I have cancer: Mark ‘Chopper’ Read reveals
UPDATE: INFAMOUS underworld legend Mark Chopper Read has terminal cancer.
Read said he has been given a worst-case diagnosis of just weeks to live.
Another doctor said he could last up to six years, but all agree he is at the end of the line.
Read has been in and out of hospital after haemorrhaging litres of blood.
The ex-crim turned author and artist has four cancerous tumours on his liver, which has to be drained to stop the toxins from reaching his brain and causing chemical delirium.
The one-time standover man, 58, has lost a lot of weight.
Read said he wasn’t afraid to die, but did not want to die in a pool of his own blood.
He also blamed Jimmy Loughnan – a now dead criminal associate – for ruining any chance he had of a liver transplant.
Read said Loughnan stabbed him nine times in a prison fight, which was depicted in the Chopper film.
He has too much scar tissue around his liver to enable the operation.
Read said the toxins in his body could not be processed by his liver.
“Looks like the big C has finally bitten. Let’s see how we go,” Read tweeted this afternoon.
“I actually feel OK. Some more surgery in a couple of weeks and hopefully I’ll be ready to rock’ n roll after that.”
He earlier tweeted: “Sorry I haven’t been tweeting of late. Have been spending a bit of time in hospital for my liver.”
Read worked as a standover man and was convicted of armed robbery, assault, kidnapping, arson, impersonating a police officer and attempted murder.
Read was sentenced to 13 years’ jail for attempting to kidnap a County Court judge at gunpoint and spent only 13 months out of jail between the ages of 20 and 38.
In the past, he has claimed to have killed 19 people.
Read has been stabbed more than a handful of times, shot once, run over by a car, had a claw hammer embedded in his head, and was made to dig his own grave, and cut off his ears in prison.
Mark Brandon Chopper Read
Characteristics: Member of “The Overcoat Gang” – Self-described vigilante slayer of criminals
Number of victims: 0 – 19
Date of murders: 1979 – 1991
Date of birth: November 17, 1954
Victims profile: Men
Method of murder: Several
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Status: Served 20+ years for assault and other felony counts. Released from prison in July 1997
Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read (born 17 November 1954), is an Australian ex-convict, author, and celebrity.
Read was born to an ex-army father and a mother who was a devout Seventh-day Adventist. He was placed in a children’s home for the first five years of his life. Read grew up in the Melbourne suburbs of Collingwood, Thomastown, Fitzroy and Preston.
He was bullied at school, claiming that by the age of 15, he had been on the “losing end of several hundred fights”, and his father, usually on his mother’s recommendation, beat him often as a child. Read was made a Ward of the State by the age of 14 and was placed in several mental institutions as a teenager, where, he later claimed, he was subjected to electroshock therapy.
By his mid-teens, Read was already an accomplished street fighter and the leader of the Surrey Road gang. He began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, based in massage parlours in the Prahran area. He later graduated to kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld, often using a blowtorch or bolt cutters to remove the toes of his victims before killing them (hence the slang term Toe cutter, used for Head hunters).
While in Pentridge prison‘s H division in the late 1970s, Read launched a prison war. His gang, dubbed “The Overcoat Gang” because they wore long coats all year round to conceal their weapons, were involved in several hundred acts of violence against a larger opposing gang during this period.
Around this time, Read had a fellow inmate cut both of his ears off in order to be able to leave H division temporarily. While in his early biographies Read claimed this was to avoid an ambush by other inmates, by being transferred to the mental health wing, his later works state that he did so to “win a bet”. However the nickname “Chopper” was given to him long before this, from a childhood cartoon character. Several other members of Read’s gang also cut off their own ears in a similar fashion after this incident.
Read was ambushed and stabbed by members of his own gang in a sneak attack, when they felt his plan to cripple every other inmate in the entire division and win the gang war in one fell swoop was going too far. Another theory is that James “Jimmy” Loughlan and “Blue” wished to benefit from a contract put on Chopper’s head by the Dockers. Read lost several feet of bowel and intestine in the attack. Ironically, Jimmy Loughnan was a longtime friend of Read’s. Read was, at the time, serving a 17-year sentence after attacking a judge in an effort to get Loughnan released from prison.
Read once claimed to have served two years for GBH starting in 1978 after attacking a local pimp and drug pusher who was attempting to force a 13-year-old schoolgirl into prostitution, claiming “It was worth it.”
Described variously as witty, charismatic, sadistic, and frightening, Read admits to being involved in the killing of 19 people and a further 11 attempts. Many of his associates in the underworld claim that Read is prone to making up numbers to increase his own notoriety and the sales of his books. Read himself has stated on numerous occasions that he would “never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.”
Convicted of crimes including armed robbery, firearm offenses, assault and kidnapping, Read spent 13 months outside prison between the ages of 20 and 38, then went on to become a successful author of crime novels, selling in excess of 500,000 copies of his works. More recently, he has also found success as a recording artist.
In 2005, Read embarked on a tour of Australia performing a series of shows titled I’m Innocent with Mark “Jacko” Jackson and later toured Sydney in a stage show with a new co-star, former Detective Roger “The Dodger” Rogerson.
In 2001, Read was featured in an advertisement on behalf of the Pedestrian Council of Australia warning of the dangers of drunk driving. Read is seated at a kitchen table undoing his shirt and, while pointing to the numerous scars and injuries on his body, says:
“When I was in prison… I got slashed in the face… my ears cut off…..my eyebrows trimmed and a butcher’s knife here, an icepick here – NOT FUN AT ALL, etc… If you drink and drive and you’re unfortunate enough to hit somebody, you ought to pray to God that you don’t go to prison.”
In 2006, Read appeared in another commercial speaking out against domestic violence. On 13 March 2006, he released a rap album titled Interview with a Madman. He also appeared in the 2002 Australian comedy Trojan Warrior.
Read allowed use of his name to Australia’s heaviest alcoholic lager called “Chopper Heavy”. The beer is produced in Rutherglen, Victoria, a town associated with Australia’s most notorious outlaw, Ned Kelly.
Mark made the headlines again, on December 15, 2008, after being questioned by police about an alleged incident in Johnson St Collingwood. Read was attacked by a tomahawk-wielding man he claimed he had never met before. Read said, “I ran to the panel beaters and grabbed a steel pipe and he jumped into a car and nicked off.” Read suffered a minor injury to his arm after being hit with the blunt end of the tomahawk. Read was questioned by detectives at Richmond CIU before being released without charge. His alleged attacker has not been found.
Read married Australian Taxation Office employee Mary-Ann Hodge in 1995 while imprisoned in Risdon Prison in Tasmania for the shooting of his friend Sidney Collins. The marriage produced one child, Charlie. They later divorced in 2001. On 19 January 2003, he married long-time friend Margaret Cassar. They have one son, Roy Brandon.
He contracted Hepatitis C during his time in prison through using a blood-stained shaver. Read revealed in March 2008 that he only has two to five years to live and requires a liver transplant, which he has refused, saying he does not want to take away a liver from a more deserving recipient.
Read’s first book, Chopper: From the Inside, was collected from letters he sent while incarcerated in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison and published in 1991. It contains tales and anecdotes of his criminal and prison exploits. Further biographical releases followed in a similar vein. However, with the advent of Chopper 5: Pulp Faction, Read began writing fictional tales based on his experiences of criminal life. Attempts were made to ban a children’s book written by Read titled Hooky the Cripple.
The 2000 film Chopper, starring Eric Bana as Read, was based on stories from Read’s books and independent research, leading to events portrayed on screen which somewhat contradicted Read’s version of events. For instance, Read claimed in early books to be vehemently against drugs, but the film portrays him as a casual drug user. In response, Read stated, “You have to have tried something to be able to say you hate it.”
Bana has agreed to play Read again in the sequel to Chopper. Read has refused to deny reports that he will have a cameo in the film.
Chopper: From the Inside (1991), ISBN 0-646-06543-2
Chopper 2: Hits and Memories (1992), ISBN 0-646-10987-1
Chopper 3: How to Shoot Friends & Influence People (1993), ISBN 0-646-15444-3
Chopper 4: For the Term of His Unnatural Life (1994), ISBN 0646210149
Chopper 5: Pulp Faction: Revenge of the Rabbit Kisser and Other Jailhouse Stories (1995), ISBN 0-646-25065-5
Chopper 6: No Tears for a Tough Guy (1996), ISBN 0-646-29637-X
Chopper 7: The Singing Defective (1997), ISBN 0-646-33923-0
Chopper 8: The Sicilian Defense (1998), ISBN 0-9586071-0-9
Chopper 9: The Final Cut (1999), ISBN 0-9586071-4-1
Chopper 101⁄2: The Popcorn Gangster (2001), ISBN 0-9579121-0-2
Hooky the Cripple: The Grim Tale of a Hunchback Who Triumphs (2002), ISBN 1-86403-165-4
The Adventures of Rumsley Rumsfelt (2003), ISBN 0-9579121-7-X
Chopper 11: Last Man Standing: From Ex-Con to Icon (2007)
Interview with a Madman (2006)
Public commentary and political views
Read has made public comment about a number of criminal cases, including the Ivan Milat backpacker murder and the Port Arthur massacre. He has frequently appeared on radio and television talk shows to promote his books and discuss his views on many issues. For a short period of time, he also had a column in Ralph magazine. He also was a regular columnist for the British magazine FHM. He currently has a column in Zoo Weekly.
His success in selling tales of his criminal past, and a number of recent attempts by other criminals to do likewise, has prompted widespread calls to amend the Federal Proceeds of Crime Bill (2001)—which confiscates the proceeds of drug deals and robberies—to also apply to indirect proceeds of crime, including book sales, TV appearances, and the like. Read has described his political beliefs as “to the right of Genghis Khan”. In his book Chopper 2, he lists American conservative G. Gordon Liddy and Bruce Ruxton, a critic of Australia’s immigration policies and leader of the Victorian RSL, as his political heroes.
A fictionalized version of Read was recently featured in several sketches on The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. Some of these sketches, such as “Harden The F*ck Up!”, have gained a kind of cult following among Read’s fans in Australia and across the world. Chopper was portrayed by Heath Franklin. Read has praised Franklin’s exaggerated impression, although he believes that Franklin is actually impersonating Eric Bana’s film portrayal of Chopper, rather than Read himself.
Acclaimed science fiction author William Gibson based a character (Keith Blackwell) in the final two books of his Bridge trilogy on Read. In the second book of the trilogy, Idoru, Gibson wrote in his acknowledgments:
“Anything I know about the toecutting business, I owe to the criminal memoirs of Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read (Chopper from the inside, Sly Ink, Australia, 1991). Mr. Read is a great deal scarier than Blackwell, and has even fewer ears.”
The 2000 film Chopper, starring Eric Bana as Read, was based on stories from Read’s books and independent research, leading to events portrayed on screen that somewhat contradicted Read’s version. For instance, Read claimed in early books to be vehemently against drugs, but the film portrays him as a casual drug user. In response, Read stated, “You have to have tried something to be able to say you hate it.”
Read married Australian Taxation Office employee Mary-Ann Hodge in 1995 while imprisoned in Risdon Prison in Tasmania for the shooting of Sidney Collins. The couple had one child, Charlie, and divorced in 2001. On 19 January 2003, he married long-time friend Margaret Cassar. They have one son, Roy Brandon.
Read contracted Hepatitis C during his time in prison through allegedly using a blood-stained shaver.In March 2008 he revealed he only has two to five years to live and requires a liver transplant. However, he has refused to countenance this, stating, “A transplant would save me, but why would anybody give 53-year-old Chopper Read a liver over and above an 11-year-old girl with liver cancer? They wouldn’t – and I wouldn’t ask. I need a transplant, but I don’t want a transplant.” He discussed this again in August 2009, when he was interviewed on ABC Local Radio and was quoted as saying “I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 18 months, I have cirrhosis of the liver… there’s no cure for that”
In 1998, Read met his bodyguard, Mark “Hammer” Dixon, after Read’s release from Risdon prison in Tasmania. Working as a driver and body guard for Read’s friend and colleague in crime, Charles “Mad Charlie” Hegyalji, Dixon eventually become Read’s most trusted ally. In the March 2003, Read was travelling the country doing paid appearances and ended up in a venue where security was run by Dixon. After finishing a show and exiting to the car park with his entourage, a disgruntled patron ran at Read brandishing a claw hammer. Dixon threw himself in the line of the hammers blow and then neutralized the attacker. As a result, Dixon became Read’s full-time bodyguard. http://www.markhammerdixon.com/
“Never Plead Guilty”
I am Mark Brandon Read, but most characters like to call me “Chopper.” There are a few obscure theories as to how I got my nickname, some reckon it is from an old cartoon, some say it is because I use to cut off the toes of others, while there are those that say it is because I had someone cut my ears off in jail. Maybe they are all right! Maybe they are all wrong! Who really cares.
For the record, it is because someone cut my ears off when I was in Melbourne’s elite bluestone college – more commonly known as Pentridge. For some insane reason, some upstanding members of that institution were out to hurt me. I summoned all my manners to politely suggest to the screws that I be transfered from H division. They declined and said there was no way I would be getting a transfer, so I made the simple decision that ears off = transfer. Believe me, it works.
Note – For those that think this webpage is going to cover all the little intricate details and stories of my love, that I have told in my book…keep dreaming. If you want to know details about my life and why I am what I am, I suggest that you buy my books. I haven’t busted my hump for hour upon hour just to shoot myself in the foot now and give it all to you for free. No, no, no, that would be quite ridiculous. Instead, this site will be my initial foray into the cyber world. Here I can sell products and provide you with details of what is happening in my immediate life. It is my international address, my very own “Chopper command centre” if you will.
Now the Chopper movie is another little fable which in principle resembles my life. It is a mixture of fact and fiction and at times a bit of friction, but one character from that movie does exist. His name is Nevile Bartos. Now I have known Neville for 25 years. Neville has saved my hide numerous times and without doubt if he hadn’t been around, I wouldn’t either. I know that Melbourne has its hard and tough men, as does every other place in the world, but this man is the “THE KING”. Now Neville is an Albanian and for those of you with a little knowledge about war, you would know that the Russians for many years, used Albanians as their assassins. These people are totally loyal and totally dangerous. Let’s just say Neville is no exception.
Neville “gold shoes” Bartos, what an old chestnut. I don’t want to step on any toes, but as the name suggests this man has done to attire, what Jack the Ripper did to late night shopping. I mean, any more gold on this man’s shoes, and it would be Australia’s second gold rush. I don’t know to whom he poses the greatest threat, to certain individuals or to the fashion industry. His fashion sense, shoes particularly, are…well…..interesting to say the least!
Below is a little photo of my home for many years. Coburg’s very own Bluestone College. Now this was a true institution, bigger than Eton, Oxford or Harvard. This was excruciatingly hard work.
I have lived a different life of sorts. I am 48 years old and have spent 23 years in jail. A movie based on my life, funnily enough called Chopper, was made in 2000. Since my last visit as a guest of her Royal Majesty in Tasmania’s “Big House” Risdon Prison, I have entered my “second life.” This has seen me unload my guns (including pistol, shotgun and a few childish goodies such as gellagnite and grenades), empty my holsters and make the obvious and common step of turning from Australia’s most notorious underworld hitman (….alleged…..) to an international media mogul of sorts.
As Australia’s most credentialed crime novelist I have released 10 best-selling crime books, 1 children’s book, made a television commercial for the Pedestrian Council of Australia which won a Gold Lion at the Cannes International Festival, have done numerous television and radio interviews and I have released my own music CD’s – including the latest rap extravaganza – Machete. Please allow me to add – I have also had my portrait entered into the Archibald Prize 4 years running – Who said crime doesn’t pay. I now have two things in common with Van Gogh. My books are also the most shoplifted in Australia – quite a unique little honour. Before I move on, I should not forget, I am just like most of you – I am also a devout beer connoisseur
Yes I am Mark Brandon Chopper Read – “Star of the Underworld,”- and after 23 years in jail and having been Australia’s most notorious underworld hitman, I am finally starting to get recognition. Do not get me wrong, I am just a regular bloke who, through his own means, has tried to do his bit for society.
All this. It’s a bit of a joke isn’t it? I’d be quite silly to take all this seriously wouldn’t I? I’d get quite carried away with myself. I often sit back and just have a little giggle at the whole thing, because someone like me just isn’t meant to make it like this. Society has a little hierarchical structure where only people from affluent backgrounds, or learnid individuals, succeed. I just thought to hell with all of this, I’m doing it my way.
All of this, and I have never worked an honest day’s labour in my life. Aaaahhh, the Great Australian Dream, who said it is hard to achieve.
But don’t get me wrong, for a one time toe-cutter, knee-capper and killer of 19 men (in my lighter moments), swapping my four ten for a HB2.0 is not without its price. It could happen someday, that someone asks me for my autograph and while I’m busying myself with the pen, they put a bullet in my head. Not really a desirable outcome for me is it!
Even though history has been quoted as saying “the pen is mightier than the sword,” I would still prefer the sword, plus a pistol, shotty and dynamite. I have often been heard likening myself to a leopard. They never changes their spots, they just get older. My spots haven’t changed, I have just gotten older and the spots have slightly faded. I’ll never change. I’ll always be the same person I always was. It’s just that I don’t do the things I used to do. After all, even you must admit, they are a little naughty.
Now the movie has me saying “…who said crime doesn’t pay….” I must take this opportunity to ask you fine citizens, you little students of life, if you have heard of the “Chopper Read amendments” to both the New South Wales and Victorian laws. These “do-as-we-like” governments have approved new legislation to stop criminals from earning royalties from books and movies about their offences. If you don’t mind officer, passing new laws at will, purely to stop profiteering from crime. What a truly dastardly deed. Is this aimed purely at me?……every criminal?…………who? I think to ensure thoroughness, this law should be made retrospective. Then all Henry Lawson’s (Australia’s great poet) books can be removed from every library and burned, because after all, he did a hell of a lot of his writing while he was in Darlinghurst Prison. I mean the philosophy behind some of these decisions is ridiculous and quite small minded.
This new legislation allows Crown prosecutor’s to take legal action to seize all profits from such a venture. It would then go into a fund for victims of crime. Victims of crime? Victims of “bloody” crime, bye gosh, what they don’t stop to realise is that I’ve only maimed and injured those that deserve it – hardened criminals. I’ve made half of these bloody crims rich, as they have successfully applied for moneys as a victim of crime. Now they intend to make the coffers even bigger. Another of life’s little irony’s. Bizarre in every sense. I guess that is what makes this country so great. Victims of crime?…Unreal. Why don’t they introduce something like the victims of fame. I would find this to be quite fantastic!
You may agree that my life has been quite extraordinary. I don’t condone what I have done, but it is in the past and I can’t do anything to change it now. However, I can use my experience to inform every single person who views this site, whether they are holier than thou or have done some pretty nasty things in their life, you have the opportunity to change direction. This doesn’t mean you change who you are, but you can redirect your life and make something of it. I am speaking from experience. It takes a big man to stand up for himself in any circumstance, but it takes even a bigger man to look at himself in the mirror and say I don’t like what I am doing with my life and I’m gonna change it, then follow it through.
Please enjoy my site and provide some feedback on what you would like to see. There is also a products page where you can get some gear you won’t find anywhere else in the world. So surf away and cough up some cold hard Stan Cash. For now…….Via Con Dios, Amigos.
My early days were spent in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Thomastown, Preston and Collingwood. I was never the toughest kid at school, often being bullied and bashed, but this only strengthened my resolve. From being stood over, to becoming the standover man, my my, what a change. Evolution I suppose.
As a little tacker I was given repeated shock and drug therapies to correct a learning difficulty. Did this tame a monster or create a monster? Neither because I am not a monster. Killed 19, hurt many, caused much property damage – I have never hurt any innocent characters. This should be remembered.
My apprenticeship in crime began in the 1970s. This had me robbing massage parlours and taking on contracts to maim and kill rivals. Once I had obtained a doctorate as a “standover man”, robbing drug dealers and other criminals, who funnily enough couldn’t report me to the police, became childs play. I once told a friend “why rob a straight guy of $20 when you can rob a drug dealer of $10,000 and he can’t go running to the police?” After all both involved some work on my behalf, but the man in the street was less likely to give up his $20 as he had to work hard for it. For the drug-dealers it came easy, so why would they put up a fight. Although some of my victims chose to chew razor blades (at their own request of course), before they would hand over cash? And I am the psychopath!
I’ve had my fair share of incidents and on several occassions I have nearly met our maker. I’ve been stabbed, shot, run over, and was once digging my own grave before I used the shovel as a meat cleaver. Let’s just say that somone is in that grave and their skeleton is rotting under many autumns of falling leaves somewhere on a Victorian mountain – it ain’t me.
People often ask me is the scene from the Chopper movie, where I get stabbed 7 times, true. Of course it is, anybody knows that, or is that anybody that has been stabbed 7 times, Ha Ha. Yes, I did get stabbed seven times and that stabbing scene was very true because you don’t feel the wound right away. You could probably liken it to winning Tattslotto – you’ve got the winning ticket right there in front of you, but although it has happened you wouldn’t believe it. Meanwhile, someone like me might come in and steal the ticket. This is not true, I would not condone such a hainus crime. Anyway, in relation to my stabbing, I tried my utmost to be polite and complimented the offender for his sneaky approach.
Chopper, the movie, is 100% lies and 100% truth rolled together to make 100% of nothing. Despite the movie apparently portraying my life and being a box office hit – the first ever adults only movie to go number 1 at the box office – I didn’t get anything out of the movie, not even a ticket to its premiere or a ticket to the AFI (Australian Film Industry) awards. I signed all my money from the movie, over to the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne – instead of taking lives I am now saving them, yet even it has not formally acknowledged my donation. Also it greatly annoyed me that I was portrayed as a woman basher and that my new wife, Margaret, did not even rate a mention in the movie. However, the movie has resulted in two of my books being published in Britain and I have been gratiously informed that U2′s Bono played the film to bring on his wife’s labour – just fantastic isn’t it. But…..does this make me a co-parent?
As I said, the movie turned me into a world wide figure, as confirmed by an article written by Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times in July 2001:
Is everyone in Australia a few degrees off from true north? You can search in vain through the national cinema for characters who are ordinary or even boring; everyone is more colorful than life. If England is a nation of eccentrics, Australia leaves it at the starting line. Chopper Read is the latest in a distinguished line that includes Ned Kelly, Mad Max, and Russell Crowe’s Hando in “Romper Stomper.” The fact that Chopper is real only underlines the point.
A few degrees off north, well Australia is bloody miles of north actually, if truth be quoted. I think he is simply upset about Australia II’s victory in the 1983 America’s Cup. America’s Cup, America’s Cup, the Australians said excuse us for just a minute, that would look very nice on our trophy cabinet…Yes, yes it would, that you very much…..we think we will take that.
I have been convicted of armed robberies, a shooting, assault and kidnapping a judge. Between the ages of 20 and 38, I had a measily 13 months on the outside. This was my equivalent to the annual leave that most people get through work.
As reported, I do have a phenomenal ability to withstand pain, often to my detriment. This ability, combined with my desire to get a transfer from Pentridge, convinced me to get a fellow inmate to slice off my ears with a razorblade – just insane stuff really. Little did I know that this would later result in another of life’s little ironies. A few years ago I was recruited by some character from Black Flys sunglasses to help promote their products here in Australia. Great, how was I meant to keep the bloody things on?
Pentridge always had its lighter moments and there are numerous stories. In prison I made others chew razor blades while I ate their food and it has been alleged that I use to blowtorch feet so that they smelled like a cross between burnt hair and roast pork. What a fancyful story, by the way have you seen the cover of my book Chopper 10 1/2, The Popcorn Gangster.
In five years at Pentridge, I was alleged , to have attacked 63 men and tried to kill 11. Who invents these numbers, 6311 is my ATM P.I.N number. Their is another story that I would like to set straight. When I had my stomach slit by convicted murderer, Greg “Bluey” Brazel during a prison brawl in 1979. The next day I burst my stiches doing push ups to get fit enough for a revenge attack on Brazel. To this day I cannot believe that I did all those push-ups, the stomach didn’t hurt, but the arms ached like hell.
With nothing much to do in Pentridge, aside from hurt someone here or there, it was the place where I learned to read and write. Little did I know, that spending some times learning these artful crafts, would inevitably keep me alive in the long run.
Tip – A little trick I have learned and am willing to pass on to you, comes from when I was freed from jail in 1986. Being a bit short of cash and with jobs hard to come by, I began demanding money from fellow criminals. And the unusual part is I here you asking? ….I use to strap a stick of gelignite to my chest and threaten to blow us both up if they didn’t pay up. I can’t believe I ever had the audicity. I also can’t believe that it always worked.
In terms of a crime that brought me to the public attention, the 1987 shooting of the drug dealer, Siam “Sammy the Turk” Ozerkam, outside Bojangles Nightclub in St Kilda, Melbourne, is an out and out winner. It was as big a hit as the movie about me, which would come out 13 years later. As I’ve said in my books, it was quite a simple series of events “….I’ve pulled the shotty out and gone bang and it’s bye, bye Turk.” It was far from a case of cold-blooded murder, instead it was an act of instinctive self-defence.
It was when I was in jail in 1990, that I made my first steps towards being an author. It all began when I wrote a note to journalist Mr John Silvester after he wrote a derogatory article about me in Melbourne’s “The Age” newspaper. In short my note wished him a merry Christmas and it expressed my hope that his house would burn down. That reminds me of a little story about Nick “The Greek” Apostolidis, but you’ll have to read my books for that one – but I digress. I wrote around 300 letters in eight months to Mr Silvester, then he and his colleague Andrew Rule edited these letters to create my first book. They hoped it would sell 5000 copies, possible 10,000 and they told me that if things went well, I might end up with a used car. A used car…I’m sure I could park that in the cell with me. Regardless of their “big” plans, my first book has run to more than 120,000 copies, but these cheeky scallywags have yet to give me that used car. Maybe its time to come good on my promise to Mr Silvester…John, your thoughts?
In 1992, the former president of the Victorian Outlaws Sid Collins, was shot in the stomach with a 9mm bullet at point-blank range. To my shock he had the audacity to claim that I had pulled the trigger. Please why would I do such a thing, an unspeakable act. As my lawyer so vehmently claimed, Sid obviously framed me because the real gunman was a fellow motorcycle gang member. Anyway as a result I was sent to jail again. The story of my life. Why is it that for someone with such a reputation both in and out of the underworld, I was so unsuccessful at staying out of jail. Unfortunately, Sid has now been murdered. Of course I was questioned by some big time New South Wales policeman. This is quite bizarre, as I clearly was not in the area at the time of the alleged crime, but these policeman came down at the same time as Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival. Their questions where quite basic, elementary really….so why question me? Anyway I wonder if they know who won Race 5 on Cup Day. A quite opportune time for them, possibly?
In 1995 after a year-long engagement, I married Mary-Ann Hodge whilst in Risdon. Mary-Ann is an attractive and educated woman employed with the Australian Taxation Office. She read one of my books and shortly after came to visit me in Risdon. At that stage I was being held in maximum security indefinitely after I was deemed to be a dangerous criminal. In 1998 my dangerous criminal tag was overturned and Mary-Anne and I moved to a farmhouse at Richmond, Tasmania.
We have a child together, a boy, who we called Charlie, named after my long time and now deceased mate ‘Mad’ Charlie Hegyalji. Our marriage (Mary-Ann and I) went great guns for a while, but it broke up in 2001. Life in Tasmania was just too slow. I couldn’t handle watching chickens and sheep running around day after day. Farming life wasn’t for me, so I left with just the clothes on my back and enough money to get out of Tasmania. I returned to Melbourne and have since married Margaret Casser on 19 January 2003. I have known Margaret for 30 years. As we are still on talking terms, I feel that 30 years should be enough to guarantee a happy future. Anybody else out there that has married someone after they have known them for 30 odd years, please don’t tell me now that it doesn’t work.
As noted on my homepage, this site is far from an exhaustive fable of my life, instead you’ll have to read the books for this. This site is instead a more interactive environment where I can provide you real time information, including interviews, photos and products. If you think that something should be added, or that I should link to your site drop me a line and I may consider it. For now……….Via Con Dios, Amigos.
Chopper – Who Loves Ya, Baby?
The Age August 13, 2007
Cinema has long conditioned us to have a soft spot for criminals.
From The Defiant Ones to The Godfather to Dog Day Afternoon to Scarface to GoodFellas to the numerous film versions of Ned Kelly, the common theme running through them all is that crime breeds charisma. Yes, these uneducated thugs may be impulsive and violent and happy to shoot somebody over a misheard drink order, but they also have an undeniable charm.
Such is the case with Mark Brandon Read – aka Chopper – the famous ex-crim who has become a folkloric figure both in the Underworld and in that other world where the rest of us reside.
The Fine Art of Self-Promotion
Read has long known the appeal flamboyant crims can have for straight-living citizens – and he has proved himself a master at cultivating it.
He has produced a series of best-selling, well-written crime books, Read is an artist of considerable repute and he has delighted in spicing up TV news features about Melbourne’s crime scene with witty observations that often highlight how movie gangsters provide the template for today’s modern criminal. Read laughs at how foolish they are for thinking they are in a movie. We agree, and laugh with him. His appeal doubles.
And Read, of course, is one-up on most Australian gangsters by having had a major film made about him. Chopper, starring actor Eric Bana as Read, came out in 2000 and has enjoyed great success, both here and overseas.
Although Read was not allowed to make any money from the film, he was certainly happy to help out. He gave Bana extensive notes and pointers about what his life was like in and out of prison. Also, Read provided a compelling audio commentary for the DVD release of the film. There might not have been a cent in it for him, but Read seemed happy to participate in a film that would enhance, if not glorify, his legend.
He also performs live shows with other figures of note, such as football great Mark “Jacko” Jackson and notorious NSW cop Roger Rogerson. In these shows Read relates tales from his life for the amusement of a paying audience.
Crime Pays – Or Does It?
But Read has fallen on hard times. A recent report on Channel Nine’s Sunday program (airdate 15 July) detailed his financial woes, his uncharacteristically dour mindset and his brooding resentment for those who have made a dollar from his name.
Much of this ire is directed at comedian Heath Franklin, whose over-the-top Chopper impersonation has become the highlight of the popular skit comedy show The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. If somebody is getting big laughs from spoofing Chopper, Read contends, he deserves royalties.
In fairness to Franklin – and to be completely accurate – his is not an impersonation of Chopper Read as much as it is an impersonation of Eric Bana as Chopper Read. The bulk of the gags, mannerisms and references in Franklin’s act are clearly derived from the heightened, dramatised film version of Read.
Indeed, the film has become such a pop-cultural reference point it was adapted into a hilarious animated short film by Bernard Derriman, which featured at the short film festival Tropfest in 2001, where it won first prize in the comedy category. Read has yet to register his opinion of it.
The Real Read
Beneath his self-sculpted celebrity and media-friendly persona Read, of course, has a history of violence. He has killed many times and has often bragged about his deeds, most infamously on TV in 1998 when he appeared on the McFeast Live program. (During his lengthy interview with host Libbi Gorr, it became clear that Read was completely intoxicated. The show never recovered from the controversy that followed.)
Key to Read’s appeal, though, is his contention that he has never inflicted violence on anybody who didn’t deserve it. The innocent have never been in his sights. This is a point stressed both in the film and by Read himself on the DVD commentary track.
He describes one incident where he was about to shoot somebody, but saw there was a child sleeping in the same room. Concerned about the deafening effects the blast from the gun could have on the child’s hearing, Read promptly escorted his victim into another room and shot him there.
Chopper versus Mark Brandon Read
Read’s appearance on the Sunday report presents a poser. While he seems genuinely down on his luck, Read’s media savvy suggests that his hapless aura is a performance designed to elicit public sympathy. For why else would he make his private financial woes public?
The report certainly points out the difference in Read’s demeanour – from the cocksure charismatic joker to the hard-done-by family man – and the reporter challenges him over his confessed inability to manage money. “I should not have been allowed anywhere near a credit card,” Read says.
Later, while bemoaning the discrepancy between the media image of “Chopper” and the more down-to-Earth “Mark Brandon Read” – as he now prefers to be called – he says: “Why people have this image in their minds is beyond me.” A most curious statement, given his authorship of that image.
To watch the 22-minute Sunday report on Read go here. For a series of Chopper skits from The Ronnie Johns Half Hour go here. (Note: These items contain very coarse language.) For a review of the Chopper DVD go here. For a directory of stories about Read’s art works, go here. To see a promo for the Chopper animated short go here.
Does Mark Brandon Read have a case for sympathy? Is he being exploited, as he claims? Does he deserve royalties, or should he have thought of trade-marking his name a long time ago? Did the film glorify him? What do you think about Read and the “Chopper industry”?