Wednesday, October 09, 2002
‘Do you think there’s something wrong with us, doing this, like?’ asks Tommy, just before he and his mates blag their way onto the podium at the British Grand Prix, for a spot of Riverdancing.
Nothing wrong at all. They’re just living a low-budget heartwarming British movie – The Full Monty for the new century.
Channel 4’s documentary, Britain’s Favourite Hoaxer, showed the effort behind Tommy and his mate Karl ‘Fat Neck’ Power’s sporting stunts, from crashing the team photo at Manchester United’s Champions’ League quarter-final last year, to playing tennis on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
In this quaintly British story, Tommy and Karl are unemployed dreamers from a dodgy part of Manchester, who reckon that high-profile blags are their ticket to fame and fortune.
Karl could have been a contender. He was a successful amateur boxer until his career and almost his life were cut short when he was viciously beaten up in a case of mistaken identity (or mistaken hoodies).
Tommy’s the brains behind the operation while Karl does most of the stunts. Tommy’s girlfriend thinks her forty-year-old should get a real job to support his family, but that’s not for him.
He’s a consummate blagger, and we see him casing the joints the day before. In a smart jacket, with a mobile stuck to his ear, he breezes through security checks and always ends up pitchside having scored an ‘access all areas’ laminate. And one for Fat Neck.
The programme followed their five blags, from the Manchester United photo through going out to bat at a Test Match to performing a Maori haka on the pitch at the Italy vs England Six Nations clash.
And there’s a perfect dramatic shape to the adventures. The early success (United), and the one that nearly goes wrong – at the Test Match, Karl was miscued from his hiding place in the toilets when a friend called to see how the blag was going.
On the ferry to Italy, Tommy and Karl imagine themselves living large. They’re the little guys who might just make something of themselves.
But then come the setbacks – Karl bottles it in Rome, and no-one sees the haka. Tommy’s girlfriend leaves him, and we wonder if it’s all over for the lads. But they keep on going and the Wimbledon stunt works perfectly – they only leave the court when they run out of tennis balls, and the security guards politely escort them off the premises without a mention of criminal charges.
Finally, there’s one last job – the biggest challenge yet. Surely there’s no way they could blag their way onto a Formula One podium just minutes before the real trophy presentation? Kommandant Ecclestone will have them shot, or sent to race CART.
It doesn’t look good. The point man’s phone runs out of credit (BMW lent the blaggers a Mini Cooper for their Italian Job, but they could really do with sponsorship from Vodafone), and there are squads of security everywhere. With just seconds to go they find themselves on the wrong side of one last locked gate.
And a helpful guard opens it for them. Triumph. They jig in their racing overalls, and make the papers again. And Tommy gets back with her indoors.
Our heroes aren’t as smart as they think they are, and it’s less than clear how these stunts will really make their fortunes, but there’s no denying that they’ve pulled them off, one way or another. And presumably got Channel 4 to give them money for the documentary. Now if they could just sell the film rights to their unlikely tale. Nice one. Sorted.