:: Article

Jeremy Clarkson v. JG Ballard’s Crash

By Graham Bendel.


Clarkson died yesterday in his last car crash. During our friendship he had rehearsed his death in many crashes, but this was his only true accident. Driven on a collision course towards a bus filled with airline passengers, having jumped the rails of the London Airport flyover and plunged onto the road below, he cried the words ‘Fuck you and your Heathrow extension programme!’ The crushed bodies of package tourists still lay across the vinyl seats when the police had arrived.
During the last weeks of his life, Clarkson thought of nothing else but death, not only his death but the death of bicyclists and pedestrians in general. A coronation of wounds he’d staged for these car-hating fiends with the devotion of a psychotic logistics expert.

The walls of his apartment near to the film studios were covered with photographs of Clare Balding, who was neither Irish or Mexican, nor did she have any known resentment of motor vehicles. In his vision of a car crash with the presenter, Clarkson was obsessed by the impact of their two cars meeting head-on in complex collisions endlessly repeated in slow-motion. (Sometimes even imagining her mounted upon a horse as she rode perpendicular to his accelerating Maserati, but mostly they were both seated in cars). He was measured as he verbally catalogued the resulting damage and explicitly detailed wounds. Noticing his heavy, denim-clad groin I was momentarily quieted by the distinct profile of his aroused manhood. In an effort to make the beast subside, I mentioned the Vauxhall Vectra.
 Clarkson half turned towards me and closed his eyes tightly, grimacing. He then spoke in calm tones of the Nissan Primera and acknowledged that as a device for moving you from A to B, it was probably a bit better than the Vectra. The engine, he said, would puff itself gruff but never actually take its coat off and really get stuck in. The ride was marginally better than dire. However, he added, his mood darkening — and with eyes dreaming of automotive bliss — the Vauxhall Vectra is an affront to anyone normal … with no style, no individuality, nothing that makes you go ‘hmmmm. I fancy a bit of that!’

Then he went onto fantasise about how he would drive a Vectra, at high speed — or at least as fast as the damned thing could go — into the house of the man who designed the contemptible things; and spoke of multiple wounds inflicted on his own body by the windshield glass frosting breaking its tinted surface. He spoke of the carnage and bloodshed with theatrical tenderness as he returned again and again to the subject of the Vectra’s woeful performance. Soon enough, as reward, he was describing the erotic charge and distinct sexual possibilities of rubbing himself up against the ceramic-coated exhaust system of a Lamborghini Murcielago in a pair of denim dungarees.

‘Your favourite film!?’ Clarkson demanded. He read my silence as an opportunity to talk breathlessly and carnally about himself as the usually patient chauffeur, Hoke Colburn, in the film Driving Miss Daisy as he rides the old woman’s car, at high velocity, into a large tree (Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” blaring out of the car’s speakers, the throttled voice of the satellite navigation system begging him for forgiveness).

Graham Bendel’s novel Dress Rehearsal Brags: An A-Z of Unpopular Culture (Fortune Teller Press) is out on 1 May 2015 (available on pre-order from Rough Trade). His documentary Derailed Sense: A film about Vic Godard & Subway Sect will premiere this year at the East End Film Festival (tickets on sale in May). See Richard Marshall’s interview with Graham Bendel here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, April 2nd, 2015.