The Michelin Man Goes to Jail

This story originally appeared on the Expat Chronicles blog here.

On the day of Halloween in 1977, Christopher ran into his second cousin, Edmond. Like Christopher, Edmond was plugged into Dublin’s criminal world. He and Christopher had bought and sold hash over the years.

Christopher told Edmond he urgently needed to find a “fancy dress,” or costume, for a Halloween party that evening. Edmond told Christopher it was his lucky day. He had a brand new costume, an official Michelin Man outfit. It had a comfortable nylon mask that would not prevent Christopher from drinking at the pace he was accustomed to.

Instead of having to find and pay for a costume at a store, Christopher could just stand a few pints at the pub for his favorite cousin. That is exactly what they did. A couple pints and whiskeys later, Edmond gave Christopher the boxed costume from the trunk of his car and they went their separate ways. Christopher tried on the Michelin Man costume at home.

It was the nicest rubber I had ever felt, all smooth and soft and bouncy, and inside it had these rubber tentacles like an octopus. It was lovely. I put it on in the house but I couldn’t get out the door so I had to take it off again, which I didn’t mind in the least, the sensual feel, the floppiness. It was like something off of the television or outta the movies.

Christopher and his date, dressed up as a plant, went to the Halloween ball at the Lansdowne Road rugby stadium. He got drunk and a good time was being had by all. In his words, “Everybody was in awe of my uniform. I knew I had woken the envy of the multitudes.”

Then all of a sudden the music was turned off. The party stopped and everybody turned to look towards the door. A group of police stormed in looking for the Michelin Man. They immediately cuffed Christopher, in costume, and escorted him out.

The Michelin Man costume had been stolen from a ship anchored in the Dublin Docklands area, where it had arrived from France for a corporate promotional tour of Ireland. Christopher told the police he bought the costume on the street from a guy he had never met. He did not name Edmond. The police charged Christopher with Receiving Stolen Property. Christopher was sentenced to six months in Mountjoy Prison. This was Christopher’s first sentence in a penitentiary, as opposed to short-term lockup.

After a few weeks in Mountjoy, Christopher was moved to Loughan House, a low-security prison in Blacklion, County Cavan. This new facility was heaven compared to Mountjoy. It was a British-style mansion set among rolling, green hills overlooking lakes. Instead of a crowded, concrete prison yard, there were only 40 prisoners in total to enjoy the large fields and fresh, country air. The food was better. One of the prison guards was a chef who not only served good food, but also joked with the inmates and treated them with respect.

The prisoners at Loughan House were not dangerous. Some were nearing the end of long sentences. Most, like Christopher, were serving short sentences for non-violent offenses. It was a stable environment. Nobody was trying to be the toughest guy in the prison. There was no drama or politics.

Christopher found something to complain about — the amount of butter that came with the bread. He casually mentioned the insufficient butter while receiving his lunch. The second time he created a small scandal, raising his voice and threatening. He did not convince them to give him more butter, but he did convince them to send him back to Mountjoy for being “unsuitable.” He estimates he was in Loughan House less than two weeks before being kicked out.

Christopher returned to Mountjoy, sad to be back. That first night in his cell, a prison riot broke out. He had just closed the door of his cell when he heard the first riot noises. “Riot noise” would be the sounds of violence, men yelling, things breaking. Christopher listened to it all, the roaring and screaming. The smell of smoke entered his cell. He couldn’t leave. The smell of smoke while being confined to a nearly airtight space scared him more than ever before in his life.

The riot raged for a couple of hours before the guards put it down. Then Christopher heard single shouts.

“JOHNNER?”

“WHISKERS!”

These would be cousins or friends confirming each other were safe and sound.

“AND WHAT ABOUT FREDDIE?”

“HE’S OK, SENT TO THE BASEMENT.”

This would not be Christopher’s last prison riot.

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