Plinky.com asked me who I idolized when I was a kid.
Aside from the usual run of characters from television shows – Six Million Dollar Man, Doctor Who, Space 1999, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Joe 90, Time Tunnel, The Tomorrow People – all of whom featured somewhere in moments of play, it's hard to think of someone I idolized.
Actually, I've always had a hard time putting anyone on a plinth for unquestioned admiration. I wrote about that in passing as part of http://vincet.net/2011/01/05/aha-the-other-half-of-my-sky/ – I just don't buy the myth that anyone's infallible, or that perfection can be achieved. Sure, some have got close in moments of brilliance, but sustained brilliance is a much harder thing to achieve.
I was just scanning my far from exhaustive list of shows above and, as I did so, a clear mental image of Steve Austin, the Bionic Man came to me. He had
[ooh, I've just thought of something but let me write this first]
rubbery skin over his arm and legs, that covered the bionics and, every so often, he would peel it back to gain access to fix something. Early movie special effects but to my 8-year-old's eyes it was amazing. I was thinking of the texture of that latex and how it smelled – which was actually a memory of the action figure I had of Steve Austin
[I'd transferred the smell and texture from the action figure to the video images… weird]
Actually, I had two action figures – http://reviews.ebay.com/SIX-MILLION-DOLLAR-MAN-First-Issue-Action-Figure_W0QQugidZ10000000001674087 – because I threw the first one across the road and it smashed on the pavement on the other side
[of course, in my games, Steve Austin could fly!]
leading my Mum to take it back to the toy shop and complain that it wasn't resilient enough and should be replaced. These being "simpler times", I got a replacement and a stern warning from my Mum not to throw any of my toys across the road again.
[the only thing that seemed to last from those toys were the engine blocks that it came with – the action figures disappeared, but those engines just stuck around for years]
Now, to that sudden sharp memory that hit me a moment ago, also signified by toys.
Evil Knievel was as close as the child me came to obsession.
He was at the height of his fame/daredevilishness – the Snake River Canyon jump, rocket bike, movie and, around that time, he came to London and had a massive crash after clearing 13 double-decker buses – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGKqP2LOORk – He was a massive pop culture icon and a hero of mine for his perseverance, tenacity and all out balls
[although, even then, my younger self was asking "why doesn't he stop?"]
His action figure was posable, thanks to wire within rubbery skin and I had both the motorbikes and the sky-cycle – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIdGDcWBsoc
[for once, it was actually possible to do some of the stuff in the advert – though most of the time, he just fell over]
If you bent his limbs too much, the wire inside would break – and I always thought that was a nice touch of realism – the real Evil broke too!
Not much more to say about the EK toys, except that when you used to wind up the friction device, you had to be really careful that you didn't skin your knuckles on the ground.
Ah, childhood… Evil retired, Star Wars came along, I discovered guitars and… well, if you let it, life will give you enough experiences that you don't need to spend time fixated upon those of other people.