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  • PAPERSKY #10 TORONTOPHOTOGRAPHY: PAPERSKY

Taste the International Scene in Toronto

, 2004/07/25

On a drive through the vibrant streets of Toronto’s Kensington neighborhood we notice a statue set on the edge of Bellevue Park. “My father, actually” mutters our guide. We ask for a closer look. The figure of a friendly man with large, welcoming arms outstretched stands in front of a pair of wooden benches. A devotee has attached a rose to his lapel.

The King of Kensington first aired in Toronto in 1975. It was a situation comedy centered on a lovable variety store owner played by Al Waxman. In the show, King’s friends are a multi-ethnic bunch. Nestor, the Jamaican postman, Tony ‘the Duke of Milan’ Zarro, and others hang with the King and meet for regular poker games in the basement between Manny’s Strictly Kosher Butcher and Da Silva’s Portuguese Fish Market. During its five year run, the show won a massive following and became Canada’s most successful television comedy.

Waxman is a legend, and in 1997 he was awarded The Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. As we work our way through Toronto’s Greek town, Little Poland and Chinatown, the people we encounter recall the man and his show with obvious enthusiasm.

Torontonians are proud of the multiculturalism celebrated in The King of Kensington. The “melting pot” label takes on provocative new meaning here. With 49% of the residents comprised of first generation immigrants, and more than 20% of the population new to Toronto in the last 15 years, tensions that are so common in Europe and the United States are all but nonexistent. For the most part, the residents of this city have found a way to live together. In the midst of the world’s fractious political and cultural divisions, Toronto is a beacon in the night.

The neighborhood of Kensington is perhaps the most emblematic of the city’s cultural pastiche. Jewish delis sit next to Middle Eastern grocery stores, next to Japanese used clothiers, on and on, down the block, around the corner, and up to the edge of Chinatown. And at the center of it, with a rose in his lapel, stands a beckoning bronze Al Waxman, The King of Kensington.

PAPERSKY #10: TORONTO | international

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