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Home > People

Still Warm: Steve Irwin

8 September 2006


Stephen Robert Irwin - zoo-keeper, conservationist, croc-wrestler, husband, father, ordinary bloke and all-round shrieking lovable larrikin - has died.

He was 44.



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Times obit



'Because when they strike it can be that quick that if they're within range, you're dead, you're dead in your tracks.'

- Steve Irwin



'Why did it have to be Steve Irwin? Why couldn't it be someone older like Sean Connery?'

- Daniel, 11, Sydney Morning Herald.

'Food: Steve. Fucking. Irwin.'

- Wikipedia 'Stingray' page, for about
ten minutes.

Yes, why couldn't it have been Sean Connery? Then perhaps we might have been saved Australia's Diana Moment as, sadly, the living embodiment of 'Fair Dinkum' Australia bought the farm to worldwide tearing of hair and rending of clothing. Connery's had a magnificent innings, and final words of 'Shweet Jeshush! A Shtingray!' as the killer fish buried itself up his kilt would have been fitting indeed for a man of his stature.

Steve Irwin died, according to Australian PM John Howard, 'in quintessentially Australian circumstances'. That being, presumably, at the hands, claws, teeth or tentacles or any one of the dozens, nay hundreds, of clawed, tentacled or spiky creatures that hide down your toilet, in your airing cupboard, or off idyllic beaches, waiting for the chance to kill the unwary Ozzie utterly to death.

In his 'Down Under' book, Bill Bryson remarks on the sheer terrifying nature of Australian fauna, and soils his trousers in the knowledge that gruesome, organ-melting death lies around every corner. Ironic, then, that the nation's most outspoken, most confident naturalist is killed by one of its least deadly creatures. The whole episode entirely ruined our daily 'Is Thatcher dead yet?' routine with wall-to-wall coverage of the wrong person dying.

Irwin made a career of jumping on any number of these creatures, wrestling them to the ground and tying them up with their own string, whilst shouting 'Strewth!', 'Crikey'!' and possibly 'Squally pocker dum!' in the traditional Oz stylee. Once the supply of scary, bitey creatures in the Antipodes ran dry, Irwin toured the world, jumping on other people's man-eaters, making for damn fine television, spreading his in-yer-face conservation.

While he cared passionately about endangered wildlife, and raged against man's pointless extermination of species after species, he was criticised for his brash style, his needless risk-taking, and that whole not-feeding-his-nipper-to-the-crocs business. Michael Jackson, the great wimp, only dangled his offspring off a balcony, and you never saw David Attenborough acting like that up a mountain with a band of gorillas.

Blogger Paul Rose asks, comparing Irwin with just about every other TV naturalist in the world: 'Did Attenborough start slapping them on the top of the head, like Benny Hill used to do to that little bald man? Did he let balloons off to fly around their heads? Or try and touch their private parts with an ice lolly? No. He did not. Not on camera anyway.' We firmly believe that if you ever needed an owl punched, Irwin would do it at an hour's notice.

Timothy Treadwell - subject of the recent 'Grizzly Man' film, was another who took illogical risks in the pursuit of conservation and animal film-making. Treadwell believed he could build close relationships with brown bears in the wild, and made TV documentaries of his experiences in Alaska living amongst these notoriously deadly creatures. What could possibly go wrong? Apart from getting killed to death and eaten by the subject of your film, of course. Which is precisely what happened to Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Hugenard. But then, risk-taking for public entertainment is nothing new, and there is a long-history culminating in John Gummer feeding burgers to his children. We're still disgusted after all these years.

Irwin's on-camera recklessness was certainly not staged. He took repeated risks in the name of conservation first, TV pictures second. Or vice versa. The fact that he took these risks at all didn't play well with others in the industry. Most outspoken was survival expert 'Sting' Ray Mears: 'He took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that. Television has become very gladiatorial and it's not healthy.'

And Mears is right. While Attenborough's big budget 'Planet Earth' plays prime-time Sunday night with a lovely Sigur Ros soundtrack, Irwin's varied, shouty and colourful output finds itself strewn across schedules, where endless action, a shouty showboating Steve and loud music pull in an entirely different audience altogether. Undemanding stuff, upsetting the purists by having so much damn fun.

Fun it may be, but Germaine Greer, writing in The Guardian this week, pointed out that while Irwin successfully portrayed himself as a larrikin - an Australian who mocks authority - as a real life Crocodile Dundee and lion tamer rolled into one, he showed little respect for clearly distressed wildlife which would have come quietly without an enormous Australian jumping on their back, shouting 'Crikey' in a very loud voice. Irwin's sainthood, says Greer, was guaranteed through his connections to PM John Howard, who he dubbed, with no irony whatsoever 'the greatest leader the world has ever seen'.

Such is the esteem in which Irwin was held in Australia that he was even offered a state funeral, a sentiment which over-egged the public woe to geninely Diana-esque levels. The state funeral however, was declined, because as his father pointed out, Steve Irwin was just 'an ordinary bloke'. What they should do of course is just feed his corpse to the crocs. It's what he would have wanted, and in fact, he's on record as saying so. And that's what makes Attenborough such a fucking lightweight.

As those at the 'sick bastard' end of the Internet have pointed out, Irwin's is the kind of death we could all see coming a mile off. But then, these are the kind of sick bastards who watch 'You've Been Framed' and think it top-hole entertainment, whilst wondering if there's a too-strong-for-TV version. The voyeuristic nature of television means that video of poor Steve's demise will probably find airtime sooner or later, but would anyone want to watch it? You betcha. We've been crawling YouTube all week, just in case. All we got was a gut-churning film of one man torturing a bear. Oh, well. Any port in a storm.

Take that, you Irwin-killing animal bastards.



Thumbs up!



'There's been talk of a memorial service at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium for Steve Irwin, but hopefully no bright spark will suggest enlisting Sir Elton to sing Crocodile Rock if that event goes ahead.'

- theage.com.au



Rarely has there been such an unambiguous celebrity death as that of Steve Irwin. One by one over the course of the week the minor creases have been quietly, sensibly ironed out - it was more likely to be cardiac arrest than any reaction to the venom; no, Irwin wasn't sticking his fist down the stingray's throat to see if he could tickle its spleen. The world's media has been obliged to concentrate instead on the mass emotional outpourings of Australians, and taking up the cry that Irwin is 'Australia's Diana'. Just with knobblier knees. And more O' Levels.

This comparison leads us to speculate that there may, in fact, be more to this misadventure than the clear documentary footage and unbiased witness evidence will suggest. Surely, before we get too bored and circulation starts to dip again, we should be asking: Who stood to gain from the death of Steve Irwin? Today The Friday Thing asks the difficult, crucial questions in the aftermath of this most mysterious tragedy that we've just this minute decided it is.


1) Irwin consorted with the tycoon and Aussie icon Kerry Packer. Packer died just months ago, *supposedly* of kidney failure. Coincidence?

2) Irwin also described Prime Minister John Howard as 'the greatest leader in the world'. Dangerously close to government secrets, was he the victim of a government agent who injected untraceable slow-acting stingray-mimicking poison into the ball of his foot?

3) Was the stingray inebriated? Was the cameraman French? Was a small white Fiat seen in the sea just moments before the accident? And did the Queen arrange the whole thing because she can't stand Muslims?

4) He had many enemies - other conservationists who disapproved of his gung-ho approach; baby experts; the snakes he used to swing gaily around his tousled head; hairdressers. Who has bought their silence?

5) That was Germaine Greer behind the sandy knoll, wasn't it?









'One of the most realistic, passionate, devoted yet manly people to walk the earth. RIP.'

- YouTuber BigDude4001, on footage of Irwin weeping over a crook croc



'Anyone can catch a crocodile.'

So says the man who for years lived in the shadow of mighty Steve Irwin. The man who refused to be bullied by Irwin's fancy lawyers into dropping the legend 'Crocodile Hunter' simply because big shot Irwin claimed to have trade-marked it. The man who in the midst of the legal hoohah surrounding this rumpus was accused of issuing terror threats to Irwin's Australia Zoo.

'But then what are you going to do with it!'

Note the lack of question mark. This is not because the sentence is more rhetorical ejaculate than inquiry. No. This is because Mick Pitman - or Crocodile Mick Pitman as he prefers to be known - is an arse.

When Steve Irwin was eight years old, his parents established the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. At nine the young freak of nature nature-freak was diving into rivers at night and catching crocs with his bare hands. 20 years later, Irwin had turned the park into Australia Zoo and had embarked on what was to become an astonishingly successful career in TV animal freak-show tomfoolery. But even at his most freak-show tomfoolish, there was always this sense that, no matter how much he might humiliate or exploit a crocodile for the facile edutainment of braying, paying seal-people, he would never even dream of thrusting a screwdriver into its eye.

Not so Crocodile Mick Pitman. For Pitman, a croc is a floating fortune comprised not only of handbags, necklaces and hats, but also of wrist bands, credit card wallets, knife holders, phone holsters, coin purses, hip flasks and back scratchers. Or if you can afford it, he'll stuff the thing whole for you at the drop of a hat.

Check it.

For Irwin, for all his self-promoting bluster and quickly tiresome awe, a crocodile was something special, a miracle of Mother Nature that you could never put a price on. For Pitman, each croc came in at around $30,000 all in. And whereas Irwin would weep over a dead croc, Pitman would salivate and rub his hands in glee.

So - most likely as a result of a combination of lingering animosity over the rumours of bomb threats (no smoke without fire - first rule of the Outback), the overriding feeling that Pitman doesn't actually give a stuff for the noble croc, except in the most literal sense, and the fact that he comes across as a bitter little wannabe (despite the fact that he almost certainly was bullied by Irwin's suits to drop the hunter tag) - this week Mike Pitman received a couple of hundred abusive emails from grief-twisted Irwin fans.

'I'm getting so much stuff like "Hope you catch AIDS" and "Steve Irwin was the only ever Crocodile Hunter",' Mr Pitman told the press. And although we would never stoop to the inhumanity of wishing a fatal disease on Pitman - just because he's a not particularly entertaining and rather mercenary croc butcher - we can't help thinking that if anyone kind of had it coming, *even* more than Steve Irwin did, it was this charmless assassin.

Him or Sean Connery.



'Most of these so called experts, I ask you can you: catch a croc of any size, not using traps? Can they skin a croc of any size? Can you then the utilizes the crocodile and make any product?... Can you then taxidermy any size crocodile in any pose, if not then how can you call yourselves an expert?'

- Crocodile Mick Pitman laying out his illiterate stall

'[Crocodiles] are probably one of the filthiest animals you could get.'

- Crocodile Mick Pitman explaining why he would never dangle his own babies in front of a croc

'Then it was my turn to stuff a croc. Jack pulled out a three footer and gave me all the required stuffing equipment. He told me to make a start and warned me that it's a lot harder than it looks.'

- Crocodile Mick Pitman making his apprenticeship at the hands of German Jack sound even sexier than it actually probably was



1) Roy Horn

2) John Candy

3) Arnold Bennett

4) Karl Wallenda

5) Donald Campbell

6) Captain Oates

7) Michael Hutchence

8) Roy Castle

9) Mark Oaten

10) Jesus



But still...






'My heart melts to know that there are individuals on this planet that really do love and care about whether it survives. My heart also nearly jumps from my chest, when I see his gorgeous face on the screen. Pitty-Pat, Pitty-Pat, what a wonderful and beautiful person Steve is. Terri must be a very special person to have captured his heart and soul. '

- MountainWalkers from North Louisiana, IMDb review of Crocodile Hunter: Cruise



No friend to animals.



Excerpt from the FAQs page on Steve Irwin's site:

'1. Are you still alive?

Ha ha! I've been killed by crocodiles, venomous snakes, spiders. I've even had a beetle crawl in my ear and kill me once. Nah! I'm here to tell you Steve Irwin lives!

Terri's comment: Let's set the record straight! There is a great deal of speculation on the current status of Steve's vital signs. Some are sure that he was devoured by giant Komodo Dragons. Others are confident that a huge Saltwater Crocodile has gobbled him up. Some even think his trip to Africa was his last because of the deadly bite of the Black Mamba. Claims of Steve's death wind up on the news regularly. Whether it's a rattlesnake, toxic beetle, or even falling off a cliff, the main topic of conversation seems to be Steve's mortality. I am here to set the record straight. Since I am with Steve as he dives with sharks, or swings through the trees, I can assure you that STEVE LIVES!...'





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