I first ran into Mark Brandon Chopper Read at Sydneys’ Enmore Theatre in April 2003. In town to promote his spoken word show with Mark Jackson, I was charged with interviewing the late great man for music television station Channel [V].
Back in 2000 I’d had the pleasure of meeting Eric Bana as a guest on my late night show “The Joint” when he was talking up his starring role as Mark Read in the feature film “Chopper”. I became fascinated with the real Chopper Read after that and was thrilled at the chance to finally meet this infamous identity myself.
I wasn’t disappointed. On the day I met him I’d been the subject of interviews myself as part of promotional duties for my role in “Fat Pizza – The Movie”, and made my way across town from Martin Place to the Enmore having helped myself to my hotel mini-bar for some
Dutch Scotch courage.
I’d never met a self confessed murderer before, and although Chopper’s crimes have always seemed difficult to pin down, I’m not ashamed to say beneath my fan-boy excitement I was shitting myself.
It transpired that I was fortunate he wasn’t similarly inclined to soil his trousers.
I took along a copy of his book “Chopper From The Inside” to get signed in the hope of breaking the ice and the interview progressed well enough. He’d answered almost every line of inquiry under the sun by that stage of his life, so it was proving a challenge to reach new ground.
It was when I asked him if it was true that he had a tattoo – at this point Chopper interrupted with “…of ‘I love Ita Buttrose’ on me arse? Yes it’s true but you can’t see it.” Somehow I convinced him to drop his dacks and for whatever reason I still to this day do not know I leaned forward and kissed Chopper’s bum.
“You tongued my arse – you dirty dirty bugger!” he exclaimed, “You have made television history. You are the first. You’ve stuck you’re tongue on my arse. You’ve just entered Logie country.”
The interview wrapped up and we shook hands and went our separate ways. It was not until Paul Fenech invited Chopper to play the role of “Dazza’s Father” in the feature film “Housos vs Authority” in 2012 that we crossed paths again.
A very different creature arrived on set, nine years later, deep in the bowels of the Athenaeum Theatre on June 30 last year, shuffling in wearing a pair of house slippers and his trademark blue singlet. Chopper, accompanied by his manager Andrew Parisi, switched it on for the cameras, filmed his bit, posed for photos and was on his way, clearly unwell, but still a powerful bull of a man and one for whom the showbiz must have given him a reason to live.
Fenech directed Chopper to abuse me in whatever way he felt would be appropriate if ‘Dazza” was his son. He called me a wombat and put a choke- hold on me that came within millimeters of crushing my windpipe, all the while whispering menacing threats into my ear for the camera.
If I’d been scared to meet the man in 2003, no fear compares to how I felt with his murdering hands around my throat, closing tighter and tighter even after Paul yelled “CUT!”.
I credit Chopper with two of the most surreal experiences of my life and two episodes I know are unique for him. I know without a shadow of a doubt that no other man ever pressed his lips to Read’s butt cheeks. I know also that there can’t be many people walking this Earth to have had his fingers around their throat and lived to tell the tale.
A man revered and reviled, in much the same way as Ned Kelly. Adored by some and hated by others, he shall remain an enduring icon of Australiana. A rule-breaker who took the law into his own hands, who got caught and did his time, and despite a shocking life, rehabilitated himself and turned his notorious deeds into a career many would envy or mock.
With his passing, Australia loses a piece of our identity. A piece of the fabric of this nation. In parts dirty and stained, but tough and resilient and folding for no one.
R.I.P. Chopper. Aka “Dad’.
Jason Davis aka Jabba is an actor, broadcaster and TV presenter.