He has travelled further than any political columnist in the country. He has witnessed things nobody talks about in production meetings. He has rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful in situations so weird they border on the unexplainable.
He once walked up to Penny Wong, whose face was obscured by a green clay mask, and said “meow”. One time he drank a magic mushroom milkshake, performed the “mangina” and tried to stop Anna Bligh from reaching into his pockets. Then there’s the night he sat in a girlie bar located on a dirty Hong Kong street until the wee hours of the morning, drinking beers and chewing the fat with Osama bin Laden — or “Osmond,” as he liked to be known at the time.
Every week since 2009 Sunshine Daily Coast journalist Mark Bode has lined the pages of his weekly column with mind-melting pizzazz, recounting extraordinary interactions with politicians and celebrities and dark excursions within himself. There will, sadly, be no more. This week Bode hung up his cape as Australia’s most fearlessly OTW political columnist.
To mark Bode’s departure, time for a quick revisit to two classics. In a September 2011 piece Crikey (accurately) labelled one of the most bizarre pieces of political analysis ever written in Australia, Bode discussed a love triangle between himself, his ex-girlfriend and Stephen Smith:
“In a world where people compete against the vociferousness of our creations and now don’t so much speak but screech, and a splash of colour is rarely enough, Stephen Francis Smith is a welcome enigma.
“The Defence Minister and touted candidate for Julia Gillard’s job has used his genial nature to become a political force.
“He’s refreshingly non-intrusive, politically adept, articulate, intelligent and likeable.
“In another life, the Roman Catholic could have been a skilled police negotiator, or the straightest of priests.
“There’s another word that has been used to describe him — expressionless.”
“We were in the midst of regaining our composure when Rudd arrived. It turned out he was camping nearby with his family.
“After refusing to shake our hands and telling us to “sit the f*** back down”, he lambasted us for waking up his family with our ‘ridiculous f****** behaviour’.
“He then picked up the stick that was once in my hand and said: ‘If I hear another peep out of you lot, I’ll beat you to death! …
“The attack ended as suddenly as it began — our bruised bodies the canvases on which our tormentor had cruelly left his mark.”
The fact that Bode’s many strange adventures (some of his back catalogue can be read here) may not have actually transpired is not really the point. Love him or hate him, Bode’s weird rants — heavy on emotion, high on hallucinogenic prose — occupied a league of their own in a industry regularly criticised for regurgitating same-old same-old reportage.
Hunter S Thompson invented gonzo journalism by placing the writer as the central component of the story, the subjective universe around which everything else orbits: perception and reality, the who, what, why, where and when. Bode took gonzo, smothered it with an ether rag and battered it with the rump of a dead unicorn, as if to highlight the metaphysical extremities of where the form can lead. No more will the Crikey office hear the words “it’s Mark Bode day!” screamed every Friday morning.