By Cameron French
TORONTO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford lived up his reputation for surprises on Thursday when he got stuck in a hotel elevator for nearly an hour while a room full of the city's business elite waited impatiently for him to deliver a speech.
The mishap, which delayed his arrival at an C$89-a-plate ($80) business lunch, comes just two days after a video emerged showing Ford ranting, putting on a Jamaican accent, and using profanities to describe Toronto's police chief. On Tuesday, Ford admitted he had consumed alcohol when the video was shot on Monday night, despite his pledge late last year to quit drinking.
The posting of the video on YouTube was a setback for the mayor's efforts to distance himself from a crack-smoking scandal last year and to jump-start his reelection campaign.
By the time Ford finally reached the podium on Thursday - about an hour late and with no explanation from his staff for his absence - several people in the audience at a downtown hotel had grown tired of waiting and had left.
"I want to thank the Economic Club for hosting this event and getting me stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes," he said, before launching into a 20-minute campaign-like speech trumpeting his efforts to cut costs at city hall and criticizing city council for curbing his powers late last year.
Rhiannon Traill, chief executive of the Economic Club of Canada, which hosted the event, confirmed that she, Ford, other members of Ford's staff and several hotel employees had been stuck in a service elevator for about 45 minutes.
The group could not get a cellphone signal, but called for help using the elevator intercom, she said.
Ford did not take questions after the speech.
CLEANING UP HIS ACT
Ford vowed to clean up his act in November after admitting he had smoked crack while in a "drunken stupor" and had also driven a car after drinking.
Those admissions came after police revealed they had a video of the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack. The video had been uncovered in the course of a drug investigation.
Ford has maintained he is not addicted to drugs or alcohol. In late November, he said he had stopped drinking completely.
The crack scandal, as well as other embarrassing episodes, including the release of a separate expletive-laden video in which an admittedly intoxicated Ford makes threats against unspecified people, have made Ford a popular target for lampooning by late-night TV hosts.
In the wake of the scandal, Toronto city council reduced Ford's powers, handing many of his responsibilities to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Ford has been working to rehabilitate his image ahead of October's municipal elections.
During an ice storm in December that caused power outages for about 300,000 Toronto households as well as extensive damage from falling branches, Ford was front and center in giving daily updates.
While the scandals of last year have taken a toll on Ford's support, polls show he is still popular in suburban areas east and west of the city's core. (Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway)