Yesterday we dived into the murky world of Bashford Antiques and the clamp-mad Michael Daniel Albert Organ. Today David Farrier and Hayden Donnell reveal the origin story of the mysterious Mr Organ.
It was meant to be a story about some weird Facebook messages.
Bashford Antiques had featured in a Story story after clamping every person who’d suffered a stray thought about parking outside its Ponsonby store. When people confronted it about its shock-and-awe clamping policy, it started treating them like lepers in the Middle Ages. It was strange. Instead of going into damage control, Bashford was acting like the Queen of England.
We decided to investigate Bashford’s online zingers. But as we went through its litany of burns and owns, one message stood out from the rest: an all-caps legal letter sent to a person who’d left a bad review of the business.
It was grand and ungrammatical; extremely unlawyerly in its over-the-top aggression. And it posed the question: Who was MDA Organ MA [HONS] LLM [HONS]? He wasn’t in the law society database. He wasn’t in the phone book. There was only one result for those initials on Google, and it was deeply weird. Could this “lawyer” be the same MDA Organ who was convicted in 2002 of stealing a yacht as revenge for being evicted from his K Rd sex shop?
People started messaging us as soon as the story was published. Several of them said that whatever impression of independence might be given by the legal letters, Organ was actually deeply connected to the Bashford business.
They said they’d dealt with him as an antiques dealer; that he’d been spotted driving the official company van.
Others said they’d confronted him after being clamped. All their stories were similar: they’d parked outside Bashford and been clamped by a man who asked them to pay $220 in cash, often refused to issue a receipt, and got aggressive when questioned.
If people stalled, he started to put the price up:
“He said if we didn’t pay in 20 minutes we would have to pay an extra $100 to have the clamp removed, and then $100 for every 20 minutes after that. He said he would call a tow-truck and we would have to pay for that as well, and that between us and the other women we would need to pay over $1000 if we didn’t pay him now”, said one clampee.
Everyone who emailed or spoke to us on the phone sounded annoyed and fed up.
One said after a protracted negotiation, the man who clamped her had identified himself as Michael Organ. She pointed us to a photo on the Bashford Antiques Facebook page, saying he was the man in white.
Another sent us a video of a confrontation with Organ.
You can tell it’s Michael Organ, because at 20-seconds in, a stroppy sounding Michael Organ says, “I’ve told you, my name is Michael Organ”.
He is clearly a man who enjoys clamping. It appears to be the reason he gets up in the morning. It is his life-force. This is his card:
And this is a rare photo of one of his receipts.
“There’s been over 300 clamps on these properties,” he announces in the video. “That adds up to a lot of money”.
At $220 per clamp, it adds up to $66,000.
The clampees also sent us a photo. It was very dark and you couldn’t really see him, but we used fancy technology and got this:
Here was Michael Organ, passionate clamper. But was he also the Organ who wrote legal letters with capslock stuck down on his keyboard? More importantly, was he the same person who concocted an elaborate scam to steal a yacht, and once claimed to be a prince and a Count?
There was no way to prove it without photos of yacht-era Organ, and there were none online.
In an effort to track some down, we got in touch with the Herald’s archivists and asked them to pull up the original court report on Organ’s 2002 sentencing.
They came back quickly with the clipping, which blessedly features a picture of a suited Organ staring plaintively into the middle-distance.
Though he’s older and less well-groomed, the goatee still adorns his face. It’s unmistakable.
It’s the goatee of the man clamping cars in Ponsonby; the goatee of former Prince Michael Organe-Schirinski, ex-Count Michael Andrassy-Organe.
The goatee of Michael Daniel Albert Organ.
How did we get here and what does Organ enjoy more – clamping or antiques?
Well, we know from 1996 court records that MDA Organ used to be an antiques dealer.
We also received many emails from people who believed they’d had interactions with Mr Organ in the past. Many of them referenced his:
- Passion for antiques
“Between around September and December 2007 I lived with a guy who was an art collector and used to work at Bashford Antiques occasionally. From memory he had five names, but I can only remember Michael Sullivan Organ (the other two came between Michael and Sullivan). He claimed he had worked for URS New Zealand and made a bunch of money as an engineering consultant and was just living off his art dealing, going to auctions and the like. He looked like a slightly less weathered David Brent, had a terrible goatee.”
One question remains: What is the relationship between Michael Organ (AKA Premiere Clamping Services) and Jillian Bashford-Evers?
When this whole thing started, Bashford-Evers of Bashford Antiques made it sound like she had nothing to do with the man, denying any link to the clamping company.
Then she told Stuff it was “neither here nor there”.
Today we were contacted by multiple sources telling us that Bashford-Evers and Organ know each other very well. Many of them use the word “relationship”, although the exact nature of that relationship is unclear.
Others spoke of Organ “moving in” on Bashford-Evers and the business, isolating her from friends and employees.
One friend said she had cut off contact with Bashford-Evers over Organ.
“I can’t be around her anymore with him there,” she said.
She also confirmed Organ was the same man who’d been convicted of theft in 2002. Bashford-Evers’ business reputation had suffered because of her relationship with him, she said. “She is kind of the victim too. It’s just so sad that she would get involved with this.”
Like the act of clamping itself, it all sounds a bit depressing, confusing and aimless.
We have attempted to get in touch with both Bashford-Evers and Prince Michael Organe-Schirinski, but have had no luck. Questions remain: what do the police know about this? What’s happening to those clamping cash payments? And is Organ really a prince?
FOOTNOTE: This e-mail just arrived in our inbox. For God’s sake, does this ever stop?
“Apparently your Michael was at the Wallace Art Awards last night – several people pointed to him and said – that’s the Bashford Antiques guy!”
Watch out, art world.
Read part three of the Bashford saga here.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.