Last Night's TV: Tiger Woods: The Rise and Fall, Channel 4 Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne, BBC2
Friday 18 June 2010
Is there any scandal less in need of a feature-length documentary than that of Tiger Woods? The unedifying details of his private life were, after all, spread across every supermarket tabloid, every newspaper, every magazine and every news channel for months on end. And now almost half-a-year after the whole mucky thing exploded into view: 80-odd minutes more, courtesy of Channel 4.
The answer of course is no. No, we don't need to hear any more. I don't at least. I had quite enough of it at the time. As scandals go, it was rather on the tiresome side: an initial burst of sensationalism followed by endless sordid revelations, each one – rather like the women from whom they emerged – almost indistinguishable from the next.
Disclaimer thus made... my goodness, wasn't Tiger Woods: the Rise and Fall fun? Presented by the pleasingly unassuming Jacques Peretti, it offered an unexpectedly intriguing insight into the world of sports management, elite athletics and tabloid scandal. We got a tour around Woods's childhood neighbourhood, historically a solidly white suburb where the golfing protégé was frequently bullied for his race. Looking at the wealth divide that persists, and the strength of its correlation with race, it's impossible not to ponder the psychological toll it must have taken on Woods. Even once he had broken into the wealthy, white golfing establishment, he continued to receive death threats. These, said those who knew him, would be converted into "cold calculating" motivational fuel by the pro.
Earl, Woods's late father, seemed to have set about parenting as if it was some kind of messianic project. He wanted, said Peretti, to raise a son who would be like Gandhi or Buddha. Naturally, this meant teaching him golf; sending him to "golf boot camp" at the old naval course, finding an instructor to draw up military-style SOP training rituals, hiring a hypnotist to keep him on track – not to say on message. In an unusually candid interview, the 15-year-old Woods reflected on his race. Everyone stares, he said. It was an aberration not to be repeated. By the time he had hit the big time, face adorning dozens of corporate logos, Woods had become curiously devoid of racial identification. Instead, he had been cast as the strait-laced, clean-cut, all-American bachelor (then, later, family man) – a depiction that not only became hopelessly inaccurate but was hopelessly inaccurate from the word go. His father, speculated Peretti, had installed an "infidelity chip" in Woods by continuing his own illicit liaisons. As soon as the success began, so did the sordid liaisons about which we now know so much.
A million miles away from Woods's photogenic on-screen "crew" – Thierry Henry and Roger Federer – were his real friends, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. The three, says Peretti, were regulars at the gaudy nightclubs of Las Vegas. They were "whales", a rat pack of sorts, heading out each night in search of girls, gambling and games. It was on one such night than he met Joslyn James, a stripper with whom he conducted a three-year relationship. Rather like Mindy, the pancake waitress whose relationship with Woods would eventually become his undoing, James claims never to have asked for anything from her high-flying beau. She got something though: two pregnancies – neither of which she kept – and a green golf jacket. Somewhat gratuitously, her entire interview is conducted in her underwear.
In fact, if there was a weakness in the surprisingly engaging Tiger Woods: the Rise and Fall it was that. Peretti was good, and the material he uncovered engrossing, so why the need to intersperse interviews with Woods's associates with cynically shot clips of women's breasts, bottoms and bras. It was a small detail, but an irritating one, in what was in all an impressive bit, not just of celebrity investigation, but rather compelling personal profiling.
In Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne, a group of teenagers are given the chance to perform in a brand new opera at the famous August festival. Unfortunately, none of them actually want to take it. So, chirped Malone, after his initial introductory spiel at the local school, anyone interested? One boy raised his hand, to be met with ridicule from his contemporaries. Malone remained undaunted, overcoming the unfortunate obstacle of his youthful appearance (it must be difficult persuading 15-year-olds to do what you say when you resemble less one of their teachers and more their goody-two-shoes younger sibling).
After a slow start, though, things started to look up. Malone conquered his fear of youth centres and youth-centre attendees appeared, at least, to conquer their fear of opera. As we left things, 100-odd volunteers were attempting to make it through the final stages of the audition process. Curiously, given the cocky swagger with which most had approached the project, many – particularly boys – began to crack under the pressure, squeaking out of tune to "Somewhere over the Rainbow". With the cast for the final production lined up, a few stars were already beginning to shine – in particular the twinkly-eyed Des, who left school in year 11 after a fight on the school bus and has worked as a painter-decorator ever since. He's always loved performing, he said, though he's not sure about opera. "As long as you don't have to put on a pair of tights and swan around stage," countered his mother. "I wouldn't mind wearing tights," observed Des. This boy'll go far.
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