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Editorial: The sad conflict over Carmen's legacy

Thu 29 Mar 2012 In: Community View at Wayback View at NDHA

The battle of words raging over the legacy of the late Carmen Rupe has exploded into a full-fledged war. How it will play out is anyone's guess. GayNZ.com became aware of undercurrents of conflict and schisms even before Carmen's funeral. The funeral itself was not without difficulty and even the presence of a Carmen tribute float in the Mardi Gras parade left noses out of joint. Out of respect for Carmen and those close to her, and in the hope that the inflamed passions would reach some kind of equalibrium and mellow out - or collapse from exhaustion - we chose to let the matter play itself out in Facebook postings. It was a vain hope. Facebook, and other internet-based facilitators of keyboard conversations, at once depersonalise and intensify passions and conflicts. Things have become worse week by week. Ground zero for much of the conflict has been Carmen's Facebook profile. Sydney woman Pindi Hurring, sometimes known as Pindi Rochelle, was entrusted by Carmen with running her Facebook presence as the ageing diva became too frail to continue. It became a conduit for reports on Carmen's deteriorating health, a place to share stories and for Carmen's messages to her friends and those touched by her to be posted. Some time after Carmen's death the page became a memorial and tribute site and soon those with issues around Carmen's legacy became increasingly drawn to the spirited and increasingly blunt conversation to which Hokitika-based Tranny Granny Jacquie Grant, who has known Carmen closely since the 1950s, and Hurring were prominent contributors. But others, from within and without Sydney's Trans community, have also weighed in adding their support to various postings, allegations and counter-allegations. At the heart of the allegations, mostly posted in that Carmen Memorial Facebook profile, which last night completely disappeared from view, are claims that money has been illegally accepted, a person arrested for fraud and a slew of other irregularities, all unsupported by actual evidence and therefore potentially a defamation minefield. It surprised those of us with an understanding of publication and defamation law that the allegations were allowed to remain on public view, thus putting access to the rest of the contributed information, photos and memories of Carmen at risk of being shut down. There are strong personalities and emerging factions at work here and even from a journalistic remove it is difficult to unpick it all to make some sense of the increasing crescendo of personality conflicts, turf wars and differing viewpoints. Some of the allegations are immensely disturbing, the more so if they are true. But it would be opening GayNZ.com up to defamation action to publicly detail and explore them. However, in every case where we have so far tried to shine a little light on allegations there is no actual proof available to us. No reputable independent sources quoted. There needs to be some putting up of cold, hard, unvarnished and verifiable facts and evidence by the accusers. Even the accused could help contain the damage to Carmen's legacy by confronting their accusers with their evidence of the truth. A classic example is the embattled director of the newly-established Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust's Advisory Committee, Kelly Glanney of Sydney, who has denied a number of remarkable allegations made against her. Glanney is just one of those enmeshed in this unedifying saga who really, for Carmen's sake, needs to front up with some basic documentation which would lay some of the allegations to rest. Instead, in a statement to GayNZ.com she engimatically says: "I have in my possession substantial documentation I could use to refute the bizarre allegations Jacquie Grant has made (...)  but for now will simply say her comments are totally unwarranted and without any basis in fact." Huh? Who and what are we all to believe? Where are the rights and wrongs, where does any moral authority in this ferrago actually rest and who, short of Kofi Annan, can prevent the further escalation of this sad state of affairs. Should our New Zealand glbti communities who respected Carmen so much be presented with any actual evidence then that will be another matter, but for the moment its pretty much all "She says..." "No, she says..." The sad thing is that most of the people caught up in the momentum of this mess are considered to be good people at heart and with a personal respect for Carmen. But day by day every person associated with Carmen's legacy of glamour, visibility and hutzpah in the face of persecution is in greater danger of having their reputations badly, perhaps irrevocably, damaged. There is much we cannot legally report, much that we still only half understand. We ourselves are coming under increasing direct and indirect attack for attempting to impartially interpret the situation and inform our readers. In the meantime the punch and counterpunch plays out in the good name of our communities' late goddess, Carmen Rupe. GayNZ.com Daily News will stay the course and report on those aspects of the situation which most clearly and broadly impact on Carmen's legacy and memory for the thousands of glbti people in New Zealand for whom Carmen was a big-haired, ever-smiling, unapologetic beacon. We're doing what we can to professionally pick our way through the gordian knot that this matter has become, aware that because of its many-layered complexity we may never be able to do the matter justice or explain it satisfactorily. - Jay Bennie     Jay Bennie - 29th March 2012

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Thursday, 29th March 2012 - 8:20pm

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