As the world mourns for Michael Jackson, a “colourful” Melbourne identity is laid to rest with a tinnie of VB on his coffin. “Tupps” was the last surviving member of a Melbourne “crime dynasty” which has its own police taskforce assigned to it. This is called the Purana taskforce, the name of which I’m convinced was chosen just to make me guffaw when I hear it on the radio.
Just what is it with Victorians and their adoration of violent criminals, drug dealers and standover merchants? The same people who ring into talkback radio or post on news websites to froth about our crime epidemics and complain about too-soft sentences for drug addicts, dealers, burglars and “gang violence” (always “ethnic” gang violence), are all too happy to talk Desmond Moran up as a great guy who was just like one of us, really!.
His mother had a terrible job getting him to come in for tea. Putting his little boot in he’d be, bless him. All the kids were like that then, they didn’t have their heads stuffed with all this Cartesian dualism.
The traders are mourning “Tupps” – a “good guy” one insisted, as she watched the boys from forensics sweep up the street, inch by inch, shoulder to shoulder, working their way to Ascot Pasta and Deli-Cafe, where Moran had gone for his regular coffee. He’d sit on the street there most days.
No, she doesn’t want her name in the paper. But she wants someone to write that he had lots of friends and plenty of respect in this neighbourhood. People knew who he was, what was said, but they took him as they saw him.
“He was always the first to one to put his hand out to anyone who needed a hand. He’s been in the area for years and years, a lot of people will be very upset.”
Whenever she saw him sitting having his usual at the cafe where he died, just down the road from her shop, she’d get a “g’day, love”.
Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.
As the police and others have pointed out, the media focus on the “gangland identity” angle has spawned a grotesque celebrity, epitomised by the “Gangland Matriarch” Judy Moran and the photos of her extensive wardrobe in the press. Life is imitating art. The men have been adopting Sopranos-like black suits and dark glasses at the many funerals that are a frequent event that world. Some of them, it seems, aren’t quite sure where Underbelly ends and their lives begin.
This is lapped up avidly by the same people who would be howling for the stocks to be brought back if they caught one of the poor wretches at the bottom of that food chain selling drugs to their schoolchildren. But then, the Morans and Williamses and Kanes are such lovely, old-fashioned folk at heart!
Mrs Simmel: Oh yes Kipling Road was a typical East End Street, people were in and out of each other’s houses with each other’s property all day. They were a cheery lot.
I don’t know if this celebration of (white) criminality is more rife in Victoria than other states. Maybe it’s because when we think of (white) criminal gangs we think of the Kellys (Scenery! Horses! Interesting cyberpunk armour! Robin Hood!) rather than the Rum Corps. The younger ones have Chopper Read, who has his own website, book deals and stints on talk shows. And then we wonder why some of the Yoof see crime as a viable way of life.