Guns and roses

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Overview of Guys and Dolls, a documentary by North One Television, 2006

Overview by Everard Cunion, March 2013

This documentary accidentally made me the world’s most famous hang glider pilot. (Or perhaps infamous…) Commissioned by Five, who screened it in Britain in the fall of 2006, it was subsequently broadcast by different television companies around the world, including BBC America.

Its principal subjects are Davecat, Gordon, Mike, and me. Its common theme is a hobby shared by the four of us. Additional input is provided by Matt; the talent behind the largest manufacturer concerned (in the USA at least) and Slade; who specialized in the difficult repairs sometimes necessary. (Slade has since gone on to other things.)

Naturally, to create a cohesive narrative, programme makers find as many commonalities among the participants as they can. Aviation — and in particular aviation modelling — fitted that requirement. My 1/72nd scale F-86 Sabre appears, as does Mike’s huge flying F-86 (hangared in his garage alongside an aerobatic biplane). Even the sci-fi jets in a poster in Gordon’s room pose with much the same perspective as the model in this screenshot from the documentary:

My 1/48th scale F-4 Phantom hanging in the hall

My 1/48th scale F-4 Phantom hanging in the hall

The interview at the sea-front cafe was hard work because, despite the strong wind, it was so hot outside it was barely possible to think. Much of the dialog was recorded inside the crowded cafe, where it was cooler, but too dark to film. (That part of the interview is rendered as voice-over.)

Cafe society

Cafe society

The alien spacecraft hovering off-shore is in fact an umbrella sun shade spinning in a ripper of a sea breeze.

Gordon on drums

Gordon on drums

Ready for another narrative connection? Gordon, a talented musician and collector of armaments, lives in Virginia. (Hold that thought…)

One of Gordon's gals

One of Gordon’s gals

Matt Black

Matt Black

Even Matt, who has a great voice, took a year out to make a bid for stardom — with the rock group Nick Black. Fortunately, he saw the light and went back to work as the sculptor and chief of Abyss Creations, manufacturer of Realdolls.


Above the track immediately after launch

Above the track immediately after launch

The Avon Hang Gliding Club, always forward-thinking, agreed to the use of one of their sites for the documentary. The photo shows how close to the ground I was flying.

Hang glider pilot Gary Dear (who works in broadcast media) and his then girl-friend spent the day helping out with this flight. Conditions were trying: A small weather front passed through while I rigged the glider. Then the rain stopped, the sun came out, and the strong wind abated for just long enough for me to launch from a low hill.

Afterwards, cameraman and producer Nick Holt chatted with the farmer there, who remembered the 1975 British Hang Gliding Championships held on those same slopes. That was the only other occasion on which I have flown this site. (Paint it black—my overview of the movie Sky Riders, 1976, describes some adventures of the Americans who also attended that competition.)

About to set out for home

About to set out for home

In contrast to younger girls, who are fascinated by the big dolls, the farmer’s two teenage daughters ignored Virginia.



Mike, a Texas aerospace engineer, provides useful advice for prospective and current doll owners.

A young Davecat surrounded by mannequins

A young Davecat surrounded by mannequins

Davecat, almost certainly the most well-known of the participants, shows some of his mannequin photos and relates anecdotes from his youth.

Slade fits a door to crate

Slade fits a door to crate

Slade’s input is, in my opinion, the icing on the cake in this illuminating documentary.

Slade's Rebecca

Slade’s Rebecca

And Slade’s girl friend Rebecca, surely the hottest doll there, provides a unique perspective!

Rumours, half truths, and statistics

Lars and the Real Girl is a 2007 movie starring Ryan Gosling as, er… me! Well, a hugely exaggerated version of me, perhaps combined with the other guys in Guys and Dolls.

Lars and the Real Girl, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl, 2007

Not only is this movie without any hang gliding, it has nothing I classify as action, which I normally consider an essential element in any such production, whether on film or in print. However, it is so well made and the story so well crafted that, like an un-put-downable book, it is a gripping tale. There are no wasted frames. Every scene has a purpose. (I am told that the folks who made this movie have much experience in advertising, where every frame and every second has to count.)

A lot has been made of Ryan Gosling’s performance, but — having watched it many times — it is the performances of the other cast members that strike me as outstanding. They don’t appear as actors. They seem to almost be real people caught unsuspecting on camera. Lars’ brother Gus and Gus’s wife Karin, with whom Lars shares accommodation (partially, at least) seem to me wholly real.

Lars (Ryan Gosling) strikes me as less convincing, although I am not sure why. However, given that we never see ourselves in the same way that others see us, could it be that Gosling’s portrayal of Lars is a truer caricature (if that is not a contradiction) of me than my own self image?

One guy is a hang glider and he takes his doll to watch him hang glide so that he has company.

— Ryan Gosling quoted in a 2008 interview by Matt Mueller in The Guardian.

Just for the record, hang gliding is dangerous, so I always fly in the company of other pilots. The only time I took a doll with me on a hang gliding day was for the filming of Guys and Dolls. (And I am not a hang glider. I fly a hang glider. Grrr…)

One scene in Lars and the Real Girl, a small gathering of some of Gus’s acquaintances led by a churchman, sticks in my mind (although I generally avoid religious people where possible). After a heated discussion, the church guy states ruefully, “The question is, as always, what would Jesus do?” You can find at least one YouTube video of a church service where, referring to the ‘lesson’ of this movie regarding how ordinary people should behave towards those who are not ordinary, the guy giving the service uses the same words as the churchman in the movie. You couldn’t make it up!

Lars and the Real Girl brought the phenomenon of realistic life-size dolls to the public consciousness even more than did its springboard, the documentary Guys and Dolls.

Related (internal link)

Lesbie Avenue, my review of the 1995 movie When Night is Falling, another left-leaning story made in Canada. (It is about lesbians and it does have some hang gliding!)


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