3. TV Sport

Jim Shelley prepares his 180 videocassette for a week of TV sport, nature and exotic perversions

Tapehead no 3

Tape three is a tape you can play forever.

The television on Tape three, the best television, is a kind of ambient telly, which requires no sound; a tape to put on at any time, to keep you company, a visual stimulant.

Will To Win has a fine commentary (by Hugh Quarshie) but is perfect, silent footage, a stylish, moving picture for any all night session, a glamorous background gathering.

Will To Win’s collection of great black sporting moments is one to treasure. The culmination of these moments is one of Tapehead’s earliest, most exhilarating, TV memories: 200 metres gold medallist Tommie Smith’s devastating, black-gloved, Black Power salute on the podium at the ’68 Olympics. The sound of the Stars & Stripes admittedly adds a certain something. Almost as thrilling is the sight of Smith running in long black socks. Respect is due.

Watching Hitler’s reaction to Jessie Owens’ 1936 victory (alarmingly manic rocking back and forward) is worth repeated playbacks.

Will to Win has a string of such gems – Teofilo Stevenson, Arthur Ashe, Ali fighting Liston, Ali dodging the Vietnam draft. It also includes Tapehead’s Name of the Week, sports journalist, Art Rust, assessing Joe Louis battles with Hitler protégé, Max Schmelling, as well as Tapehead’s Word of the Week – from Joe Louis Junior maintaining his dad’s image was to be “not braggadacious.”

These snippets reinforce Tapehead’s campaign for someone to repeat vintage sports events in their entirety, not least because Tapehead’s collection of classic Coleman commentaries (on Peter Lorimer, Lassie Viren, Jairzinho) is not quite complete. Here we get Coleman (circa 1980) on Yifter the Shifter and 1500 metres champion, Albert Juantorena, but, sadly, not the immortal “and Juantorena opens his legs and shows his class.”

One day someone will also release hours of nature footage (Jellyfish 3, Hyenas Feeding 6) just to put on in the background. Tapehead has hours of leopards, Jesus Lizards and octopus sex. Unfortunately, Nature By Design has too many bicycles, skis and motor racing, but does offer an absolutely fabulous shot of a millipede with its legs cruising by the camera at close range; it takes about 15 minutes. You can count the legs. The ghekko, the kangaroo, the cheetah and the jellyfish are ambient visual stimulants to savour.

Electric Wallpaper Part Three is Midnight Underground. Channel 4 are onto something here. Taping it allows you to fast forward past the animation (Asparagus) and the ridiculous ‘60s “happening” by Jurt Kren and rewind again and again to Kenneth Anger’s groovy 1965 short, Kustom Kar Kommandos, a camp, strangely moving, pre-David Lynch short that consists of a slow-motion cruise around the contours of a classic car to the strains of Dream Lover. Braggadacious.

The Twilight Zone is invariably better without volume but Wednesday’s The Once and the Future King features a young Elvis impersonator going back in time and meeting the real Elvis. When Elvis dies, the kid steps into Elvis’ sideburns and carries on the legend. If only.

Galleria, part of BBC2’s 10×10 series, is another
good-looking Royal College of Art short. Unmissably ludicrous and over-stylised, like a Stepford Wives on soma, Tara Fitzgerald (from The Camomile Lawns) is overshadowed by Jason Donavan as a loutish druggie. The punchline requires Jason to act wooden and vacant and, Tapehead has to admit, he does it with uncanny skill and instinct. As far as Tapehead is concerned, Galleria documents conclusively that Jason really does look very heterosexual, not at all gay, and a very good actor indeed.
Historic television.

Collector’s Tape Three:
• Animals, Sun 19, BBC2, 7.35pm – 8.05pm
• Black Sportsmen, Mon 20, BBC2, 7.40pm-8.30pm
• Midnight Underground, Mon 20, C4, 12.15am – 1.20am
• 10×10, Tue 22, BBC2, 10.20pm-10.30pm
• Twilight Zone, 30 mins, Wed 22, ITV, 2.10am-2.40am
• Film: Beat the Devil: Fri 2pm C4
• (Baby Doll: Fri 11.35pm C4)