* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Spinning Jenny

11 December 2003
Gold, always believe in Dan's soul

This is one of the reasons why I am here, sweating under the lights, and you are one of a global audience of hundreds of millions, on the sofa with one fly button undone: you have never seen Hotshot.

Not the Charlie Sheen movie. This is a serious matter. Hotshot is a tale of suffering and redemption in which Jimmy, a young footballing tyro, wastes his god-given ability in selfishness and loose living. Chastened by a career-ending injury sustained by his friend and Blackie Gray-style companion, he travels to Brazil to track down faded legend "Santos", played by Pelé. Santos refuses at first to help him and then, much in the manner of Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi, teaches him the crane technique of "soccer", the bicycle kick.

You can see where this is going, can't you? Jimmy's youthful enthusiasm rekindles Santos's love of the game, while Santos teaches him that soccer is about more than individual talent, but is rather about working as part of a team. The "World Soccer Cup Final" or similar is won at the death by an overhead kick from our hero. Some would say that a failure to realise that football is a team game makes you constitutionally unsuited to play it at the highest level, but never mind. After all, everybody associated with the game at any level in the strange parallel universe where the film is set, where the USA in 1987 - between the death of the North American Soccer League and the beginning of Major League Soccer - played host to "soccer finals" attended by tens of thousands of rabid fans, seems blessed with at best a schematic understanding of how the game is played.

Suffice to say, it's not a classic. It does, however, have a touching moment where, having learned the importance of selflessness from Pelé, Jimmy Christidis crosses to the veteran midfielder playing his last match, who has begged his fellow players to fight back from one goal down to make his final game a victory (in what must be one of the most dispiriting half-time talks ever - the guy is practically in tears). The midfielder knocks it in, and we hear an announcer telling us that this goal makes him the third highest scorer in the history of the Neverland Nephelokokugia Nowhere Invitational League.

In another world I didn't watch Hotshot, and was never inspired to go into competition, wasting my talents instead on nightclubs and Dance Dance Revolution. In another world I went out that night instead of settling down with a movie, was hit by a car while crossing the road and lost a leg. In another world I discovered maths first, and now I'm an actuary. In another world the sport doesn't even exist. In another world I died as a child. In no other world was there a successful US soccer league in 1987.

I don't know why I'm thinking of this right now, except maybe for last night nerves. And because the woman standing out there is never going to compete at this level again, and I am here not to slip her the ball having dribbled through eight defenders, but to ruin her night and send her home crying.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not enjoying this. That woman inspired me to get onto the circuit, kept me going when I was ready to quit for a normal life, sick of the seclusion, the self-starvation, never being able to go to the disco for fear of spies and sprains. The poster is still on the wall in the bedroom my mother has turned into a shrine to my success. The autographed photo her letter-openers sent back when I wrote to her at 13 (not, alas, with any helpful advice about my incipient eating disorder, but you can hardly bear a grudge) still lies in the drawer by my bedside. If there was a way to do this without hurting her, I would. But the Unexpectedly Literal Rock and Pop Dancing World Championship is an unforgiving environment, and no place for emotion.

She and I have been level through every event so far. When Debarret of Canada dropped out with a nasty muscle pull, (an amateur mistake on the first line of "Something's Got a Hold of my Heart") and my UK team-mate Carrington knocked herself unconscious in a spectacularly unwise tilt at The Man with the Child in his Eyes, we both knew it was me or her. One of us to make her name, the other to sign off in style. As she mimed turning the wheel of an imaginary car as Marc Almond sang that drives into the heart of me I realised that I could do this. She looked tired, and a novel counterspin on You Spin Me Right Round couldn't hide it. As she offered the judges another little bit of her heart (textbook extension, arm straight, eyes pleading) it felt like she was giving me the title.

You know you've got it if it makes you feel good.

My final number is Boys Don't Cry, the culmination of a goth-themed programme that included, if I say so myself, an absolute fucking stormer of a combination in Temple of Love.

Run on spot, cower with hands held out, palms towards the ceiling, hands together in attitude of prayer, hands still together, moved onto heart, hands apart with two fingers and thumb together to signify pistols pointing toward the ceiling, then one hand retaining this form and extending perpendicular to the shoulder and straight ahead while the fingers of the other part and curl in front of the thumb to signify the holding of a syringe, this syringe being inserted into the upper shoulder of the shooting arm and the plunger depressed (double meaning of "shot", you see), this action causing the extended arm to curl round the body as if to protect it from the pain inside.


Comparatively, BDC is something of a standard, but I think my decision to mime not crying rather than crying in the final chorus is going to cause some surprise and garner a few vital points for artistic merit. I am on second. I can almost smell the bouquet, feel the too-tight skin on the cheek of the miss Teen America delivering it.

She's picked a standard as well - mid-period Adams. I'm already running through the chorus in my head. Run on spot. Run on spot. Expression of feeling (one of the points where a good choice of the standard expressions can be diamond). Turn right. Run on spot. Check watch. Signify appearance of dawn with one hand while shading eyes with other. Run on spot. Cringe as if overborne. Place hand against hand, and my head is full of her hand on mine, her mouth on mine, during and after the dress rehearsal. Forget all that. It was just a rehearsal. It was just TaTu. And then frantic running on the spot, of course.

I nearly miss it when it happens. It takes a second to understand that, having used the momentum from swinging her own clasped hands away from her heart to launch herself into the air, she has just described the letters of the element Au, YMCA style, using her entire body. She lands just a little heavily but well enough. And the crowd goes wild.

They're still applauding when she starts running (on the spot, naturally) with extended arm and pointing finger. No way I can top that now. The essence of second place is starting to rise up around my clever clever approach to Robert Smith. Shame to waste a finish.

In another world, she messes up the landing. Everyone applauds the attempt, but the judges can't reward her for it, and it will be me at the top of the podium. In another world, she messes up the landing, and I do just what I am about to do now anyway. And I take silver just like I am about to. In another world I am clearly a complete fucking sap, who should never have let Pelé teach her the meaning of self-sacrifice.

It isn't easy to force yourself to go over on your ankle - the body tries to stop you instinctively - but I'm swearing like the Steven Berkoff Great Expectations as they carry me off. And all I can think of is her hand on my breast, my medal on her throat, me beneath her. Me beneath her.

I'm going to run to her.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

Let meeeeeee entertain you

We are all Upsideclown: Dan, George, James, Jamie, Matt, Neil, Victor.

Material is (c) respective authors. For everything else, there's

Never come here again

And weeeeeee can entertain you by email too. Get fresh steaming Upsideclown in your inbox Mondays and Thursdays, and you'll never need to visit this website again. To subscribe, send the word subscribe in the body of your mail to (To unsubscribe, send the word unsubscribe instead.)


... On this page: ... Archive ... About ... Subscribe ... ... Upsideclone