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26. Macho

A week of macho thrills with Jim Shelley

Tapehead no 26

There’s nothing Tapehead likes better than putting on his leathers, making an exhibition of himself astride the back of a throbbing motorbike, giving himself a thrill at full speed.

Luckily, he also loves speedway. Champions: Speedway Stars follows Dave, Kelvin, Dean, and Gary, the macho lads of the English World Speedway team, as they roam the country at league meetings in the build up to the World Championships in Coventry.

“Gary comes second”, “Martin beats Gary”, Martin comes last” say the sub-titles, poignantly.

How macho are they ? Well, how about strutting round in front of the cameraman with your willy out after a blinding race – that’s how macho.

The lads (fag in hand, dripping in mud), all have the requisite ponytails and blonde girlfriends, who proudly wash the boys’ leathers each night. In return, reveals Den, the lads devote any free time to the girls – “watch the soaps with them, you know.”
(What the downside is they don’t say.)

Explaining their win bonus-only fanaticism, the England team manager sagely sums it up:
“There’s more to speedway than just having your girlfriend in the days and… At the end of the day, you’ve got a living to earn. If you don’t score points, you don’t earn. If you don’t earn, I suppose you don’t eat and if you don’t eat, I suppose you die.”

You don’t get much more macho than that.

One contender could be the poor mites shown under the dentist’s knife on Dispatches, which looks at the legal action taken by the families of 100 children against several manufacturers of baby drinks.

Watch as young Carl, who has lost seven milk teeth out of 20, is gassed and has his teeth yanked out with pliers.

Or Jack, who, at the age of two, was drinking so much sugar in his herbal tea baby feeder, he was having convulsions mood-swings and tantrums, and lost his four front teeth.

“His teeth wee that soft,” says his distraught mother, “the dentist pressed a hole ring through with a hook (cue huge close-up of scary hook). I didn’t expect them to bleed as much as they did.”

No wonder kids start smoking. The Lowdown looks at how macho youngsters are stocking up, not on sugar drinks, but nicotine sticks. They all say the first one makes them sick, but then have several more – to perfect their taste.

We see several kids go around buying them for the cameras. One pregnant 15 year-old tells her disapproving friend she does it “cos it keeps me occupied”. 15 year-old Lee demonstrate his macho smokers’ cough.

But nothing, nothing, compares to the macho cane toads in Encounters, which (hilariously) profiles the love-hate relationship Australians have towards the creature that, since its introduction in 1935 has conquered Queensland and is now taking over New South Wales.

Fearlessly sitting in the middle of the road, copulating crossly and copiously (“one female can lay 40,000 eggs in one summer. That’ a large number of eggs”), the toxic toads diet is a truly macho mix of grubs, flies, mice, and dog-food, even the occasional cigarette (presumably after a meal).

Not content with that, the cheeky chappies poison any dogs, snakes or protected birds foolish enough to try an deal them.

Some residents love them – “I couldn’t do without them. They’re friends!” Others loathe them – I really go out of way to run them over, ” says one driver, swerving all over the road.

Nymphomaniacs, necrophiliacs, hemophiliacs, the toads, say residents, are “a bit of a rough bunch…walking disaster areas.”

“The Cane Toads are coming,” says the soundtrack.

One of them is even riding a motorbike.

Champions: Mon, 9pm-10pm, C4
The Lowdown: Tue, 5.10pm-5.35pm, BBC1
Dispatches: Wed, 9pm-9.45pm, C4
Encounters: Sun, 7pm-8pm, C4