Callum Fredric of Critic has done a controversial and interesting profile of Louis Crimp, based on a two hour interview with him. I found the article fascinating – both for the archaic views on Maori – but also for what they call the sympathethic side of Crimp.
“The Maori culture before the white man came, they were Stone Age people. Each tribe used to be at war with the next tribe, and if they beat one tribe they’d kill all the males in it, and eat them. And I’ve got it somewhere that the females, they’d put them in a separate stockade, and they drove spikes through their feet so they couldn’t run away, and they kept them there to have sex with until they’re ready to be eaten. So they’re sort of like a deep freeze for food and sex.”
The tales of cannibalism are well documented, but the spiking women’s feet is news to me.
However 200 years ago, many bad things happened. The US had slaves. Women were almost chattels. That is not to say that all cultures were equally good or bad. But the key thing is most cultures have evolved.
Ah, those were the days. Mr Crimp followed up by saying that although Maori in Invercargill are “anglicised” and “part of our community”, Maori people in South Auckland are “still savages, on welfare or in jail”. A few years ago, he came up with a plan for making some cash off the people who shared these views, by setting up an all-white retirement village in Invercargill to lure people down from South Auckland. “I couldn’t proclaim it being white, but somehow or another I would say that it was a predominant Anglo-Saxon society, you know.” But he couldn’t secure the land, and the plan fell through.
Oh Good God. White enclaves. I suspect Crimp’s views could only be formed in an area like Invercargill (not meaning people in Invercargill are racists, but they have relatively few Maori there). If, like me, you went to a school with many Maori, went to a university with many Maori, have worked in jobs with Maori colleagues – you know not to apply stereotypes to individuals.
Te Reo is Mr Crimp’s kryptonite. His aversion to the language is strong enough for him to pay for his five-year-old granddaughter to attend a private school in a failed attempt to shield her from having to learn it. He also cancelled his long-running subscription to the Southland Times after they included a single Maori word in their crossword.
That is pretty nuts.
Mr Crimp has made millions through his various property ventures, and has gained many supporters in Invercargill for his charitable donations, including over $1 million each to the SPCA and the St John Ambulance Service. In an attempt to see the other side of Louis Crimp, I asked him about his reasons for these donations.
Mr Crimp’s philanthropy began when his lawyer told him he should “get out and spend” his millions before he died. But this was no easy task. Mr Crimp says that from an early age he has was forced to “watch [his] pennies” — “I was the oldest boy in Southland who had a paper run, at the age of 16, because we were poor, my family.” Having visited his house, I can confirm that Mr Crimp is not prone to extravagant spending – while he lives in a large house, his furniture is old-fashioned, and his TV is smaller than you’d find in most student flats.
After his lawyer’s comments, Mr Crimp “started dishing it out to people I think who needed it.” He was attracted to the SPCA, “because most of their work is done by volunteers. It’s the same with the St John ambulance…Yeah, there’s a lot of people who do some good in this world without pay.”
As I read the profile, I actually feel a bit sorry for Crimp. It must be pretty miserable to be so fearful of Maori.
Mr Crimp’s generous side is forced to sit next to his habit of saying incredibly offensive things. One of Mr Crimp’s stories demonstrates this duality. He lends “money out to poor suffering people sometimes” at a special low-interest rate. He loaned $7000 to a Maori woman who needed a lung cancer operation, but it turned out “it was all bullshit, she wasn’t sick at all”. Mr Crimp was understandably aggrieved, but does himself no favours whatsoever by describing the woman as “just a cheat, a big black Maori cheat”.
After that comment, he relented a little: “She’s had a pretty rough life… Yeah I’m feeling sorry for her already, she hasn’t got a job, she’s got a boyfriend who beats the hell out of her, she hasn’t got any money, oh God.”
Interviewing Mr Crimp made me think of Levi Hawkins, aka the “Nek Minnit” guy. He’s a real, multi-faceted human being, yet we all essentially know him as an amusing dancing bear, a sideshow. When he gets approached on the street, people ask him to say his catchphrase. By seeking out Louis Crimp solely for the purpose of getting outrageous quotes, I was guilty of the same dehumanisation. On the other hand, some of the quotes are pretty damn funny. It’s a difficult balancing act.
I think the article gets the balance about right.
I asked Mr Crimp about his views on gay marriage, secretly hoping for some more controversy-laden denouncements. But his prejudices against Maori don’t seem to extend to the rainbow community. “I couldn’t care less. If Sir Elton John can work it, and write beautiful songs and stuff…”
What a good attitude! I think very few people are really worked up against gay marriage. Most people are fine with it.
He paused. “Are you a fruit?”
I mentally searched through my encyclopedia of 1950s slang, past “buffoon (medical diagnosis)” and “colour, person of”, and realise he’s asking whether I’m gay. “No.” “Neither am I.” As if to underscore his acceptance of all different lifestyles, Crimp continued: “I got a nephew that is, and he’s a nice guy, he’s tall dark and handsome, and clever. I remember I was with him one time over in a pub here, and I said to him: ‘That woman second from the end on the pokie machines, she’s a hooker.’ ‘Oh, go and get her out uncle, we’ll fuck her.’ I said, ‘Oh I thought you were a fruit?’ He says ‘Yeah but… both ways,’ he said.”
Heh, not sure his nephew will appreciate that story being told
Mr Crimp told me he has been divorced for 15 years, and noted that “now people don’t get married, they just have partners.” He then demonstrated his trademark tact and diplomacy with a series of questions. “Have you got a partner?” Yep. “How long have you had her?” Three years. “Oh. Does she want to get married?” Yeah, eventually. “Do you want to marry her?” Yeah, maybe in a few years. “But not at the moment.” No, not right now. I’m too young. “So you don’t love her. You just use her for shagging practice.”
Crimp’s Maori counterpart, Hone Harawira, is known for making outrageous generalisations about a particular race, yet interacting normally with people of that race in person. I get the feeling Crimp is similar. It’s like the way Otago students can make harsh generalisations (“Anyone who votes for John Key is a moron”/“Socialists are the spawn of Satan”) and yet have close friends from across the political spectrum.
Crimp as the counterpart of Hone. A bit harsh on Hone.
Overall, the 79-year-old Crimp gives the impression that he has unfinished business, and that he just doesn’t care what people think about him any more. “I want to wind things up and piss off, retire, you know. And if I could do something for Invercargill, that’s get rid of the ILT (Invercargill Licensing Trust).
Now that sounds worthwhile.
And if I could do something for NZ, [it would be to] have the Maoris be just like … all New Zealanders.”
Umm – Maori are New Zealanders.