One of New Zealand’s favourite headline-grabbing eccentrics and someone dear to many in the gay community, Anna Hoffmann, has died in her Napier home. The 76-year-old was known for many things, including being a witch, spending time in prison after selling marijuana to an undercover policeman in Auckland, being part of a fun Auckland social set in the 60s – and with a reputation as a femme fatale she said was “overrated”. From The Trouble With Murder (Gibson Group) Among Hoffmann’s gay friends were gossip columnist David Hartnell, Shanghai Lil’s pianist Billy Farnell and writer/TV producer David Herkt. Herkt says she was one of the great Bohemian figures of New Zealand life. “Her life was lived on the edge of legend in a country which has few such figures.” He says she was born in Papatoetoe but ran away to Australia in the 1950s, where she cavorted with the New Zealand-born 'witch of King's Cross' Rosaleen Norton, was deported, and sent home penniless. Back in Auckland she became the first women to be arrested for possession of marijuana in New Zealand and was imprisoned for the crime. “Anna was the member of an early 1960s Auckland set which included jazz pianist Billy Farnell who, in a drab era, was famous for his make-up and his MG sports-car,” Herkt says. He adds there are photographic records of Hoffmann actually stopping Auckland traffic in Vulcan Lane simply by her dress and her presence. Picture thanks to Cazimir Hendery “Anna loved headlines - the more the merrier, and she got them including 'Gruesome Goings On in Grafton Gully' about a hoax black magic ceremony, and more lately her claim she possessed the skull of Ned Kelly, the Australian bush-ranger. “Anna was infinitely sweet, and a real charmer. She was loyal and devoted to her friends. She was a petite woman without fear. New Zealand life is poorer without her.” Something of a sex siren in her time, Hoffmann’s autobiographies include Sapphic tales too. However in a 2012 interview she told the NZ Herald’s Michelle Hewitson that sleeping with women was “just part of growing up”. She added she didn’t think she was ever really a lesbian. "I was just caught up in the moment." Hoffmann died on Saturday after a battle with cancer. She will be farewelled in Napier. Before she died she told the New Zealand Herald she’d already chosen her coffin, which was lined with purple velvet. She is to be cremated, with Billy Farnell among those who will receive some of her ashes. "I expect it will be a tiny, rowdy farewell," Hoffman told the newspaper. "I'm finding out I'm being remembered more fondly than I ever dreamed and I'm quite touched by that. As long as when people think of me they have good memories and a good laugh."
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Monday, 15th December 2014 - 11:20am
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