The Dom Post looks back at Carmen’s 1977 campaign for Mayor. I recall that campaign as a 10 year old – it was very funny.
Flamboyant transgender businesswoman Carmen lit a bomb under Wellington’s 1977 mayoral race, much as she had shaken up its social life over the previous decade.
Carmen, born as a Taumarunui lad named Trevor Rupe, ran against incumbent mayor Michael Fowler in a campaign that featured bared breasts, a shock engagement, and strippers stopping rush-hour traffic. Her slogan was “Get in Behind”.
“I am easily the best candidate,” Carmen told 1000 university students at a debate that August.
“I am better looking than Sir Francis [Kitts], I am more charming than Michael Fowler and I could beat [Values candidate Tony] Brunt in a brawl any day.”
A great line.
Her mayoral campaign was the brainchild of property baron Bob Jones, and funded by a group of Right-leaning businessmen tired of inaction under Robert Muldoon’s first government.
“If Carmen was mayor, so our logic ran, nothing would ever happen and citizens would have a respite from ever-increasing rules and regulations,” he wrote in The Dominion Post in 2007.
“Carmen cut a grotesque figure, as might be expected of a 136-kilogram King Country Maori bloke wearing a dress and flaunting massive breasts,” Jones said.
Another prominent Dominion ad listing dozens of Carmen’s supporters sparked a protest when Jones added to the list without their consent a dozen “highly conservative QCs, businessmen and other city hierarchy”, he said.
In retaliation, one of the named luminaries organised a dozen bare-breasted strippers to parade along Kent Terrace on election eve, October 7, bearing placards with indecent comments about Jones and Carmen’s other backers.
Some of those QCs were very very upset!
In one last publicity stunt before the election, Carmen announced her engagement to top investor and businessman Ron Brierley. Gamely playing along, Sydney-based Brierley discussed the engagement ring and honeymoon when interviewed by Radio Windy, but his investment firm’s share price fell, and one director threatened resignation.
Jones played many jokes on Brierley, as recounted in his Letters books