My brother, Rob, is a huge fan of the movie Jaws. I once got him a detailed plastic diorama of the film’s shark-hunting boat ‘The Orca’ depicting that memorable scene where Robert Shaw’s Quint loses his bodily lower deck to La Grande Blanco Sharko. The model – which currently resides in his otherwise tastefully decorated bathroom – is a thing of ferocious beauty that evokes a primal sense of awe and terror amongst all those who behold it. This can be a somewhat off-putting when you’re trying to take a piss.
Impressive though it may be, this plastic-moulded scene of savagery is nothing compared to his other major item of Jaws memorabilia. Namely, a three-and-a-half foot long, officially licensed inflatable shark that hides in its latex gut a most foul and terrible secret…
During the mid-90s there was a pool table in the spacious garage of my parents’ home and the place had become a popular late-night, après pub-slash-club rendezvous for the twentysomething incarnation of Los Bros Lennon and our slender entourage of friends.
On one such night Rob and his then-best pal, Phil, were somewhat the worse for wear after spending the day guzzling down booze and annoying civilians. They arrived at the garage after visiting an off-licence and an Indian takeaway, and decided to spend the rest of the night drinking beer, eating curry and shooting pool.
Something wasn’t right, though. Something was missing from the garage. Something that could potentially ruin the night.
There was no billiard lamp above the pool table.
This shouldn’t have been a problem as there’d never been a billiard lamp above the pool table, but to their booze-soaked, curry-addled minds this absence soon escalated into a bit of a drama. As billiard lamp manufacturers don’t offer late-night deliveries, a compromise solution had to be found. And that’s when my brother remembered he had a three-and-a-half foot long, officially-licenced Jaws inflatable shark.
He must have got it from a video rental shop – a promotional gimmick to tie in with some long-forgotten VHS re-release – because along the side of its Great White rubber body was a grisly inscription etched in blood red ink:
JAWS – 20TH ANNIVERSARY
WISH ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
It seemed to make sense at the time – who needs a billiard lamp when you’ve got, quite literally, a pool shark? The two of them promptly divided up the necessary tasks: Rob dealt with string acquisition and rafter climbing, while Phil handled shark-inflation. He couldn’t find a pump so resorted to doing things the old fashioned way, filling the limp length of shark-shaped latex with his breath.
The next day Rob & Phil nursed a pair of gargantuan hangovers and proudly inspected their handiwork. As the inflated rubber shark hung from the garage rafters, they laughed and joked about how Phil’s booze-soaked, Madras-marinated breath had been encased in rubber like a strange and unusally stinky Blue Peter time capsule.
Days, weeks, and even years go by. Pages fall from a calendar to denote the passage of time. And now – twenty years later – that same rubber shark still hangs from the same rafter in my parents’ garage. None of us will really know what an inflatable rubber shark felt about BritPop, the War on Terror or the career of Russell Brand. Sharks aren’t known for sharing their opinions, especially inflatable rubber ones.
But in all those years it never deflated. Sure, its tail might not be quite as firm as it used to be, but this latex monstrosity still contains 1995 vintage booze and curry-addled breath. What if its fermented over time? What if it marinates? Could this three-and-a-half foot long, inflatable rubber shark contain a smell so foul and deadly that it could endanger us all?
Happy 40th anniversary, Jaws – and happy 20th anniversary, inflatable rubber shark. Please don’t burst anytime soon.