Their democratic right to protest aside, many would regard the ragtag collection of protestors who have turned out regularly for the anti-lockdown protests as serial pests. The same faces, spruiking the same agendas, regularly appear at the Sydney and Melbourne protests and unmasked, they have no problem being documented by the media.
Whether frustration with the extended lockdowns, vaccination and the various COVID conspiracies, are the prime motivating forces is open to debate. What’s not in question is their willingness to shun the broader public opinion and become pariahs in the process. It’s a kind of bravado that some of Australia’s less political but brazenly eccentric serial pests have adopted over the last half century or more.
The legendary Bea Miles was without a doubt Sydney’s most famous serial pest during the 1950s although she was better known as a kind of loveable bohemian rebel. She was infamous for her stormy relationship with Sydney’s taxi drivers, often dodging fares or offering to recite Shakespeare in return for not paying. On the other hand she once supposedly took a cab from Sydney to Perth and back again, forking over a whopping six hundred pounds at the time.
She constantly attracted the attention of Sydney’s tabloid press, however after ripping the door off a taxi in retaliation, her eccentricity began to wear thin. ‘Pest’ is probably an unfair description for Bea, unless of course you were driving a hack at the time. When her colourful life finally expired in 1973 many cabbies heaved a sigh of relief although there have been many serial fair evaders since.
When it comes to bona fide serial pests, few would argue with that description applying to the notorious and almost universally disliked Peter Hore. Hore, who apparently suffered from schizophrenia, had an uncanny knack of denting the Australian psyche and upsetting millions with his outrageous stunts during the 90s and early 2000s. In 1997 he ran onto the pitch during a World Cup football qualifying match between Australia and Iran, the disruption often blamed for Australia losing the game. Similar stunts occurred at the 1997 Melbourne Cup and the Australian Open Tennis in 2000.
What really turned public opinion against him was his gate crashing of Michael Hutchence’s much publicised funeral in 1997 at St Andrew’s Cathedral, where he suddenly appeared screaming “I am the second coming”. In more recent years Hore has been detained by police at the slightest suspicion that he might attempt a similar stunt. In 2014 he was apprehended by counter-terrorism police at Hamilton railway station, about to board a Sydney-bound train just hours before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were set to greet the masses at the Opera House.
The expression ‘dine-and-dash’ might be new to many, but in the 80s and 90s it was made famous by Australia’s most infamous restaurant runner, Paul Charles Dozsa. The Hungarian-born, Australian chess master, mastered the art of dining at the best restaurants, drinking their finest wines, then doing a skip. Arrested and convicted over 50 times, he was often forced to make recompense but manipulated the legal system to avoid any serious punishment. Dozsa died in 2003 but in 2009 a bogus clip of one of his supposed arrests was uploaded to YouTube, further adding to the mystery that surrounded his life. Serial pest, serial glutton, serial gourmet or serial unpublished food critic? Take your pick!
These days, the serial pest is more of a YouTube phenomenon and Jackass style clips prevail. The originators often seek notoriety but more often than not they are out to generate revenue. As such they are looking to win over an audience, not alienating them with malice or acts of aggression. Maybe today’s serial lockdown protestors could follow suit with a similar pest free approach.