Claim: A Toronto film crew returning from a break found their intentionally garbage-strewn street had been cleaned by sanitation workers.
Example: [Washington Post, 1988]
Origins: This anecdote has become the ultimate "Canada is so clean!" tale, a quip that boasts not only that the streets of the country's largest city are so tidy that they need to be "dirtied up" with deliberately added graffiti and garbage to make them look gritty, but that they can't even remain in that artificially messy state for very long without someone's coming along to clean them up.
If this incident ever played out in real life, all indicators point to its happening during a shoot for the television police drama Night Heat and not during a film shoot, as various articles have since attributed it. Our earliest reporting of the legend came from a 1985 newspaper article:
Director Sonny Grosso, in town to film episodes of CBS' Night Heat, ordered a massive pile of garbage to make Toronto look more like New York.
But when the film crew came back from a coffee break, they found the trash had been cleaned up. Filming had to be halted while Grosso ordered more garbage.
The incident was reported in the American magazine This World, and a delighted city works commissioner Ray Bremner proudly showed off copies to aldermen at a recent meeting.
Is the tale true? Two unrelated people who worked on Night Heat have shared with us their assurances that it is and explained that the incident took place over a lunch break (rather than a shorter coffee break). And another correspondent wrote to tell us:
At any rate, Grosso told that story as if it were true, and it certainly had the ring of truth. In Grosso's version, the garbage crew, if I recall correctly, had started to clean up the set in response to a complaint from a citizen. (If the set were extended down a street, this is not impossible: the crew vehicles, camera etc, could have been quite far from the garbage at the far end of the shot.) Grosso had to persuade the crew to stop. They agreed, but stood by while the scene was filmed — and then cleaned it up.
Last updated: 1 July 2014
Boone, Michael. "Look Southward, Angel." The [Montreal] Gazette. 29 October 1991 (p. D8). Brown, Barry. "Tidy Toronto Yields Gritty 'Night Heat'." Chicago Tribune. 1 August 1987 (p. C3). Denton, Herbert. "Hollywood North; the Multifaceted Toronto." The Washington Post. 24 April 1988 (p. F1). Martin, Douglas. "Special to the New York Times." The New York Times. 12 October 1985 (p. A1). Los Angeles Times. "Toronto Resists N.Y. Look." 2 February 1985 (p. E2).