It appears, you either liked him or hated him – however, as the media love to refer to him – “notorious Victorian crime figure” Chopper has lost his battle with cancer and has died at the age of 58, after an 18-month battle with liver cancer. “Chopper” was a nickname he acquired whilst ‘inside’ and during one of his prison sentences, talked a fellow inmate into slicing his ears off. (There is a long story behind this, but I shall not go into this now).
This street art piece (above) is near Section 8 Bar in Melbourne and has been around for some while. It is part of a collage of popular local identities and replicates a well-known photo of “Chopper” with his prison-acquired tatts, which he accumulated way before tatts became popular today.
As a typical, affable “Aussie” character who could spin a great yarn, he turned his life around after he decided ‘enough was enough’ and during his last 15 years of freedom he turned to painting, writing, did some stand-up comedy, starred in a film and had a movie dedicated to his life ‘inside’ the former notorious Pentridge jail and the infamous Jika Jika section, in Coburg, in “Chopper” which starred Aussie actor, Eric Bana.
“Chopper” spent some of his youth in the Turana Detention Centre for boys who just ‘pushed the system a little too far’. Sometimes these places, in an effort to rehabilitate, often fail, and open up an unknown world of crime to young offenders, putting them on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ at an early age and many of these youth become recidivist offenders. Read became one of these. No sooner was he out of jail, he was back in, for various events. During his latter time in Pentridge, Chopper, along with his ‘mates’ became known as the “Overcoat Gang” a tribe not to be reckoned with.
Towards the end of his sentencing, he served at Risdon Prison in Tasmania. He was released from there, for the last time, on 11 February, 1998, at 43 years of age. Up until that point he had spent 23 years and 9 months of his life in jail and he was determined that he was never going back.
On reflection I will end with one of Chopper’s poetry examples, which features in his book “Road To Nowhere“.“If love was a staircase And friendship was a chain I’d climb right up to heaven And bring you back again”.
“Is It Art?”