Why Didn't Calgary Elect Larry Heather for Mayor?
Is this guy just a conservative Christian nutbar from a town called Vulcan who makes terrible mayoral music videos, or is he part of some advanced art prank using anti-aesthetics to highlight the ontological differences between the modern progressive...
Image via Youtube
On Monday, citizens of Calgary participated in a civic election that saw them re-elect Mayor Naheed Nenshi. There were plenty of nuanced issues, both big and small, to be discussed. Unfortunately, not nearly enough people were talking about the real issue: the many charms of opponent Larry Heather. To some, he's just a wacky conservative Christian routinely putting his foot in his mouth, and while people might be talking about how easy it is to troll Larry on his FB page, no one is discussing his skill as a graphic designer, a social media guru and a world-class parodist.
First, some quick background: Despite being born in the Star Trek-themed Alberta town of Vulcan, eternally right-wing Christian Larry Heather has lived all over Canada, earning degrees from some of Canada’s most popular Christian schools, while also building up decades of notoriety for his anti-abortion rallying, even finding himself arrested for throwing ketchup on abortion activist Henry Morgentaler in 1985. “A woman’s womb is the most dangerous place to live in Canada,” he once told the Calgary Herald. That’s probably true, as I can name a number of safety hazards right off the bat. For one, how would you even fit in there?
Now that he’s striving for municipal politics, Larry Heather saves his ketchup for Alberta beef. Speaking of Alberta beef, Larry's got a well known grudge against Mayor Naheed Nenshi and his Muslim religion. Heather touted himself as “A Christian Choice on the Ballot,” and said some pretty sketchy things about Nenshi on his site. “In light of the recent Islamic terrorist Attacks does it make sense for Calgary voters to endorse a Mayor who will and has sworn into Office with his hand on the Koran?” he wrote, likely referencing the “recent” terrorist attacks that took place in September, 12 years ago.
That’s not the only crazy thing written on Larry Heather’s site — the whole thing’s a mish-mash of biblical quotes and rants about how we need to bring Calgary back to the God-fearing city it once was (for what it’s worth, he also has it in for the gays, single mothers and anyone who’s critical of the oilsands). He even acknowledges those haters who think he’s being racist.
An old, bigoted nut using municipal politics as a soapbox is obviously nothing new, but I’m not entirely convinced that Larry Heather isn't some comical Tim and Eric-esque anti-aesthetics art project. Let’s explore.
Larry's website homepage Image via
Larry the Graphic Designer
It’s hard to know where to begin with Larry Heather’s internet presence, because it’s an overwhelmingly hilarious gift that keeps on giving. The most logical place to start, I suppose, would be his website, democracyattwilight.org.
Take a moment to breathe in that tiled background image, pixelated image of a sunset at twilight. That represents democracy. Democracy is at twilight. Also, you better have the audio cranked up on your computer, because there’s some soothing MIDI piano that auto-plays just to help you mourn. Mourn the fact that democracy is at twilight.
Go ahead and click on item A in that left column, and let’s check out the “Larry Heather for Mayor Site.” Here, there’s so much to talk about, from the awkward photo of Heather hanging out with some babies on a granite countertop, through the myriad fonts, colours and changing cases (“vote larry heather for mayor of Calgary - October 21ST., 2013”).
You're supposed to put this in your window to show support. Image via
There are also some incredible downloadable posters down the left column (this website was designed with frames, just like the Full House fan page you used to manage on Geocities). The first is a stark, black-and-white poster with a murky image of the Calgary tower that makes it look more like a badly photocopied UFO sighting. The all-caps text is displayed in a slick free font that would be more at home on an ad for private hockey coaching hung in the dark back corner of a dilapidated convenience store.
Larry riffing on Calgary public art. Image via
His design skills aren’t done there, however. Most recently, Larry cracked open MS Paint to create a colourful poster knocking Calgary’s blue circle. For those not in the know, the City of Calgary recently spent $471,000 on a public art installation by the airport called “Travelling Light.” Despite being hated by most, it’s basically just a giant recreation of the Germs’ logo. “An Endless Cyclical Blue Streak Of Talking, Surrounding A Philosophical Void.” Whoa, are those Germs lyrics too?
"Armed with Drill Down Research Skills and Bafflegab Detector." Image via
Larry’s especially proud of his western-themed poster, however. On his Facebook page, he wrote, “Here Is My Election Flyer, and beating others to it, in the form of a Wild West Wanted Poster,” adding, “Downloads about 350 so far, let's see it rocket up.... 10, 9, 8, 7, 6,5,4,3,2,1 Blastoff!” Despite the numerous problematic stances he takes, Larry is pretty damn adorable.
This poster sees Larry selling himself as a criminal, wanted “For High Crimes of Aiding & Abetting” things like “Free Enterprise with Car Mobility !” “Social conservatism !!” “A Christian choice on the ballot !!!” and “Study of Manning Centre Municipal Papers !!!!” There’s also a warning that Larry’s “Armed with Drill Down Research Skills and Bafflegab Detector.” For those of you not up on old folks’ home lingo, “bafflegab” is another word for “gobbledygook” which itself means “bullshit.”
Larry the Social Networker
Speaking of Larry’s Facebook page, it’s a wonderful and insane playground for people to spend hours fighting with each other over some questionable things an old man said on his badly designed website. There are obviously a handful of people settling the atheism vs. religion debate once and for all (God bless ’em), people comparing Larry’s policies to those of Hitler (maybe a tad too far) and so much whining and complaining about Larry’s website. Why are you guys so hard on Larry! Let’s see you design a better website, jerks.
There are also a ton of trolls, and Larry’s engaging with all of them. User Don Vincent, for example, wrote, “how do you feel about jews and their banks,” to which Larry thoughtfully replied (sic throughout), “Jewish people are God's chosen vehicle to bring salvation to the world through Jesus Christ the Messiah. Those who curse Israel will be cursed, those who bless Israel will be blessed. The Jewish people have brought more blessing and technology and per centage of Nobel Peace Prize winners that any other people. Ignorant Christian and pagan cultural persecution forced the Jewish people into banking and moneylending because they could take their movable assets and leave if threatened.”
Larry’s social networking skills don’t end there, however. Sometimes, he’s all about self-promotion, even if he’s sharing a misspelled URL for his website. Other times, he simply shares items that read “Attachment Unavailable” that are either dead links or have been removed. When he does share links, they’re to articles about child rapists and babies that were nearly aborted and Christian singer-songwriters. Some real feel-good shit.
Larry the Comedian
Best of all is when Larry lets his sense of humour shine on through. He’s only taken a few breaks from mass debating on his Facebook page to post comical things, like last weekend when he shared this image of a family eating dinner with a giant bear. “ThanksGiving! I can bearly wait for the meal!” he wrote, inexplicably spelling Thanksgiving incorrectly.
Larry’s also a fledgling parodist. Regarding a recent speech Nenshi gave regarding clean energy organization the Pembina Institute, he had lots to say, including that it was “like a chicken giving a testimonial to Colonel Sanders.” Best of all, however, he said he felt a parody of City Hall coming on, then shared this stanza:
Wreck the Hall with Bows to Folly!
Fa la la la la.... to Pembina!
What can make our Mayor so Jolly
Fa la la la la.... it's Pembina!"
Larry's official mayoral music video which is totally serious and for real.
“He’s got the lyricism down, but what’s Larry’s singing voice like?” you ask. I hear you. Larry hears you. That’s why, earlier this week, he shared “16 Runs,” his lament about the troublesome prices associated with parking in downtown Calgary. Sung on top of a karaoke version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “16 Runs” (don’t worry, Larry apparently got permission from the karaoke company which, obviously, is how you obtain legal copyright to use a song in a political campaign), the video offers the sort of surreal and offputting cluelessness that exists in Tim Heidecker’s dreams.
The first few seconds are arguably the best as Larry stares deeply into the camera, snapping his fingers and offering a toothy grin. Then he skewers the Calgary Parking Authority with some delicious parody about the price of parking in Calgary. The clip’s got a ton of cuts, with Larry running around the city, hitting up parking boxes with various props and literal interpretations of the song’s lyrics.
As a city, Calgary's probably better off without Larry Heather in the mayor's chair. Still, had we followed the example of our neighbours to the east and elected the crazy bigot into office, we'd certainly have some great graphic design, social networking campaigns and vanilla social satire throughout his term in office.
Follow Josiah on Twitter: @josiahhughes