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Sunday, April 5, 1987:
The Day my Puppets went
Head-to-Head with Reagan and Mulroney
by
Richard Sanders

By Richard Sanders
former head honcho,
"
The Boondoggle Players - Puppetry of Resistance"

Thirty three years ago this month, on April 5, 1987, when Ron "the Reaper" Reagan and Brendan Muldoony met in Ottawa for their lovefest, more than 4,000 less-than-happy people rallied to protest the many regressive policies of the Canadian and U.S. governments.

Our huge protest, which filled Parliament Hill with activists of many stripes, was characterized by the mainstream media as "a festive gathering." While some papers said it had "a festive air," others commented on its "near-festive atmosphere." Another corporate paper called it a "carnival." Several of the articles noted that:


"The largely festive demonstration
featured larger-than-life puppets of
Mulroney and Reagan singing
'Singing in the Rain' together."


All of the 20 articles on this webpage (and more) mentioned my puppets and their appearance on stage. The performance was, in effect, a showdown between these two, crooning figurative heads of North America's deep-state apparatus, and the real puppets of stature, those figure heads who, as elected heads of state, were thought to be pulling the strings of power in Canada and the US.
 
At that time I had foolishly created a cabinet full of political puppets. To prop them up (because they couldn't do a darn thing on their own), I also started a largely-fictitious, front group called: "The Boondoggle Players - Puppetry of Resistance." But other than this quick flash in the media pan, my efforts to launch a worldwide nonviolent, satirical revolution by wielding slightly-dangerous, rubber, puppet heads of state never went much of anywhere. I finally gave up puppetry
and my empty-headed versions of these two political pals have been gathering dust ever since, waiting for that elusive call from Hollywood that never came.
 
The April 5 rally was put together by the Summit Response Coalition, spearheaded by Robert Fox. I was on the coalition's organizing committee along with a small band of other Ottawa activists -- the usual suspects -- from an array of groups. Together we represented a diverse array of issues and movements from peace and labour, to the environment and Central American solidarity.

(I also scratched out a little graphic that was used on the coalition's "official" buttons. See above.)

Reviews
Here are a couple of the nice "reviews" that the puppet show received in the newspapers that covered our April-5 rally:

"One group called the Boondoggle Players - Puppetry of Resistance, put on a skit using puppets of the two leaders. In it, Reagan kept falling asleep and calling Mulroney 'Muldoon,' 'Brad,' 'Ryan,' and 'Brendan.' The Reagan puppet suggested that Gene Kelley, star of the 1952 movie "Singing in the Rain," be named special ambassador for acid rain 'because he could help people be happy, even in the rain.' 'It's not important whether you win or lose,' the Reagan puppet told the Mulroney puppet, 'It's only important that we win.'"  Detroit Free Press, Michigan, Apr 6, 1987.

"The largely festive demonstration featured larger-than-life puppets of Mulroney and Reagan crooning "Singing in the Rain" together. The crowd howled as the Reagan puppet nominated tap-dancer Gene Kelly as American Acid Rain Ambassador."   Vancouver Sun and
Saskatoon
's Star-Phoenix
, Apr. 6, 1987.

AfterWords:
Arrested: Back in the 1980s I was also very active in the
now-defunct Alliance for Nonviolent Action (ANVA), a vibrant network of groups from Ontario and Quebec that did civil disobedience actions against Canadian militarism. During Reagan's 1987 meetings in Ottawa, we had a peaceful sit-in that blockaded the busy street at the entrance to the Department of War. Thirty three of us were arrested. A few articles about this action are included in the collection of articles (at right) because they also refer to the previous day's protest and my puppet show.

Busted: Now gathering dust, my political puppets also include Pierre Trudeau, Ed Broadbent, Maggie Thatcher and John Turner. My favourite creation though was a boyishly, mischievous Col. Ollie North, who I made look like Mad Magazine's Alfred "what me worry?" Neuman.  Contragate Ollie was caught helping bring tons of cocaine into the US to raise funds to arm his terrorist contra friends but he never reached the rubber phase in my puppet studio.  I still have the plaster casts (made from my modelling-clay sculptures) and so I hope to one day buy a can of liquid latex so I can finally "pour" Ollie's comical puppet head, which I have never seen in its final glory!  However, because art is not recognized as an essential service (although weapons production is!), the art-supply stores are closed until further notice, and so, Ollie's actual bust is still on hold. He shoulda been busted long ago.

Corrected: The article at top left, "No Offence Meant, We're Canadians," (Ottawa Citizen, April 4) incorrectly identified the man with the puppets as Ken Hancock. That man was actually Roy Sanders, my dad.  Some clever ANVA activist thought it would be funny to tell reporters that the man with the puppets was Ken Hancock. Why? Despite being ANVA's founder and its most articulate activist, they figured that Ken didn't get enough media coverage. The Ottawa Citizen ran a correction two days later (top centre, of the article's at right).

Danke!
The pre-recorded voices used for the Parliament-Hill puppet show were performed by Ottawa actor Louis Lemire. Of course the newspapers could not give him any acknowledgement because they didn't know who he was. Using the script I'd written, we recorded his fine impressions of Ron and Brian in the sound studio of CKCU FM, a community radio station where I was then producing a regular program called "Voice for Peace." There was one other volunteer involved. He offered to operate one of the puppets for the show and practiced it once in advance. He wasn't an activist or political, so I can't imagine how we could have ever met. After the show he literally ran away from the stage as if embarrassed, and I never saw him again. However grateful I am for his help that day, he shall remain nameless.

Click the images below to read the articles
The Ottawa Citizen, Ontario, Canada, Sat, Apr 4, 1987 Page 1
This full-colour photo, and an accompanying article called "No Offence We're Canadians," filled the top half of the front page!

The article continued here, on page 2
 


The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 4
Edmonton Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Sat, Apr 04, 1987 Page 2
Red Deer Advocate
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Sat, Apr 04, 1987 Page 3
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Sat, Apr 04, 1987 Page 7
Times Colonist
Victoria, BC, Canada
Sat, Apr 04, 1987 Page 7
The San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco, California
Sun, Apr 05, 1987 Page 5
Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 1
Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 16
Star-Phoenix
Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 5
Edmonton Journal
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 1
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 11
The Windsor Star
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 8
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 1
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 3
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 2
Red Deer Advocate
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 1
The Leader-Post
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 4
The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 9

Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan
Mon, Apr 06, 1987 Page 6
The Daily Spectrum
Saint George, Utah
Fri, Apr 10, 1987 Page 21
 
Some of my other Puppets and Masks

Ed Broadbent with Red-Headed Kids
(These kids were my first puppets.
I made them thanks to a weekend workshop
with Noreen Young in Almonte, Ontario.)

Life-size Trudeau
Enjoying a "Cruise"

Muldoon mask

Reagan mask

[R]aging Granny (Unpainted, latex rubber)


Hand puppet-
Pierre Deucing

Hand puppet - 
Brendan Muldoony

Hand puppet -
Ronald the Reaper
What did the Fox say?

"In an effort to make the Summit Response what [Robert] Fox
calls 'the sort of demonstration where someone who's
never been to one will feel comfortable,' there will be
magicians, hay wagon rides, balloons, face painting and

larger-than-life puppets of
Mulroney and Reagan.


"The magicians will make Canadian sovereignty disappear before your eyes,
and the wagons will be called 'Free Trade' on which
you and your children can 'be taken for a ride.'"
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade                                Press for Conversion!