Where Are They Now: Gurning Rave Guy


As part of our Where Are They Now series, WWN revisits some of the biggest pop culture icons from the past twenty years in a bid to stimulate your deteriorating memory and securing this fine publication a click.

This week we send roving reporter Paddy Browne to Preston, England, to meet with the infamous ‘Gurning Face Guy’ who gained notoriety from a promo video for rave nightclub, ‘Bounce by the ounce’.

I’ve visited some of the world’s most dangerous and war-torn places, but Preston was no doubt up there with the best of them. Nevertheless, being a veteran reporter for 35 years, I’m not one to turn down a good assignment, especially when I get the chance to meet someone as iconic as Gurning Rave Guy.

My airport transfer dumped me outside the town, insisting he could not drive any further over “safety fears”, so I made my way in, without a flak jacket or helmet.

I was to meet Gurning Rave Guy, aka Mark, at a local cafe called Full Of Beans at four o’clock.

Upon approaching, I could hear the unmistakable beat of Cygnus X’s Orange Theme – I knew I was going in the right direction.

The outside of the cafe was buzzing. There were middle aged men and women giving it socks. Some were dancing on tables, others were chilling out on beanbags chewing what seemed to be their own jaws. I spotted Mark’s bald head and blue polo shirt. He was in full swing.

“Mark, Paddy Browne here,” I shouted, waving furiously trying to grab at least one of his eyes for attention as they darted around his moist head, “Mark! Over here mate. Mark!”

A woman holding a baby interrupted me, insisting Mark will be “with me in a few minutes” and told me to grab a cup of “buckfast coffee” while I was waiting.

After what seemed like days, Mark finally made his way over to me, but was still dancing and slurping his own sweat from his upper lip.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you Mark, I’m a big fan of your floor work,” I blurted out like a silly school girl with a crush.

“That will be six ninety nine please,” Mark replied now holding out one sweaty palm, to my utter bewilderment, “it’s twenty pence for a bag, mate, if you want one. Government tax, innit?”

At this moment another man came over saying that Mark thinks he’s still in work, and to “just go along with it”.

I handed Mark some imaginary money.

“Thanks very much, have a nice day,” he replied before veering off again, slicing the air with his dance hands.

“Is he always like this?” I asked the man.

“Marks been dancing since 1994,” he said, “most of these people have been on a constant buzz for the past 23 years from a bad batch of pills that hit Preston, the doctors said. Or a good batch, depending how you see it.

“We’ve grown used to them at this stage, buzzing about, dancing on tables, sweating, hugging random strangers; they’re harmless enough”.

In fact, over 47 people in total were affected by the rogue batch of “permanent pills”, all in the Preston area. Many of the victims still hold down jobs, with Mark managing the local branch of Iceland.

“He’s actually a really good boss to work for, I heard,” the man added, “he started out stacking the shelves and worked his way up the ladder from there”.

I began to regret my initial stereotype of Mark and his pill peers, and indeed Preston. They were doing no harm to anyone here and most of all they were enjoying life, despite it being drug induced.

I couldn’t help wondering what the whole world would look like if everyone was as happy and prone to dancing like Mark and co.

For me Preston could be the start of something wonderful, something utopian; I left a part of my heart in Preston, with the hope of returning someday.

I suppose the moral of the story is: don’t judge a book by its mangled cover.