So long Steve, thanks for all the memories
If you did not know Steve Wicks, the last 24 hours should have given you some idea of what the man meant to those around him. A number of posts have appeared on social media paying homage and they all share a common thread – Steve meant a lot of things to many people.
My time with Steve was always about motorsport, that was where I saw him, where I talked with him and where we learned from each other. On balance, I learned much more from Steve than he did from me which is something many can relate to. When it comes to talking, we did talk – about a great many things, though mostly motorsport.
For readers who did not know Steve and especially for those of you that did, I’m going to share with you “my Steve Wicks”. This is far from the whole story, just my small piece of a rich patchwork tapestry of a life many of us can only wish to have lived.
Steve wasn’t the tallest guy I knew, not by a long way. Despite this, I don’t think there is anyone who didn’t look up to Steve – he was short on height but big on stature.
Steve is often described as a colourful character and this is true, but that really doesn’t say enough. Steve who would show up at a motorsport event in the dead of winter in shorts and short sleeves, Steve who would wander about in the rain with no jacket, famously stating “my skin is waterproof”, Steve who would get all riled up about something and talk about “these fucking fuckers” and one hand would be waving about in gesticulation (usually the other hand was employed keeping his camera strap on his shoulder).
Then there was Steve who would get into a serious conversation and you’d know when he was really thinking about what was just said – his eyes would be firmly focused on his feet and he’d get really quiet for a moment or two. Just that moment or two though, then he’d be back and talking up a storm.
Steve was always able to make life interesting. I received a mail from the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists, penned by Danie van Jaarsveld. Danie had the unenviable task of making the formal announcement regarding Steve’s passing.
It contains a few clues as to Danie’s own Steve Wicks, like the reference to MotorPics which Danie started. When you read “… occasionally by granting sponsorships without telling the management about it until after the decals were on the cars …” you know there was at least one interesting conversation that day.
Then there’s the statement “… his inimitable irreverence and uncomfortably knowledgeable view of his clients’ performance.” referencing Steve’s approach to press releases for his customers. I bet that gave rise to a few interesting telephone calls.
Typical Steve can be found in this paragraph: “At the 1999 SA WSBK event a German journalist asked a number of us whether we only photographed motorsport. His (Steve) immediate response was “What else is there?”
I enjoyed Steve’s company, you just never knew when he’d leave you shaking your head or just laughing out loud. In Cape Town I found him hiding his takeaway meal boxes behind the curtains in his hotel room “to check the staff were doing their job properly”. In Durban on my first visit to iDube (the craziest circuit in the country), I fetched Steve from the airport – he somehow arrived without getting a boarding pass at the Johannesburg airport – and it took him 15 minutes to decide to point out that I’d taken the wrong turn on the return journey.
Then there was the story about his kitchen – legend has it that in trying to cure a problem of some kind (or perhaps it was a renovation) that he rendered the entire space useless and unusable, leaving it that way for months. I never did manage to verify the truth of this story and I couldn’t be sure at the telling either, that twinkle in the eye and the laugh left me wondering if Steve wasn’t just enjoying a good joke at my expense.
In PE I witnessed his party trick when Steve unbuttoned his shirt to set alight his body hair, the line of fire gradually burning its way up his chest. Steve didn’t do this often for the obvious reason that it took a while for the hair to grow back – according to Steve it also left his nipples “a little sensitive”. To fully appreciate this trick though, you need to know that one of Steve’s nicknames was “Womble” (as in the The Wombles of Wimbledon Common) since he wasn’t hirsute so much as he was perhaps wearing a hair suit.
My time with Steve has been during his more mature, umm older, umm grey-haired (oh you know what I mean because he never really grew up) years. Must have been some really interesting times for those who had to “manage” him during the crazier years – there was no controlling Steve that I ever saw.
Steve was invariably quick with a smile, quick with a joke and often under-estimated by those who didn’t know him. He was quite willing to let that happen too – he didn’t make a lot of noise about what he knew and I can never remember an instance of him bragging. More than a few times though I saw him produce great pictures when others had given up even trying.
I will always remember Steve for that smile, for his humour, for his apparent inability to take anything or anyone seriously – while not missing a single thing and knowing everyone and every racing driver’s achievements. I’ll remember his mischievous twinkle when he was stirring – a job for which he had a rather large spoon.
Mostly though, I’ll remember Steve for his charm. He’d amble over, with his short pants, his happy smile and he would instantly be friends with whomever he spoke to. Of all his skills, that is the one I wish I could have learned.
Yes, Steve is gone and that is a hard reality to accept, but we are richer for having known him – a far better thing than never having known Steve at all.
If you know of other tributes to Steve, please feel free to comment and I’ll gladly add them to this list.