There’s been this fascinating (in an awful kind of way) story going on in New Zealand, where the 85-year-old multi-millionaire businessman called Sir James Wallace has been sent off to prison for sexually abusing three young men.
What makes this whole story so strange — and something that’s been written about at length — is how it all kinda happened in plain sight.
That’s because after making his money off his family’s meat empire (Boggis, Bunce and Bean come to mind) he poured a lot of his $165 million fortune into the arts, amassing New Zealand’s largest private art collection. He also poured a lot of money into supporting young, and almost exclusively male, artists: painters, theatre makers, TV and film makers. And many of those young men ended up being invited to his house, and it’s there, at Rannoch House, that some of them would be assaulted.
Boiling it down to its most simple — an incredibly rich meat man held a tonne of money and to unlock it you’d go to his house and jump through his hoops and you might get his money.
You’d see him out at the opera or at a play opening or a movie premiere, and there he would be, flanked by some young man or men. It turned into a joke.
A comedian staged a play about it — no names were used, but there were the drunken dinner parties where an old man would request that dinner guests all take their shirts off. People went and they laughed and they felt a bit ill, but nothing changed.
There was this idea, I think, that everyone knew what the game was — and because they were young men, they could sort of look after themselves. Entering Rannoch House was simply a weird episode of Fear Factor, but instead of eating a cockroach to get your $10,000 you’d get a slap on the bottom or maybe a tongue in the ear.
Of course this was a convenient idea to hold.