Friday, June 25, 2010
Eugene Goossens conducts the Little Train of Capira
Interesting angle on his life.
Goossens spent nine years in Australia, from 1947 to 1956. He conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and other groups, and was the director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music. He held these positions concurrently until March 1956, when he was forced to resign after a major public scandal, only a year after being knighted.
In the early 1950s, Goossens met Rosaleen Norton, the so-called "Witch of Kings Cross". Norton was known as an artist of the grotesque and for her interest in the occult and erotica, which Goossens secretly shared. They conducted an intense affair, exchanging a number of passionate letters; although Goossens asked Norton to destroy all of them, she kept a bundle hidden behind a sofa.
In early 1956, Goossens visited Europe, unaware that Sydney police were already in possession of his letters to Norton and photographs of her occult activities, which had been stolen from her flat by Sydney Sun reporter Joe Morris, who had infiltrated her supposed "coven". When Goossens returned to Australia on 9 March 1956, he was detained at Sydney Airport, following a tip-off by informants in London; his bags were searched by Customs officials, who found a large amount of what was then considered pornographic material, which included photographs, prints, books, a spool of film, some rubber masks, and sticks of incense.
Although he was not immediately arrested or charged, Goossens naively agreed to attend a police interview a few days later, where he was confronted with photographs of Norton's "ceremonies" and his letters. Faced with the evidence of his affair with Norton — which left him open to the serious charge of "scandalous conduct" — Goossens was forced to plead guilty to the pornography charges. He paid a fine of ₤100; more significantly, the scandal ruined his reputation and forced him to resign from his positions. He returned to England in disgrace.
The scandal was the basis of a novel, Pagan (1990), by Inez Baranay; it also inspired a play, The Devil is a Woman, by Louis Nowra and an opera, Eugene & Roie, by Drew Crawford. The scandal is documented in the film The Fall of the House, directed by Geoff Burton.