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My man in Tehran & kudos to Ben Affleck
Yesterday was one of those really great days at work for me — when you come home feeling emotionally and professionally fulfilled.
It brought some closure to what had been a nagging sense of disappointment and anger since last week when I, along with others, learned from my good friend Ralph Lean that our mutual friend Ken Taylor had not been invited by TIFF or director Ben Affleck to the premier the movie “Argo.”
Lean added that it was probably a good thing Ken wasn’t invited because after seeing the fictionalized movie about the Iranian/American hostage crisis, he would be hurt by the way it characterized his heroic and dangerously risky role as “Canada’s man in Tehran” — who had protected six American hostages for three months at the embassy and in his residence, before clandestinely getting them out of the country and back onto American soil by forging Canadian passports.
We learned only last year (30 years later) that he was also providing intelligence to American officials at the request of then president Jimmy Carter and Canadian prime minister Joe Clark, in advance of the failed American special ops rescue attempt.
In a nutshell, the movie was based on a fictionalized novel by a former CIA agent who was on the ground with Ken at the time, but who takes full credit for the historic caper while diminishing the Canadian role. I called Ken Taylor to talk about it on 680News last week, but he declined (he hadn’t yet seen the movie), only to add that he hoped the Canadian role was not diminished to the point of mere innkeepers.
Thanks to the buzz that was getting louder and amplified by Toronto Star entertainment columnist Martin Knelman, word got to director Ben Affleck that his movie version was dissing a true Canadian (and I’ll add) American hero. Affleck, in my view, did the right and smart business thing by calling Taylor to arrange a meeting and screening in Hollywood where the two men, (reported the Star) along with Taylor’s wife, Pat, discussed a way to add a postscript that doesn’t distort history under the guise of fiction.
I called Ken again yesterday morning on 680News to discuss the meeting and here is a link to the full conversation that is posted on the 680News website.
I first met Ken back in the early ’80s in Newport, RI, while I was covering Canada’s entry into the Americas cup sailing race during my CFRB days. He was still with Canada’s foreign service at the time and appeared as special guest (American hero) for a Canada Day celebration weekend. I spent a full day with him and his charming wife, Pat, on a cabin cruiser operated by Bruce Kirby, who designed the Canada One racing yacht. I witnessed firsthand the American adulation for him and Pat in the wake of the hostage crisis. We’ve remained friends ever since and come together yearly at least for his annual “team Negroni” dinner in Toronto.