Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Jack Taylor RIP...

Not Jack Taylor, the English referee who holds the record for the fastest penalty awarded in a World Cup final (inside two minutes, for the Netherlands against the ultimately-triumphant West Germany in 1974, of course.)
But Jack Taylor, the 50-stone 'gentle giant' (of course), from Bradford, who died at the weekend having reached the fairly impressive age, all things considered, of 60.
I must confess not having given him much thought these past few years until reading of his sad demise this week, but I was suddenly reminded not only of one of the best one-off TV documentaries I can recall, but certainly the most delightful TV review I can remember (and there aren't many of those, really...)
Forget Celebrity Fit Club and the supposed controversy this week about poor Anne Diamond's 'confession' of stomach surgery (according to some hysterical newspaper reports, 'her reputation now lies in ruins'. Too many years occupying the same gaudy sofa as Nick Owen, and a series of Polly Filla features for the Mail, may have already helped wreak such damage, I dunno...) But other documentaries about obese people - children and teenagers especially - always leave me intrigued, but also desperately sad and pitying. As does the sight of fat children, full stop. This may seem a very condescending view, and no doubt there is something to be said for personal responsibility and self-control, but the suggestion of any possible abuse and mockery - from others and from one's own self - must be pretty hard to take. Especially for sufferers of Prader-Willi Syndrome - and their anguished families. And those children who greedily, guiltily feel compelled by who knows what to feast on frozen food, stolen sweets, just whatever they can lay their fat fingers on, really, and sadly...
Alternatively, there are those like the aforesaid Jack, who - for all his quirkiness, his straight-talking yet slightly-puffed-up (figuratively-speaking) geniality, his frankly-bemusing hairstyle and fondness of the phrase 'At the end of the day' - take a kind of pride in their size.
But don't let me try - and struggle, and fail - to capture him, for those who missed the delicately-wry ITV documentary on him five years ago. (And how about a judiciously-timed repeat, TV head honchos...?)
Oh lucky you, I've managed to track down Nancy Banks-Smith's wondrously-composed little review of the show in The Guardian. Take it away, Nance...

It goes to show you never can tell.
Salacious-sounding and shoved to the back of the schedules, The Fattest Men in Britain (ITV) proved curiously charming and touchingly funny.
This was down to the fat men, who were darlings, and Nick O'Dwyer, the director, who combined serpentine seduction with the innocent air of someone who has just wandered in off the street.
For this I can forgive him a tendency to burst into verse and a weakness for puns like "Fat has been kind to Jack Taylor."
If Jack Taylor had asked the mirror on the wall "Who is the fattest one of all?" the mirror would not have dithered.
Jack estimated his weight as 54, perhaps 56, stone.
He has a look of Queen Victoria caught in her long johns.
This is something to do with his bizarre hairstyle, dyed and lacquered into a crown, and the enthroned air of friendly dignity with which he greets all callers.
German TV in particular is drawn to him like moons to Jupiter.
After the death of his mother, his grandma and his sweetheart, Brenda, who once cooked him 40 dumplings at one go, he did not leave his flat in Bradford for
25 years.
"I ses to misself, it'd never bother me if I never went out no more, never again." Heartbroken with a hearty appetite is an irresistible combination.
Brenda has a successor, Joan.
It is a treat to watch Jack work through a plateful of cakes with ladylike fingers and lipsmacking appreciation.
A cream horn, then a cherry slice, the cherries winking like brake lights, and then Jack's favourite, a vanilla slice, which is like two clouds stuck together with custard.
You were poignantly reminded of Ena Sharples's first words in Coronation Street: "I'll have six fancies and no eclairs."
I didn't know they still baked cakes like that.
Barry Austin of Birmingham is 21 years younger and, as a friend described him, just like a big ray of sunshine.
Fond of clubbing, full of smiles, relishing his celebrity.
"One day I was just a normal person and the next I was everywhere. It's the only thing I know I've been good at, eating and drinking. At the time I thought I was
enjoying it but I suppose I was putting on a show for people around me, something like a freakshow."
Barry is positively intelligent and, he confided to Jack, cries himself to sleep most nights.
Nick O'Dwyer, now on the warmest of terms with Jack, planned a little surprise for him.
Champagne and oysters were on ice to celebrate his confirmation as the heaviest man in Britain.
Jack heaved himself on the scales, and Nick said rather quietly, "According to this, Jack, you're only 31 stone."
Jack mutated into Fred Elliott.
"Eh! Wha..a..t! No, never in this world! I won't buy that. No, no, I won't buy that. It's out of order. Well out of order. You're insulting me now. Don't you insult me. Look at me, man, look at me. Do I look 31 stone? Tek it out of my 'ouse! Just go!"
A genuinely remorseful O'Dwyer could not resist a stage whisper: "Collapse of stout party."
Jack was not amused. His mouth was circumflex.
"Thirty one stone! I might as well tell people I'm a fucking ballet dancer. Would they believe that?"
Barry, who weighs 40 stone, was tickled pink.


Keith & Rosie said...

Can't believe that someone admires Jack Taylor like we did. We have just found out he died in February. What a hero, all those cakes he ate and that hat. The script pieces you've got on your site are ace. Is the programme gonna be repeated - if not why don't you sell them on DVD. Excellent viewing!

Phil said...

We loved jack taylor we often used his quote "its his own creation" he were belting jack. will be sadly missed by Gianni and Helen and Phil. they need to show this again or on DVD defo we loved him !!!!!!!!!!!