Montreal isn't the biggest city in the world. And it's definitely not the richest. But while Canada's cultural capital is nothing short of a gross domestic product per capita disaster, it makes up for its economic shortcomings with its perks and particularities, all measures considered. And many a celebrity and famous person have uttered their thoughts on the subject of a metropolis unlike any other in North America.
"Without Montreal, Canada would be hopeless."
"Heyyy, they have f***heads in Montreal too. Good to know [New Yorkers] don't have the exclusive."
-Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, as heard during the Montreal episode of travel show "The Layover."
"...some places you been before are so great that you don't ever mind going back. Some places you been before you don't ever want to go back, you know, like Montreal in the winter."
-Morgan Freeman, actor, source unknown
"In the spring of the year, vast numbers of emigrants who have newly arrived from England or from Ireland, pass between Quebec and Montreal on their way to the backwoods and new settlements of Canada. If it be an entertaining lounge (as I very often found it) to take a morning stroll upon the quay at Montreal, and see them grouped in hundreds on the public wharfs about their chests and boxes, it is matter of deep interest to be their fellow-passenger on one of these steamboats, and mingling with the concourse, see and hear them unobserved.
The vessel in which we returned from Quebec to Montreal was crowded with them, and at night they spread their beds between decks (those who had beds, at least), and slept so close and thick about our cabin door, that the passage to and fro was quite blocked up. They were nearly all English; from Gloucestershire the greater part; and had had a long winter-passage out; but it was wonderful to see how clean the children had been kept, and how untiring in their love and self-denial all the poor parents were.
Cant as we may, and as we shall to the end of all things, it is very much harder for the poor to be virtuous than it is for the rich; and the good that is in them, shines the brighter for it. In many a noble mansion lives a man, the best of husbands and of fathers, whose private worth in both capacities is justly lauded to the skies. But bring him here, upon this crowded deck. Strip from his fair young wife her silken dress and jewels, unbind her braided hair, stamp early wrinkles on her brow, pinch her pale cheek with care and much privation, array her faded form in coarsely patched attire, let there be nothing but his love to set her forth or deck her out, and you shall put it to the proof indeed. So change his station in the world, that he shall see in those young things who climb about his knee: not records of his wealth and name: but little wrestlers with him for his daily bread; so many poachers on his scanty meal; so many units to divide his every sum of comfort, and farther to reduce its small amount. In lieu of the endearments of childhood in its sweetest aspect, heap upon him all its pains and wants, its sicknesses and ills, its fretfulness, caprice, and querulous endurance: let its prattle be, not of engaging infant fancies, but of cold, and thirst, and hunger: and if his fatherly affection outlive all this, and he be patient, watchful, tender; careful of his children's lives, and mindful always of their joys and sorrows; then send him back to Parliament, and Pulpit, and to Quarter Sessions, and when he hears fine talk of the depravity of those who live from hand to mouth, and labour hard to do it, let him speak up, as one who knows, and tell those holders forth that they, by parallel with such a class, should be High Angels in their daily lives, and lay but humble siege to Heaven at last.
Which of us shall say what he would be, if such realities, with small relief or change all through his days, were his! Looking round upon these people: far from home, houseless, indigent, wandering, weary with travel and hard living: and seeing how patiently they nursed and tended their young children: how they consulted ever their wants first, then half supplied their own; what gentle ministers of hope and faith the women were; how the men profited by their example; and how very, very seldom even a moment's petulance or harsh complaint broke out among them: I felt a stronger love and honour of my kind come glowing on my heart, and wished to God there had been many Atheists in the better part of human nature there, to read this simple lesson in the book of Life."
-Charles Dickens, author, as excerpted from his travel journal "American Notes for General Circulation," detailing his 1842 travels to the North American continent.
"I think Montreal is the most amazing city ... A paparazzo today gave me advice on where to get a coffee. She's all, 'I notice that you like this place, but I was thinking that because you like it so much you'd probably like this other place. Go around the corner, go left.' I was like, 'Gosh, thank you. They don't make them like you in L.A."
-Olivia Wilde, actress, as quoted by Cineplex Magazine on the set of "Blackbird," a thriller shot last March 2011 in Iberville, Quebec, a 30-minute drive southeast of Montreal.
"Oh f**k, the best restaurants in the city are in NDG. But here's the thing. I want to stop advertising because NDG will stop being NDG if people start showing up."
"I could talk NDG forever. But they're cutting the balls off our poor neighborhood. Every day. Every day. Every day the super hospital gets closer to being finished, it gets a bit more gentrified and every day, more busloads of kids from Victoria show up annnnnnd... they're turning it into the Plateau."
Rather than bore you with Mark Twain's now cliched blurb on the topic of Montreal -"this is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window"- I'd prefer to leave you with his thoughts on literary property, words uttered minutes before Twain first coined the infamous church window quote.
The legendary novelist's thoughts on plagiarism and content theft are remarkably à propos in the context of modern time, posthumously and unwittingly revealing how little has changed in over a century:
"It makes one hope and believe that a day will come when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whiskey, or any other of the necessaries of life. In this age of ours, if you steal another man's label to advertise your own brand of whiskey with, you will he heavily fined and otherwise punished for violating that trademark; if you steal the whiskey without the trademark, you go to jail; but if you could prove that the whiskey was literature, you can steal them both, and the law wouldn't say a word. It grieves me to think how far more profound and reverent a respect the law would have for literature if a body could only get drunk on it."
-Mark Twain, aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens, as cited during his speech at a banquet held in his honor during his Montreal visit in 1881
"I loooooove Montreal. I heard if you can make it here, you can make it in Ottawa."
-Amy Schumer, New York based comedian/actress, as heard at a July 2013 Montreal Just for Laughs comedy gala.
"As for Bill, well, I had just met him when I killed him.
You've got to love Bill Shatner. Dont'cha? I mean how could you not love Bill Shatner? He's a fantastic figure of fun, I think. He can laugh at himself. It actually amused me because when I had done the deed and killed him the first time, I sat on a chair—we were up on a mountain outside of Vegas, in the Valley of Fire. Anyways, so we're sitting on this mountain and he comes over with this recorder and says "mind if I ask you a few questions?" I go, "no, what about?" He says "I'm writing a book about [Star Trek: Generations]. I gotta get everything for what it's worth out of this." I go, "oh, okay."
So he goes "Okay, right, Malcolm, how does it feel to have killed one of television's great characters?" I said, "Bill, well, to be honest with you, I think half the people are going to be thrilled and half are going to be furious." He said "oh yeah? Who's going to be thrilled?" I said "the people who have HAD IT UP TO HERE FOR THIRTY YEARS, BILL!"
That's a true story."
-Malcolm McDowell, actor, sharing an anecdote about Montreal native William Shatner at the 2012 edition of Montreal Comiccon
"I've written about the early Montreal days, which I knew very well. I knew every bar—there were about 345 of them—so I have some damn good stories to tell. I want to paint Montreal as a rather fantastic city, which it was, because nobody knows today what it was like. And I'm one of the last survivors, or rapidly becoming one."
-Christopher Plummer, actor and once-upon-a-time Montreal resident on his opinion of the city during his early years in the late '40s, early '50s. Excerpted from "The Amazing Life Story of Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele, Canada's Olympian Skiing Pioneers" by Byron Rempel.
"I love Montreal. My parents got married in Montreal, one Ste. Catherine Street. I've got more affection for Montrealers than you can imagine."
-Renee Zellweger, actress, as quoted during a Musique Plus interview
"There is something special about Montreal, I don’t know what it is because I didn’t spend enough time here, but the band is attracted by the city. Maybe it’s because of the dual culture which, in a way, reminds us of Ireland, or because Montreal is more a cultural centre than a political centre, or simply because Montreal has some of the most beautiful women I ever saw in my life."
-Bono, U2 singer/rock star, as quoted in La Presse
Patrick Stewart: "you know, it would be ungracious—it would be—to mention the Mexican meal we had last night. But who would come to Montreal to eat Mexican food?!"
Daniel Stewart: "I would. Definitely. That would be me. It's the same continent! It's not a huge stretch of the imagination."
-Patrick Stewart questioning son Daniel Stewart's culinary savoir-faire for making him dine on Mexican food instead of French cuisine while in town for the Montreal Comiccon 2012 edition.
“My tooth was really sore, and I thought I had an infection. I had two rounds of appointments with ear-nose-and-throat doctors and periodontists. They each gave me antibiotics. And then more antibiotics, but I still had pain. I went to Spain with the family for the summer, and when I got back, a friend suggested I go to his doctor in Montreal. That doctor told me to open my mouth, took a tongue depressor, and then he looked at me. I will always remember the look on his face. He said, ‘We need a biopsy.’ There was a walnut-size tumor at the base of my tongue that no other doctor had seen. Two days later, after the biopsy, the doctor called and said I had to come in. He told it me it was stage-four cancer. I said, ‘Stage four. Jesus.’ And that was that.”
"I actually went through a litany of doctors and tests. They didn't find anything."
-Michael Douglas, actor, sharing the story of how he had to consult a doctor at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital to finally get to the bottom of his health problem, which turned out to be Stage 4 throat cancer, a stage indicating a cancer spreading to or about to spread to other organs. In other words, there is no Stage 5. The first quote was retrieved from a May 2013 Vulture.com interview with Lynn Hirshberg. The second, shorter quote was uttered during an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” three weeks after his diagnosis in 2010.
"I love Montreal... I think I love Montreal more than Montreal loves me..."
-Kathy Griffin, actor/comedian as quoted from a 2007 Askmen.com interview
Brian de Palma
"For me, coming to Montreal is like a vacation. I'm a big movie consumer and here I can find all kinds from all countries. When I go to an American town, I don't find such variety. And above all, Montreal is a marvelous city. I love its French touch..."
-Brian de Palma, film director/screenwriter, quote source unknown, provided by Tourisme Montreal
“Montreal is a fabulous city, the crews are of superior quality, the people are extremely kind. I loved shooting here, I could live here!”
-Johnny Depp, actor, on his experience with the city after having shot part of “Secret Window” two hours southwest of Montreal in 2003, as per the Montreal Film and TV Commission
"...you're one of the few cities who could have handled that, you know. After this, I've got to find a city or town that speaks German, French AND English. Oh, Luxembourg! Yeah. Because in Luxembourg, in Luxembourg, they're in... Montreal, wait, you're not Americanized. You probably know where things are. [Crowd bursts into a roar]. Actually, I think Americans, the progressive Americans do know where things are whereas the Republicans, well, they do tend to know where things are. If they can be invaded [roar]... it's right-wing Republican policy which gives America a bad name... um, why am I talking about this? So, yeah. Forget all that. The show starts about halfway in." [Crowd roars again].
-Eddie Izzard, actor/comedian, observing how Montrealers can follow him when he switches back and forth between English and French in a single sentence, as uttered July 11, 2011 at Montreal comedy festival Just for Laughs.
"So, this is the Gésu, yes? So... does Jesus kick it here or what? Was this a church before? [Audience replies yes]. Oh, it still is?! Right upstairs? Are they cool about this?"
-Eddie Izzard, actor/comedian, wondering aloud if Gésu church staff were aware an atheist who actively questions the existence of God in his one-man shows is performing in the basement, as quoted July 11, 2011 at Montreal comedy festival Just for Laughs.
"Montreal, this wonderful town… Pearl of Canada, Pearl of the world."
-Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, as cited in Le Soleil
"A Montreal house takes a lot of care. So you've got to worry about pipes freezing and roofs leaking so sometimes I think I'm not here long enough to justify the care it takes, but that feeling evaporates very quickly, as soon as I come into the place."
-Leonard Cohen, writer/poet/singer/artist/Zen Buddhist monk/Montreal native, on the topic of whether he's considered giving up his Montreal home as quoted from an April 2009 Jian Ghomeshi interview on CBC Radio One