Gas, grass or ass, no one rides for free: the mohawk mayor

Rebecca Casson


In November 2013 Darryn Lyons, a former celebrity photographer well-known for his colourful antics, was directly elected as mayor of Geelong, the second largest city in the State of Victoria, Australia.  Also known as “Mr Paparazzi” and “The Mohawk Mayor”, Lyons’s leadership lasted just 30 months before the Victorian State Government sacked him and dissolved the entire Geelong Council, revealing a pre-existing culture of bullying that appeared to be compounded by Lyons’s celebrity persona.  How did Lyons’s persona affect Geelong’s newly established procedures for a directly elected mayor?  Drawing on one particularly controversial incident, and using data collected from Lyons’s autobiography, together with media articles, official documents and social media, this article discusses how - as a celebrity politician - Lyons appeared to be unable to effectively separate his celebrity persona from his public persona.  This seemed to drown out Geelong’s important issues, and undermined the legitimacy of local government.  The current literature on directly elected mayors does not include consideration of how electing a celebrity as mayor complicates the problems of legitimacy in local government, and there is a paucity of literature on directly elected celebrity mayors in Australia.  An emerging literature on directly elected mayors primarily addresses problems with legitimacy in contemporary politics, while the literature on celebrity politics changing legitimacy has been well established.  Using the Lyons case, this article examines both literatures and contributes to the national and international debate on directly elected celebrity mayors.


Celebrity politics, populism, legitimacy, directly elected mayors, Darryn Lyons, Geelong.

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