Name: Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read
Scale of Notoriety: 5/5 - A feared criminal turned cult icon, Mark “Chopper” Read may be one of, if not the, most infamous name associated with the Australian underworld and criminal landscape of the 21st Century. Chopper was famous for his apathy to inflicting and receiving pain, his wicked sense of humor and his ruthlessness when it came to the world of crime. A reformed man in his later years of life, Chopper became a well known artist and best selling author.
Scale of Influence: 3/5 - His influence across the underworld was widespread throughout his peak criminal activity in the 70’s and 80’s where he was once said to be one of the most feared men in Australia. In the latter parts of his life his influence became mainstream as he became a cult icon through his media presence, self-autobiography and art - ultimately resulting in a 2001 film production about his life starring Eric Bana and a season in Australian true crime series Underbelly.
Born: 17th November 1954
Status: Deceased - Liver cancer, 9th October 2013 aged 58
Background: Chopper was born into a military family, his father was a WW2 veteran and his mother was a devout Seventh day adventist. From the outside it appears that Chopper’s family and upbringing were typical of his day - a religious, law-abiding family who had honorably served their country in war. However the reality was far from this, as Chopper recalls the PTSD that governed his Father’s extreme paranoid and controlling behaviors - resulting in constant beatings of Chopper throughout his childhood. Chopper’s life can be seen as a case study of the failings of the child-welfare system in Australia as he suffered both sexual and physical abuse at the hands of his carers and parents as he bounced between childrens homes for the first 5 years of his life. By age 14 Chopper had been made a ward of the state and spent much of his early teens in different mental institutions.
Chopper’s traumatic childhood led him to become a hardened street criminal by his late youth fueled by his ruthless violence. He began robbing, kidnapping and torturing members of rival gangs and those involved in the criminal underworld. From the ages of 20 - 38 Chopper spent a grand total of 13 months out of prison, accruing an extensive criminal resume in the process.
Chopper reformed his life in his later years after he was granted early parole in 1998. Throughout the early 2000’s Read embarked on several tours around Australia performing comedy shows heavily centered around real anecdotes and stories about his past criminal life. However he still used his hardened image and collaborated with both the Pedestrian Council of Australia for a TV advertisement warning of the dangers of drunk driving and also the Australian government for ads against domestic violence.
A secret asian if there ever was one! Chopper is portrayed as perhaps one of the most Aussie blokes of all time - however it is commonly unknown that he has Chinese blood in him! Traced back to his paternal grandfather who was part-Chinese, part-Irish - Chopper adds to the list of Aussies that are secretly part Asian!
Russian Roulette: Chopper once infamously forced reporter Renee Brack to play a game of Russian Roulette with him when she interviewed him in 1991. The interview gained international recognition due to the incident and the fact it was a raw display of the wildly brazen character that was Chopper Read.
Pain tolerance: Read once got a fellow inmate to cut off both of his ears so he could transfer out of the prison block he was in due to suspicion that he was the target of an imminent attack from a rival gang
Artistic: Chopper Read was an avid writer and published several books ranging from crime novels, biographies and even a children's book. Chopper's most popular work “Chopper: From the Inside” is a biography compiled from a collection of letters Chopper wrote whilst incarcerated.
Domestic violence Campaign: Chopper Read partnered with the Australian government to make a series of ads that were aired nationwide in a campaign against domestic violence. A true feminist of those days.
Financial Management: Chopper ended up having to declare bankruptcy in 2008 with over $210,000 of debt, despite his apparent success in comedy and authoring.
Chopper also used his namesake to help produce his own short lived line of wine “Chopper Red”, and beer “Chopper Heavy”.
Christopher McMaster is a final year Chinese Australian student studying Biotechnology and Marketing at the University of Technology Sydney. He enjoys exploring his own Chinese heritage as well as other Asian cultures that have influenced the multicultural experiences of Sydney.