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AUGUST 26, 2002

What to do in the Silly Season


It has been about five years since I read a book all the way through. It's not that I don't enjoy reading, I just haven't had the time. A few weeks ago I decided that it was about time I started reading again and, with high expectations, took myself down to the local bookshop. After about an hour of searching I came to the unhappy conclusion that I hadn't been missing much. To be honest John Grisham just doesn't do it for me and no matter how much my deluded Mother insists I read Harry Potter, I can never seem to get past the second page. Then something caught my eyeÉ

Advertised as "A magnificent tale of obsession and adventure" I took out my wallet and purchased my first non-work related book for half a decade. My reasoning was simple. From the advertisement, this book was either going to be a badly written and nauseatingly sleazy "erotic thriller" or, incredibly, it might actually have some substance. After reading the mildly disturbing line "Grip it tightly, we don't want you sliding off the end" in Harry Potter, I was fully conditioned for whatever the first scenario had in store for me. Thankfully though, for my sanity and faith in the world of publication, this book turned out to be full of substance, just as I had hoped.

Entitled "Are you Dave Gorman?" the synopsis is simple. Two men (Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace) live together and enjoy sharing the odd alcoholic beverage. One night, whilst under the influence of said beverages, Danny makes Dave a bet. Namely, that there is nobody else in the world called Dave Gorman. I'll let the book take over.

"During their six month odyssey, Dave and Danny got caught in a tornado in New York, they lost their shoes in Norway and caused a security alert in an Israeli airport. They met green-keepers, booksellers, carpet-fitters, gurus, policemen, film stars and a semi-retired lighthouse technicianÉ They met no one else called Danny Wallace."

This book made me laugh so much that I ached. And the greatest part of it is that every word is true. The two men responsible for this ludicrous bet even made a prime-time television show about their real-life adventure, which was broadcast in the UK. If you've ever seen "Eastenders" you'll know that the Brits will watch anything, but it's a bloody good effort for what started as a drunken bet! Their quest attracted so much attention that an entire office of people changed their names (by law) to Dave Gorman. Women too! I won't tell you how many Dave Gormans they found, I'll let you read the book yourself.

Later that week I saw a poster advertising a nightclub DJ line-up. There were some big name DJ's on the bill but it wasn't their names that caught my eye. One name, midway down the page, stood out like a beacon. "Surely", I thought, "there must be some mistake." But no. According to a few of my friends who know about this sort of thing, there really is a DJ by the name of Stirling Moss.

Inspired by the shock news that one of Britain's national treasures, and one of the finest racing drivers ever to grace the planet, was now playing "hard house" at nightclubs across the land, coupled with the story of Mr. Dave Gorman and his numerous namesakes, I set out on my own voyage of discovery and very English eccentricity to discover how many F1 drivers' namesakes were living interesting lives.

My starting point was the encyclopedia. If you've never visited it I suggest you do so. Not because I write for the website and want to offer you another branch on it's tree of knowledge, but because it really is quite incredible. Offering a comprehensive and in depth analysis of every driver to have set foot in an F1 car, I decided I would go through the encyclopaedia name by name and run each one through an Internet search engine. My mission had begun.

The Internet, more specifically Internet search engines, as I have discovered this week, is a hideously annoying invention. The idea is simple enough. Type in what you want and the search engine will find a site that matches your description. It's great in theory but terrible in practice. I've lost count of the number of times I've been offered everything but what I was looking for. For example, type in "Formula One" and feel the sense of helplessness as you are bombarded with Internet sites, which talk about a chemical formula which somewhere, contains the number 1.

So here I was with the perfect opportunity for the Internet to give me everything but the information I would, under normal circumstances, have wanted, and what does it do? It gives me nothing but information on F1 drivers!

Now the encyclopaedia is good. Perhaps, for what I wanted, too good. Under the letter "A" there are 25 drivers. I got to Mario Andretti before wanting to put my foot through my PC (and he's only number 14). My search was useless. All I found were hundreds of websites for the drivers. The time had come to refine my search. I took the decision to simply look for World Champions and my mission suddenly became a success!

Andretti, Ascari and Brabham all pass by the way until finally we come across the gem that is Jim Clark. Out of the ten sites brought up by this particular search engine, only one referred to the iconic Scot. There is a Jim Clark who is one of the most important computer scientists and IT entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley! Indeed many of you will be accessing this very page using his browser - Netscape.

But it gets better. The incredibly rich and successful Jim Clark is not the only Jim Clark registered. Indeed we can keep up with Jim and Chris Clark as they move back to Miami from New York. Who these people are and why we'd want to keep up with their moving of house is another question entirely, but the prospect of a sickeningly self-obsessed website was quickly grounded when I was redirected to what appears to be a media firm run by this particular Jim Clark. There was a link to Jim Clark's shorts but thankfully it didn't work.

For me though, the sad thing was that there was no official Jim Clark website in the capacity in which we all adore him. The closest we get is the Berwick and District Motor Club. Based in the Scottish Borders and north Northumberland, the club has an extensive program of events throughout the year, with the Jim Clark Memorial Rally as the premier event in the calendar. In this age of the information superhighway Jim Clark seems a striking omission from the halls of fame that include even the likes of Take Inoue.

Fangio and Farina don't get a look into my exploration either, as the number of web pages allocated to these legends is frankly mind-boggling. When we reach Emerson Fittipaldi however, we are linked to a great little site. Let it be known that Emerson Fittipaldi is a band from Sweden, at least I presume they are as they're playing places like Stockholm, Gislaved and Kristianstad. I couldn't tell you what sort of music they play but they have a good name so at least that's a start.

Hakkinen and Hawthorn pass by and we reach 1996 Champ Damon Hill who, although not having a successful namesake, has had a 5-a-side soccer team named after him. I think many Damon fans had stumbled across the site by accident as it is unusual for a small-time local soccer team's website to have received 10,400 hits in 4 years!

Hills G and P, Hulme and Hunt have no namesakes either. Alan Jones on the other hand brought up almost as much intrigue as Jim Clark. Also an Australian, one Alan Jones is a photographer for tourism operators. His clients include both Hilton and Sheraton hotels! Another Alan Jones is a political writer with a big bee in his bonnet. I didn't stay on the site long enough to discover what about, but it appears he has a lot of opinions about a lot of topical issues that I neither understand nor have the knowledge to debate.

Steering well clear of a discussion on the problems facing the free people of America, and after searching for Lauda, Mansell, Piquet, Prost, Rindt, Rosberg and Scheckter, I stumbled across a site for a Michael Joel Darryl Schumacher. I implore you to visit this site if only to listen to the disturbing rendition of Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy which sound's like it's been reworked by Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells (The Exorcist theme) fame and a guy on a 1980s Casio keyboard. Described as being a site of "Thrills, spills (No Spielbergs) and Speed!" it contains none of the above. It is, instead, one simple page telling you how to contact your local social security office.

Senna, Surtees and Villeneuve all follow many of their fellow World Champions in their lack of namesakes but to finish I found possibly the best one of all.

Jackie Stewart is a singer. Married to lyricist Jeff Hammond, she describes her style as pop/easy listening/musical theatre (thus covering nearly all her bases other than heavy metal). That she admits to producing similar music to Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand would be enough to make many self respecting music lovers fill their ears with super glue. Her songs, however, have received over 81000 plays online and that is no mean feat.

As I looked over the meagre list of F1 World Champions' namesakes, I tried to reach a conclusion that would sum up why I'd carried out this seemingly useless piece of research.

But all I could think about was the frightening possibility of Stirling Moss remixing of one of Jackie Stewart's songs!