94. Best

Tapehead no 94 

Their third interview and midway through the George Best Night, Michael Parkinson can’t help asking Best: where did he get so much talent from ? All that talent – for pulling the ladies…

Best laughs. “Well, I was gonna say it was bit like playing football – cos it came so naturally.”

Personally, Tapehead could never understand how anyone could not love Manchester United – because of George Best. The years of Tapehead’s childhood were riddled with suffering because of George Best – and not just because George Best was the first man Tapehead ever fancied. He was waiting for Man United to win something.

Look at the gallery of black and white pictures that open the Parkinson show: the most beautiful man who ever lived; the best footballer of all time; and a cool name to boot. George was so cool he could make a pin tie-dye T-shirt look groovy. Glory, glory Man United.

In the first Parkinson interview, in 1973, Best is asked why he lost his fitness and retired and sums it up simply as “drinking, night life… General things.” 

It’s the general things that make you wonder.

They are all here: his dad (with a picture of George dribbling the ball aged one); the scout who discovered him (and has a voice worthy of the coolest gangster); a man whose lifetime highlight is still that he used to wash George’s hair. We see the Cookstown sausages advert (“the best…”) and a marvelous ad for Fore aftershave with George as a Pied Piper of females (Phwoaar aftershave would have been more appropriate.) A week after the ad George grew a beard.

And here he is now, 50 years old. Happy birthday George !

It’s a tribute to Best as a man – his charm – that he can use the word “genius” and “superstar” about himself and still seem shy and naturally modest. His talent of storytelling is almost as good. (“I’ll never forget it…”)

In the latest Parkinson, he’s immediately on good form; telling the world that Leeds United watched him when he was 15, stayed 20 minutes, and left ! By contrast, the Man United scout sent Sir Matt Busby a telegram telling him he’d found a genius. 

George walked out and went home on his second day but eventually made his debut at 17, the week The Beatles released their first single. He trained his weaker foot so hard it became the stronger. Let’s hope Ryan Giggs is watching.

This is a night devoted to Mephistopheles as much as to George, as the picture of him being carted off to Pentonville illustrates. Best was soon getting 10,000 letters a week (rather more than Stan Collymore): the first football superstar. No one knew what the rules were.

Best was a playboy, but never predictable. Although he took up gambling to replace the excitement of football, he quit after a night in the seventies in which he won £26, 000.

Parky returns to the key question near the end: “How many girls though ?” 

Best blushes, gentlemanly. 

“Well, how many times were you in love?”

“A couple of thousand, I suppose.”

If all this wasn’t enough, Parky gets him to tell the “Where did it all go wrong?” story.

TH trusts the boys in This Life are watching. (Well, it is real, isn’t it?)

Sadly, Egg has other things on his mind: impotence, unemployment, the fact his dad is fucking Anna, things like that. There is also the fact that Milly glows like a candle every time her boss acts manly. 

Egg turns, as any man would, to pornography but Milly, tragically, is not interested.

“I’m just getting to the bit where they insert the wooden penises !” complains Egg.

So it’s left to Miles to demonstrate why This Life is TH’s favorite show, and explain why English teams never win in Europe. 

“We’ve stopped passing the ball, you see,” Egg complains. “I mean, you wouldn’t have thought you could play football without passing the ball but you can.”

As the clips show, Miles, George Best did.


Best Night: Sun, 8.45pm, BBC2

This Life: Mon, 9.45pm, BBC2