However it came about, there was David Coulthard, square of jaw and personality, accompanying Loyd Grossman around the competitors' kitchens. The Scot revealed that he is actually a closet foodie with a passion for Thai cuisine. This may have been a tactical error on Coulthard's part, for he may now find that his rivals leave plates of tasty treats around the McLaren garage in the hope that he will succumb to temptation and become too bloated to be squeezed into his car. Even now Mika Hakkinen is probably poring over a recipe for chicken satay or Thai green curry (with extra coconut milk).
Coulthard was much intrigued by one contestant slowly ladling stock into a risotto. He asked how the chef knew when enough liquid had been absorbed, and was dismayed to find that the process could take as long as 20 minutes. "That's why I never order risotto in a restaurant," he said. "I can't wait that long." A playground joke confirmed: "What do racing drivers eat?" "Fast food".
More sporting incongruities on A Golfer's Travels (BBC2), Peter Alliss's audacious exercise in designing his own holidays and getting the BBC to pay for them. This time Peter was off to Hawaii, and to demonstrate - not for the first time - that the show is misguidedly determined to tackle serious issues as well as relaxing pastimes, he chose to open with archive footage of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The purpose of this crass exercise was to establish a contrast with the paradisical nature of the islands today, where the greatest threat to human happiness is lousy traffic jams.
How do we know? The Governor told us, after a round with the genial tourist. "Are these happy islands?" Alliss asked, sitting by the surf in a shirt that suggested he had rolled in Superglue and belly-flopped on to a florist's stall. "Sure," the governor replied, burbling on about tolerance and racial interaction. "I know," he noted at one point, "that millions of people will watch your programme." Most of them boggle-eyed at the puffery it contained.
But - and this has usually been the case throughout this extraordinary series, infuriating and riveting by turns - it was worth sitting through the infomercial for the encounter that followed.
"Who would have thought," Alliss intoned as a familiar, ghastly male form appeared, heavily mascaraed, leather clad and seemingly receiving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from a scantily clad blonde, "that this gentleman would play off a handicap of six?" Who indeed. Meet Alice Cooper, demonic rock 'n' roll icon and keen amateur golfer.
Alliss and Alice played a course called The Experience on the island of Lanae, and quite an eye-opening experience it was for the viewer. "Yeah, I'm going to hit a driver," Cooper said, and rather disappointingly reached into his bag for a club rather than assaulting someone behind the wheel of a nearby buggy.
Alice, it became clear, is quite the model citizen once he has finished with the make-up remover. He has found religion and replaced his addiction to the bottle with a similarly powerful golf habit. "I'm in better shape than I was 20 years ago," he assured our host, although with the best will in the world you could not say that he looked it. When Alliss remarked, "You know, you're almost 150," one thought he meant years old, rather than yards from the hole.
Age and sobriety notwithstanding, it was difficult to dislodge the notion that Cooper might stand at the next tee, reach into his bag and produce not a nine-iron but a nine-foot live python. Or that faced with a birdie opportunity he might conjure up a flapping chicken and casually nibble off its head.
But foul tales of fowl decapitation were the stuff of myth, the ageing riff-meister with the fluent swing assured us. Many years ago, he explained, at a stadium concert in the US, a disturbed fan (he had plenty) threw a live chicken on stage during the chaotic finale of a Cooper show. The star was inexperienced in poultry husbandry ("I'm from Detroit") and threw the hapless bird into the air, imagining that it would fly away to freedom.
Instead the ill-fated broiler described a doomed arc into the audience, where Cooper's fans, misinterpreting their idol's intentions, shredded it alive. More weirdly still, the chicken had landed in an area set aside for disabled viewers, and, as Cooper wonderingly noted, "the people who tore the chicken apart were in wheelchairs."
After such a career, what could seem more natural than a second coming as a golf pro? "I want to get into the golf business," Cooper asserted. "I'm not good enough to play the seniors' tour, but I might just take two years off and practise." That should ruffle a few feathers at the Royal & Ancient.Reuse content