Monday, March 26, 2012

Remembering a Clash in the pan...

As we approach April 1, I’m put in the mind of World Moto Clash. When I first read about this upstart racing series - on in December of 2010, I checked the date to see if it had originally been posted on April Fool’s Day. It was presented in a totally deadpan way, if you didn’t actually watch the video embedded in the story, which was a little over the top.
After my eyes had stopped rolling, I took a second look at the Google search results for the phrase, and realized that the first postings related to it appeared right at the end of March, 2009 and that the story had been uploaded to on April 1, 2009.
It was a pretty elaborate spoof, complete with a website combining a Leroy Neiman-esque illustration on the clash page, er, make that ‘splash’ page, crap Photoshop work, and enough umbrella girls to offset the conspicuous lack of technical detail...
The breathless account of a racing series that would offer a $1 million purse per event mentioned that it was being promoted by NewGuard Entertainment. Googling that phrase led me to a LinkedIn profile of NewGuard’s CEO Stanford Crane, which except for the fact that the guy was named ‘Stanford’ and supposedly lived in Silicon Valley, could almost have been a legitimate profile. (By which I mean that the profile was just fatuous enough that a bunch of entitled trust fund babies and accidental tech millionaires really might hail such a buffoon as a new media guru. Maybe 'CEO' was short for Chief Elaboration Officer.)
It’s the curse of our times that even the most preposterous spoof runs the risk of paling before things that actually happen. (And yes, I’m still talking about World Moto Clash. I haven’t switched topics to the Republican primaries...) So, for example, WMC talked of the riders as the ‘cast’, and essentially presented the series as little more than fodder for a reality TV series about racing.
Gosh, Stan, those pesky Canucks have just stolen your idea. Argh. Racing is compelling because it’s an end in itself; it’s real. Turning it into ‘reality TV’ is the absolute worst idea ever.
But, back to WMC. The thing that really had me going is, the primary investors mentioned were filmmakers Ridley (Blade Runner) Scott and his brother Tony (aka “One More Take Tony”.) Now I give Ridley, the genius who created Blade Runner, more credit. But, I actually know Tony and wouldn't put this profoundly bad idea past him. 

OK, I guess I don’t really know him; but I spent a week hanging around him about 20 years ago. At the time, I was working as an ad agency Creative Director up in Calgary. Some friends of mine on the local film production scene got wind of a huge commercial for Marlboro that was going to be shooting in the Rockies nearby. The production company was RSA - Ridley Scott Associates, and the ad agency was Leo Burnett. I knew that there was no chance I’d get any closer to a really big time shoot in my career, so I convinced a friend, who was in charge of hiring local talent, to make me a production assistant. 
RSA and Leo were openly describing it as the most expensive commercial shoot ever. I heard that the budget was $8 million - at a time when I was shooting commercials for anywhere from $50-150k. For the part of the shoot I worked on, the entire crew stayed at Jasper Park Lodge. For the handful of readers who know what that means, I’ve just said plenty about the wretched excess that characterized big-budget ad work in the last, glorious days of cigarette ads.
My job was driving, and my assignments usually allowed me to stand quietly where I could watch the crew working. When it became apparent that I knew the mountain roads between Banff and Jasper far better than anyone else on the crew, and that I was the best driver (and after Tony had a few close encounters with elk on the road) I was assigned to the director's car.
At the end of the week, the production company offered to keep me on the payroll for the next location, which was in the red rock canyons of Utah, but frankly, by then I’d seen enough. 
Actually, I saw almost enough on the very first morning when the entire 80+ person crew and agency entourage was in cars and waiting to head to the first location for a 4 a.m. call and then we sat in the cars until we realized that no one had woken up Tony. The next day, we had another 4 a.m. call -- magic hour comes very early, in Alberta, in June -- and we waited again. This time, Tony was ready but at the last minute he realized he’s forgotten his cigars in his $1,000/night cabin. Nobody rolled until an assistant had found the cigars and run back with them.
So, you might imagine that to me, it was entirely plausible that Tony Scott really believed he could create a major motorsport championship out of thin air. He knew all about racing; he’d filmed Days of Thunder. (Janet Maslin, of the New York Times just about nailed it when she wrote, “It's one thing to market a film solely on the strength of its star. It's quite another to go ahead and make the film that way.”)

All of this post, so far, has just been a tip of my hat to whoever created the World Moto Clash spoof. Olly olly oxen free... you can now reveal yourself. I'm betting that whoever you are, you remember the days when Southern California did, in fact, spawn a wild motorcycle racing series in which a cast of larger-thatn-life characters rode a crazy mix of bikes - everything from full-on factory MotoGP racers to radical shed-built tire-shredders. It was less than 20 years ago. It was the first iteration of Formula USA. 

World Moto Clash? You gotta' be kidding me. Bring F-USA back, though? Fuck yeah!


  1. People (you know of) are *still* promoting World Moto Clash. Drop me a line and I'll give you some interesting backstory...


    1. Are you telling me that was _real_?

    2. I'm telling you there are *still* people actively trying to promote it. I talked to one of them not very long ago. They did do a opening party press conference a couple years back with some names there (that I wasn't at, but friends were). There are photos. I'll see if I can find them online..


    3. Oops!.. Andrea Wilson just tweet-messaged me that she thought it was a spoof, too. Can't blame me for thinking that...