Sport on TV: Tenacious, overbearing, imposing and self-indulgent: how R uby more than met her match

Click to follow
The Independent Online
RUBY WAX'S interviewing style is based on the conceit that she is as famous as her guests and that accordingly the relationship between interviewer and interviewee is not the usual one of supplicant at the great one's feet begging for crumbs from the conversational table but equals, joshing and bantering and having a fun, hanging-out kind of time together. I'm told that sometimes the formula works, though I've never seen a show of hers that didn't make my gorge rise with all that ersatz chumminess swilling around.

So how was she going to deal with a character who not only had never heard of her (I bet the likes of Sharon Stone and Mel Gibson, previous Wax victims, hadn't either) but who to complicate matters has an aura to outshine even her arc-light personality? Don King (Ruby Wax Meets..., BBC1) wasn't going to play the game and she couldn't understand why.

The film opened with her being lectured by a production person on how to conduct herself when they tried to effect entry into the inner circle. "I don't want you going all flouncy," he told her, presumably trying to break it gently to her that she was not going to be the centre of this particular universe. As soon as they encountered difficulties, though, she went into the "don't you know who I am?" routine, which was going to cut about as much ice as a plastic spoon. Though there was an element of self-parody, there was a tone in her voice that suggested she was genuinely mystified that there should still be people to whom her name means nothing.

She was in Las Vegas for Evander Holyfield's world title defence against Michael Moorer. "You'll recognise Holyfield 'cause part of his ear's missing," she said as she strode through the hotel lobby. "Tyson bit it off in his last fight. It's a fabulous sport."

Once accredited, but unable to get to King right away, she went around the pre-fight press conference talking to journalists. "Are there a lot of liars in this business?" she asked one slightly frightening bald specimen who bore a passing resemblance to the magnificent Daniel Benzali in Murder One. "Are you kidding? he said. "Right up to your shoulder blades."

The Wax style has its irritations. What may well have been a revealing conversation with the Sun's boxing man, Colin Hart, took place in whispers as King addressed the media corps, meaning that you could make sense of neither. This, I suspect, is not so much to do with any notion she has of the kind of programme she wants, more because she's afraid that, like a shark that drowns if it stops moving, she'll die if she ceases talking (presumably through over-inflation with hot air).

It soon became clear that King had been forewarned, because he didn't want to know. He was happy to spend most of his day granting TV stations a few minutes of his motormouth musings while Wax looked on. When he did grant her a few seconds, he was definitely not himself. "As a boy, can you remember what you were like?" No response. "Did you have more oomph than the other boys?" He looked pained and replied dismissively, "I was who I was" - which may possibly rank as the first incontrovertibly true thing he has ever said.

That was all she was going to get it seemed, despite virtually begging him for another go, all but kissing his ring, and she was reduced to hovering while he talked to journalists. It was all getting a bit like the Nick Broomfield documentary, The Leader, His Driver And The Driver's Wife in which he's trying to get to the South African fascist, Eugene Terreblanche. During one interview, she started out standing a few feet away, then got herself a chair and ended up almost in his lap. Emboldened, she interjected a question of her own: "Do you think women are exploited?" He looked away in distaste.

All credit to Wax, though. She hunted him down, grabbing a baby to attract his attention. "I brought you a baby to show you I care," she said. "What don't you like about me?"

"You're tenacious, you're overbearing, you're imposing, you're self-indulgent -" and you realise he doesn't like her because she's too much like him. "You're flirting with me," she replies. "I admire your balls," Colin Hart tells her. "I should work for the Sun," she says.

Documentary cameras not being allowed into the fight, all we had of Wax at the event itself was a brief but telling voice-over. "It sounded like meat being thumped," she said of the five knock-downs inflicted by Holyfield. "I decided it was probably my last fight." She kissed and made up with King, too, and he gave her a station ident. As they smooched, you had to conclude that this was a match made in heaven.

Comments