned at Mr. Ford's swift victory that Mr. Micallef forgot to update Rebel Mayor's account for two hours before demanding: "recount."
Now that the election is over, Mr. Micallef is torn about the character's future. RM is bereft of purpose without a campaign. Mr. Micallef is considering turning the account over to guest tweeters for six-month spans. In the meantime, RM is winding down his election efforts online.
"Spending day leaving stashes of the War Chest around Toronto 4 eventual return," he tweeted Thursday. "Come help dig hole in Trinity-Bellwoods @ noon. Dog pit."
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