Darts Historian Patrick Chaplin reviews Bobby George’s biography – Plus……… Bobby George’s comments on his Review Click Here
Anyone reading Bobby Dazzler – My Story, Bobby George’s recently published biography, and expecting it to reflect the style of his That’s the Way to Do It! column in Darts World magazine will be disappointed. For his first major published work, Bobby, with the help of journalist Lance Hardy, adopts a more serious, yet relaxed writing style, demonstrating Bobby’s wish to make it, as he told me recently, “More than just a book about darts.”
I have always pictured Bobby as a showman – which he undoubtedly is – but his book reveals so much more about the man and the world he has worked so hard to create for himself. By the time most of us reach 30 years of age our vocations have usually been determined. Not so for Bobby. His life and lifestyle changed absolutely and permanently at the age of 30.
Bobby’s early life was very tough yet despite his obvious dislike of his father, Bobby learned through him the value of hard work. By working all the hours the good Lord had given him (plus a few more), whether is was digging an underground railway or minding the doors at pubs and clubs, Bobby gained an undying respect and understanding of the value of money.
Strangely enough, it was his love of fishing that led him to darts. A wet day in Ireland found him sheltering in a pub with a friend who invited Bobby to play a game of darts. Bobby wasn’t really that keen to play and so it could have all ended – or rather not begun – right there. However, he was persuaded to play. Bobby and his friend realised immediately that he had a natural talent for the game and the rest – as they say – is history and neatly chronicled in Bobby Dazzler.
In his book Bobby takes the reader on an upfront and honest journey through the heady world of darts from the 1970s to the present day. Of particular interest to me, as a Darts Historian, was Bobby’s participation in the News of the World. Bobby regards the NoW as a ‘world championship’, which in its time it undoubtedly was. Bobby is one of a small number of elite players who have won the trophy twice, but over an above this he made the Grand Finals on five occasions and qualified for the Area Finals on no less than fourteen occasions. That’s a formidable record. Bobby told me recently, “I should have won it more than that.” His explanation of why he didn’t make fascinating reading.
Bobby has some strong words to say about some his fellow professionals. He describes his close friendship with five times Embassy Champion Eric Bristow, and sums ‘The Crafty Cockney’ up as ‘arrogant, but deep down a decent bloke.’ One other former Embassy World Professional Darts Champion comes in for more vitriol than any other. For the purposes of this review, that champion will not be named, yet, it is fascinating to note from my research that both he and Bobby have two things in common over and above their love of the game. They both started in darts relatively late and both believe in fate. Bobby wrote, “I never really sat down and thought long and hard about making a living out of darts. The game just snowballed and took over my life. Fate decided that path for me.” Fate also brought him to meet the love of his life, his wife Marie.
But it’s not just some of his fellow professionals that fall victim of Bobby’s pen. He does not spare the rod and neither the BDO nor MCs and officials escape criticism. Bobby’s views on the disintegration of friendships as increased prize money led to increased gamesmanship and darts became ‘bitter and twisted’, make for quality reading. However, his hilarious stories about life on the road, particularly with Jocky Wilson, provide a perfect balance.
Bobby had the skill and the personality to hop on to the darts bandwagon when it began to roll and became a vital part of it. He was one of that group of star darters who helped shape the modern game. He also realised what had to be done to maintain the momentum (and the cash flow) when the popularity of darts waned in the 1980s. Concentrating on exhibitions rather than tournaments paid dividends for him and, whilst other darters found their careers foundering, Bobby stayed in the public eye. Exhibition work maintained his profile through those years when darts was all but lost to our terrestrial TV screens. Then Bobby’s knowledge, personality and experience reaped further rewards when he became the darts pundit (and much more) for the BBC’s continuing coverage of the Embassy (later the Lakeside) World Darts Championships and the WINMAU World Masters.
Having now reached an age when he is entitled to his heating allowance and a free bus pass, Bobby has spent more or less exactly half of his life playing darts and doing what he does best, entertaining his public. It may be that, having reached that certain age, Bobby decided to reveal all by writing his life story. I asked Bobby recently if Bobby Dazzler was in fact the full story. He laughed and told me, “The book was originally twice as thick but the spoilsport libel lawyers cut a lot out!”
Even so, Bobby Dazzler is a joy to read. It’s not full of tabloid-style revelations – so don’t expect much sex – and it’s almost totally devoid of ‘Lovely Jubbly’s. What Bobby George has produced is a fascinating chronicle of the life of a working-class boy who ‘done good’ against the odds. Bobby left school hardly able to read or write but has proved that with the right focus, determination and much hard work, you can achieve your dreams. With Marie by his side, Bobby continues to be a success, long after the names of many of his contemporaries have been consigned to history.
[Bobby Dazzler – My Story published by Orion Books and priced at £18.99, is available from all good bookshops.]
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin