Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Fool for a Celebrity

Monday, I introduced you to Joaquim Foikis, Vancouver's town fool in the late 60s and today I am going to tell you more about him.

Foikis began to spend a lot of time down town. He would hitch hike to the city centre and wander the streets, stopping wherever people gathered. He tried to start a 'Fool of the Month' contest but the large amount of mail he received, forced him to reconsider this action. Foikis went to a public meeting concerning education at the Point Grey Secondary School and announced education was a waste of time. (Remember, this man has two university degrees) The town fool thought the doors to the school should be locked forever.

His reputation was growing. Profiles appeared in The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, and in 1969’s Encyclopedia Britannica Yearbook. Foikis appeared in the Province and the Vancouver Sun so many times the Vancouver Public Library has two separate clippings on him. He received an invitation to meet Secretary of State Gerard Pelletier (which he turned down). He was profiled on CBC, and received accolades from noted journalist Richard Needham. 

“The biggest fools always get lots of publicity,” Foikis said.

Not everyone was happy with our local 'fool' though. Especially now he had the blessing of the federal government in the form of a $3,500 grant.

"When I read about it this morning, I saw red,” griped Mayor Tom Campbell “An old-age pensioner, who’s worked all his life for his country, gets $1,200 a year. Here’s a fellow who refuses to work and they give him a $3,500 young-age pension. Couldn’t we use it for public housing for senior citizens, retarded children, pensioners, deserving students?"

Many people were upset with Foikis receiving the grant. In fact, Peter J. deVooght, a lawyer, sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the Canada Council for the Arts from awarding the grant.

“We have to get by on $1,200 a year,” griped Vincent Yates, president of the B.C. Old Age Pensioners’ Organization. “He’s too damn lazy to get a job and do some work.”

A 1968 editorial in the Vancouver Sun newspaper disagreed.“Of course, the charge that the Fool is lazy and does no work is totally false and is based on a misconception as to the nature of work,”

“The Fool goes to the young people and to the Indians on Hastings Street, not with lectures or charitable handouts or demeaning welfare payments, but planning parties and happenings to restore their lost sense of self-respect. Who is more enlightened, we or the Fool? [...]The fundamental objection to the Fool goes far deeper than the charge (which we have seen to be erroneous) that he does no work. It is based on an unreasoning fear and hatred of anyone who dares to ridicule our obsession with material goals. We tolerate – even encourage – people who speak scornfully of God or Religion, or Canada, or Love, but let someone poke fun at money and our penchant for status-seeking and the cry immediately goes up, ‘Burn his donkeys!’ Unlike the hippies, whom he superficially resembles, the Fool stands for imaginative involvement in the problems confronting society."

Throughout 1968 and 1969, the town fool continued his activities with a newfound resolve. He staged a dance-part at the corner of Granville and Broadway (he was arrested for disturbing the peace); toured Ontario lecturing on the advantages of folly (again, arrested for disturbing the peace); bought musical instruments for the homeless in Pigeon Park so they could have a musical event. Then there was the donkey cart he bought on Vancouver Island. That I will tell you about on Friday.

Thanks to the Dependent Magazine for the information above.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

This is one of my favourite things about Commercial Drive - the fresh fruit and vegetable stands. You can get some really good deals. In 1985, I lived in this area and I shopped at this store for my fresh produce. I don't know if it was called Norman's then but it sold the same stuff. There was also a bakery next door where I would get freshly baked bread. That place is gone now.

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