Remembering ‘Succulent Chinese Meal’ Scandal: Australia’s Quintessential Viral Sensation

On a calm October night in 1991, an unusual arrest occurred outside a Chinese restaurant in Fortitude Valley. Reporter Chris Reason and his crew captured the incident on video, later known as the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal. 

Despite the incident occurring in the ‘90s, it wasn’t until 2009 that the video, now dubbed the “Democracy Manifest” video, found its way onto the internet and ignited curiosity and speculations. The Guardian later dubbed the viral video Australia’s definitive meme of the decade. The story of the “Succulent Chinese Meal” became an internet sensation and garnered millions of views on YouTube.

The man’s theatrical exclamations, such as “This is Democracy Manifest!” and the unforgettable “Get your hand off my penis!” that immortalized the event. 

His audacious inquiries to the officers—”What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?”—and his commentary on an officer’s judo skills not only infused the incident with humour but also cemented its place in the annals of internet legend.

But who was the man being arrested in the video? Initially, theories erroneously pointed to Hungarian chess master Paul Charles Dozsa, but the true narrative took a turn in 2020.

With a colourful history of serial prison escapes and allegations of credit card fraud, Jack Karlson stepped into the spotlight in a music video by The Chats, confirming his role in the iconic meme.

Mistaken Identity?

The backstory of the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal is as tangled as it is captivating. Mr Reason, the reporter at the scene, later revealed the arrest to be a dramatic case of mistaken identity, with police believing they had cornered one of Queensland’s most sought-after fugitives. 

Yet, as more details surfaced, it became evident that Karlson was under suspicion for a string of frauds. Known by various aliases, including Cecil George Edwards and Johann Kelmut Karlson, his true motivations and identity remained mysterious until he embraced his viral fame, attributing his theatrical display to a ploy aimed at being deemed insane for an easier escape.

The Truth Revealed

The tale took another twist in 2021 when Seven News revisited the incident, featuring interviews with Mr Reason and the meme legend himself, now going simply by Jack. His reluctance to provide a last name added another layer of intrigue and charm to the enduring “Succulent Chinese Meal” mystery.

In 2023, the narrative deepened with the release of Mark Dapin’s biography, “Carnage: A Succulent Chinese Meal, Mr. Rent-a-Kill and the Australian Manson Murders.” 

succulent chinese meal fortitude valley
Photo Credit: Amazon

Dapin’s investigation into Karlson’s life and connections to other notorious figures and events in Australian criminal history offered a comprehensive view of the enigmatic figure behind the meme.

In February 2024, and the enigmatic Mr Karlson finally shed light on the events of that day. In a candid interview with New Zealand comedian Guy Williams, he admitted to fabricating the claim of physical impropriety by the police for dramatic effect. The revelation came alongside discussions of his life’s complexities, from his incarcerations in Australia’s most notorious prisons to his multiple escapes and the tragic murder of his wife, intertwined with Australia’s criminal underworld.

From its origins as a quirky news segment to its status as a subject of scholarly and journalistic inquiry, the “Succulent Chinese Meal” scandal remains a fascinating chapter in Australia’s cultural and digital landscape, blurring the lines between criminality, performance art, and the whims of internet fame.

Published 15-March-2024