"My grandfather was a horse thief, my grandmother a bootlegger, my father a bookmaker and my brother a scalper; so there was nothing left for me but politics."
Thus begins Call Me Pisher: A Madcap Romp Through City Hall, the hilarious, informative and undoubtedly (to some) maddening account of former City Councillor Howard Moscoe’s 32 years in public office.
Moscoe used the tradecraft of all those questionable vocations to cajole, manipulate and beguile his council colleagues, as he fought to improve the quality of life in his ward and throughout the city.
Call Me Pisher also revists shameful episodes in Toronto’s not-so-distant past, such as the rampant anti-Semitism that ravaged the city in the 1930s. Joe McNulty, an outspoken bigot of that era and a founding member of the pro-Nazi “Balmy Beach Swastika Club, Local No. 5” agitated for a regulation that would prohibit “Jews and other obnoxious foreigners” from using the Beach; 65 years later, Councillor Tom Jakobek would have succeeded in naming a city park after McNulty, if not for Moscoe’s last-minute intervention.
And you will discover why the name Moscoe elicited widely varying, and sometimes extreme, reactions.
Former Mayor Mel Lastman derided Moscoe as “the best excuse for birth control I know.”
Councillor Adam Vaughan hailed Moscoe’s “ability to drive those in power crazy. In fact, if he were on your side he could drive you crazy too. His style could inspire and confound you all at the same time.”Toronto Life, marking his retirement from politics in 2010, expressed “hope that the next council can live up to the same level of wit and absurdity.”
And Toronto Star columnist Royson James offered this assessment: “Moscoe is no angel. He is a blustery, bombastic, hard-nosed advocate for the disabled, the downtrodden, and anyone else that comes up against the wall of bureaucracy that is often erected at city hall. His advocacy often brings him into conflict with the bureaucrats who really run the city. What the councillor lacks in finesse he makes up in integrity.”