Friday, 13 April 2007

Investigating The Strawbridges Part Four: "Scrap Heap Challenger Disaster"

After failing to qualify for Robot Wars, Dick and his crew rebranded as “Brothers in Arms” and became the lead team in the 1990s most exciting new format show, Scrap Heap Challenge. The idea was simple: steal scrap from itinerant tinkers and from that scrap make a either hovercraft or a dune buggy. The Brothers in Arms won every show in the English series and went on to be world champions six years in a row (most SHC aficionados agree that their loss to “Grao de Bico Garbanzos” in the 2001 Portuguese series was a fix).

Dicktor Ludorum

Whether casually flaunting the three-thousand degree centigrade nozzle of an oxyacetylene torch inches from his moustache (that he originally grew in an Argentinian POW camp), or commanding his troupe with his now famous catchphrase (“stick with Dick!”), we watched him and we loved him. His avuncular, personable and captivating screen presence opened doors not normally open for a boy from Lamorna. At the height of his Scrap Heap Challenge fame his face was everywhere – even beating Chris Evans to Radio One’s Man of The Year in 2001.

All is impermanent.

In 2003 disaster struck.

It was the penultimate episode of the series and, after finding thirty square meters of fifteen mill’ latex, The Brothers obviously went for the hovercraft. Second in command Clammy was gluing the latex skirt to the chassis when he was overwhelmed by the fumes of the latex cement. Within half an hour Clammy was turned into a vegetable and to this day is unable do anything, at all. The enquiry found no fault with anyone: Clammy, an experienced engineer, should have known better. But the vegitabalisation of a team mate took a big toll on the team, especially the captain. He would never make another hovercraft or dune buggy again.

With the Glory Days of SHC over, Dick was in a career wilderness. Radio, porn and “Songs of Praise” were all options but none held the purpose and celebrity Dick needed to survive. To thrive.

At the time he was in hell, but looking back, leaving Scrap heap Challenge was D-Day for Dick. The line in the sand. The recycling rubicon. It was the narrow penumbra between likable TV personality and the more sinister side of hate. In the next part of this series we will see the first evidence of what is to come. We will see the sapling grow after a remarkable chat with a famous TV personality (including video footage evidence) and all will be clear... even the darkness.

Investigating The Strawbridges Part Five: Straining Dick’s Greens, will be published shortly.

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