It’s one of the most hilarious internet sensations of all time: the enigmatic arrest of a man in Sydney back in the ‘80s. However, beyond his quotable catchphrases of “Democracy manifest” and bizarre behaviour lies one burning question; who was this man?

For years now, folks have shared the viral internet video which purportedly depicts the arrest of a man in Sydney. The man in question is said to be Paul Charles Dozsa, a Hungarian-born Australian chess master who gained fame as a “restaurant runner” back in the ’80s.

The video, often paired with references to it being one of the most eloquent arrests of all-time, depicts Dozsa being led into a waiting car by police officers as he valiantly resists their efforts.

Armed with a voice that Shakespearian actors would die for, every moment of Dozsa’s dialogue is quotable, from lines such as “gentlemen, this is democracy manifest”, “what is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?”, and the classic “I see that you know your judo well”, the video almost appears to have been scripted with the intention of going viral.

However, there’s one small problem at play here here; that’s not Paul Charles Dozsa in the video.

Check out the iconic ‘Democracy Manifest’ video:

In an article written back in 2015, newspaper clippings described the man known as Paul Charles Dozsa (by the way, his actual website was truly something else) as a prolific user of the dine-and-dash technique, having been arrested 54 times (by 1995, this total had risen to 111) for his behaviour.

One article claims Dozsa was a former chef, while it was also noted that he had apparently used all manner of techniques for skipping out on a bill, including “forgetting” his wallet at home, and even feigning a heart attack and asking the restaurant to call an ambulance.

However, the man known as Paul Charles Dozsa reportedly passed away in 2003, with many who knew him coming forward to share the stories they knew about him.

In a 2012 post on the OzChess forum, one user noted that upon his arrival in Australia in 1965, Dozsa was “wanted by police in Hungary, Indonesia and by Interpol”, and noted he had also raised the suspicion of New Zealand police while playing chess in Christchurch.

“Dozsa described himself as a Hungarian nobleman and was always very well dressed wearing a cravat etc and gave the impression that he was a person of wealth and owner of a string of high class restaurants,” the user explained.

“In those days Dozsa stayed in the finest 5 star hotels (under a variety of names) in all Australian cities but very consistently left before paying the bill. Dozsa regularly dined and wined in Australia’s best restaurants.

“His knowledge of food and expensive wines was unique. Of course from time to time he ended up in jail.

“Every time he guaranteed to the magistrate that he was extremely sorry for his actions, complimented the restaurant as serving the best food and wine he had ever had – his stated remorse led to a lighter sentence.

“Dozsa considered himself as the most famous person in the world for not paying restaurant bills and he told everyone he met of his achievements. On a number of occasions I told him as did others that he was a serial pest and a menace to society.”

A pair of articles outlining the behaviour of Paul Charles Dosza.
A pair of articles outlining the behaviour of Paul Charles Dosza.

However, the general consensus of all of the people who claimed to have spent time with the real Paul Charles Dozsa is that while the charges alluded to in the iconic video add up, the man in the film is not him.

One person who commented on a 2013 article discussing the video vehemently claimed that “this is definitely not Paul Dozsa!”

“He spoke with a distinctive accent, not like Sean Connery, didn’t even look like this actor in this video,” Susan Bako explained. “He was heavier with beard and curly greying hair. His nose, his eyes were different.

“This wouldn’t be his figure of speech, he never raised his voice, so this is a reenactment. Knowing his sense of humour, he would have invited the cops for dinner.

“Yes, he has been arrested many times, but this video is not one of them. When he was arrested, he went quietly, never argued, he was too polite for that. He was an intelligent man with mental health issues.”

Some have taken this information to heart, creating facial comparisons of the two men to disprove their sameness, and even speaking to people who claimed Dosza had kept his distinctive Hungarian accent until his death – a far cry from the dulcet tones of the man shouting “ta ta, and farewell” and “democracy manifest” to onlookers.

Lastly, there’s the fact that the life story of Paul Charles Dosza is indeed a complicated one. In fact, he used a number of fake names to the point that when he passed away, neither Crimestoppers or close friends believed he had actually died.

A 1995 article about the real Paul Charles Dosza
A 1995 article about the real Paul Charles Dosza

So the question that needs to be asked is, just who is the man in the “democracy manifest” video? Well, our best source of information at hand, is that of the iconic video itself.

One thing that many viewers appear to miss is the fact that the footage of the arrest is actually professionally shot. Rather than appearing to be candid shots of a man being baled up into a police car, it was filmed with what appears to be a three-camera setup at least, with a number of seamless cuts taking place throughout.

This of course begins to lend credence to Susan Bako’s claim that the footage is that of a reenactment. But, the question then asks not only why a reenactment was needed, but who the man at the centre of the video is (and why he never acted again as far as we know).

Interestingly though, some folks have even claimed that the man who appears to be playing Dosza in fact late Australian politician John Bartlett, who does actually look a lot like the man.

While Bartlett was born in England (which would explain the posh nature of the actor’s voice), he also didn’t enter state politics until 1999 – more than 10 years after the footage was shot. Sadly though, Bartlett passed away back in 2008, making it hard to chase him up for more information.

On a bizarrely related note, British comedian Simon Day confidently name-checked John Bartlett as the man in the video during his 2014 series The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern in which a fake charity single named ‘Succulent Chinese Meal’ is mentioned as one of the most popular of all time.

Check out Brian Pern’s ‘Chinese Meal’:

So what do we know? Well, we know that Paul Charles Dosza was a real person with a real criminal record for having skipped out on bills at Australian restaurants, and we know that he eventually passed away in 2003.

We know that the famous footage is in fact professionally shot, most likely for a reenactment or television event, and we know that the person who stars in the footage is not actually Dosza at all.

What we don’t know is who the video’s starring role belongs to, why it was filmed, and why it is such a mystery after all these years.

Some folks over at Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries forum seem to be of the belief that the infamous footage of the man shouting “Democracy manifest” could in fact be a spoof or a satire of a real life incident, though its origins remain murky.

So at this stage, it appears as though the circumstances behind one of the world’s most infamous viral videos might remain a mystery for quite some time unless someone in the know is able to come forward with firsthand experience of the incident and its filming in question.

Until then, we might be left to wonder about one of the most esoteric mysteries anyone has ever heard of. In the immortal words of that iconic fellow, ta ta for now.

UPDATE 17/06: In a shocking case of synchronicity at work, it appears that at the same time this article was being written, Brown Cardigan posted a video of the man himself spouting a few lines from the famous clip as a way to prove his identity. We’ve sent Brown Cardigan a message seeking more info about the clip.

Check out Brown Cardigan’s recent Facebook video:

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