TORONTO - Toronto is about to bury its own special superstar.
Perhaps not everybody’s superstar. There’s nobody more polarizing than the one-and-only Rob Ford.
There’s no middle ground. Love him or hate him. Take your pick.
But it’s kind of hard to hide the thousands of people who came out to City Hall over the past two days for the public visitation for the former mayor.
Those thousands of people are a statement. Ford’s kids Dougie and Stephanie can one day look back and say their dad did pretty good after all.
He did. He gave it his all.
“Where are all the haters hiding now? RIP Rob Ford #fordnationalways,” tweeted Annick Jung.
They are out there and will rear their heads (mostly anonymously) in greater numbers after Wednesday.
For now, it’s Ford time and Ford Nation time.
Some waited three hours to pay their tearful respects to man who clearly touched a lot of people’s lives.
“The people are incredible,” said a sombre Randy Ford, Rob’s brother. “I think if we were here for a week they would keep coming.”
But now it’s time to say goodbye.
It will happen Wednesday when Ford’s flag-draped casket is placed in a hearse and slowly transported over to St. James Cathedral.
Members of the Ford family plan to walk behind the procession and are inviting people to join them.
Randy said Rob would have loved the outpouring of love for him. The selfies, the hugs, the banter is all part of Ford Nation.
“It’s all about the people,” said Randy.
The Fords thought they knew how much impact Rob had on people. It’s even bigger.
Ford’s nephew Michael, a school board trustee, said the customer service side of Rob will be his legacy,
“Rob had such a big heart,” he said.
Anybody who could get this kind of send off had to have serious people skills, no matter how much his haters hated him.
Rob drew people in — big names like Mike Tyson, Hulk Hogan, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Kimmel and George Chuvalo. Those are just a few of the stars who shared the spotlight with Toronto’s political star.
Most of those names also had adversity in their lives and persevered. In Rob a lot of them probably saw themselves.
Same goes for the people in line at City Hall — many of them carrying Ford Nation flags that someone was handing out. The dozens I spoke with all said pretty well the same thing: “He was persecuted for being human.”
Rob could relate to the people at the top, in the middle and on the street. I once saw Rob hanging out with U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump and then getting a homeless guy lunch. I’ll never forget how he got the city to reverse the decision to not allow the Jesus in the City Parade or the time Rob and Doug went to a benefit for a hurricane that destroyed the Philippines and left $600 in donations. Both also paid the $20 entry fee for the benefit put on by Filipino-Canadian singer Jenny James who often played Ford Fests.
“Rob and Doug help people,” said James.
As a thank you she and her Jen and the Men band have donated their services to play at the Congress Centre at Wednesday night’s celebration of life party.
“We love Ford Nation and we love Rob so it’s going to be emotional,” said Jenny. “We will play (the song) ‘Rob Ford (the World Will Remember)’ in his honour.”
Rob endeared himself to so many people because he stood up to the man on behalf of the little guy, tried to save the regular person money, returns everybody’s calls and had a fighting spirit that could not be beat.
Cancer was a different story and sadly did to him what his enemies could not.
Turns out even superstars are only human.