Tuesday, 20 Apr 2021

Mural of brothel owner Bill Crowe on Gareth Morgan’s property sparks upset

Gareth Morgan’s artistic tribute to a well-known brothel owner has ruffled feathers in one of Wellington’s swankiest streets.

The mural – splashed across a “tucked away” wall at the front of Morgan’s property – features the late Wellington brothel owner Bill Crowe clinging to a “raunchy” hooker.

“It is a celebration of the notoriety [Crowe] brought to the street,”Jo Morgan, wife of the former The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader, told the Herald on Sunday.

However, not everyone remembered Crowe that way, with one nearby resident describing him as a “creepy man”.

“In this modern age of the Me Too movement, it’s demeaning to women and we don’t want our women, particularly young women exposed to that, it’s bad taste.

“He was a pimp and I don’t feel comfortable with his profile sitting on a wall,” the resident said.

Newstalk ZBhost Heather du Plessis-Allan, who also lives on the street, said: “A part of me wants to love it because it’s fun and colourful but the thing that lets it down is that it’s just a bit stink.”

But while some took offence, others such as nearby resident Lynne Bickley said it was humorous and described it as a tribute to the “legacy of the neighbourhood”.

“I think it’s hilarious. Being an American I believe in private property rights so despite what everybody thinks, I do think the Morgans have the right to do what they want with their own property,” Bickley said.

Another nearby resident said: “It’s certainly confronting but it’s hilarious.”

The mural was painted by Wellington artists Gabriel Heimler and Anna Proc, who previously lived on the street, and have other similar-style murals around the Capital.

Jo Morgan said there were always people who loved and hated art, adding “it’s a little bit raunchy”.

Crowe’s “gentlemen’s retreat” used to stand on Telford Tce which links on to Hay St, where Morgan’s property is located.

In its day, Crowe’s pad – which has since been bulldozed – hosted parties and discreet liaisons for millionaires, MPs and their mistresses.

Crowe arrived in Wellington as a law student in the early 1940s and quickly made his mark on the night scene.

He became too busy for university, took a job in public service, played in his band at night and organised beauty contests in his spare time.

He worked in the diplomatic service – escorting the Queen and Prince Philip when they visited in 1953 – and was a prime ministerial speech writer before making it big in real estate.

When the owner of a large Auckland escort agency came to Wellington in the 1960s and entrusted him with finding a suitable premises in Wellington, Crowe got the idea for his gentlemen’s retreat.

Famous athletes would regularly turn up – but none ever used any of the more discreet services available, Crowe claimed.

That’s what he previously told the Herald distinguished his place from a brothel or a parlour – “I prefer to call it a club”.

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