THIS is a yarn about one of the most infamous stories ever told in the pages of the Newcastle Herald.
The setting wasn't the old workers club or the river or the steelworks or a football stadium.
It was Newcastle Local Court.
A Tuesday. Six years ago.
A man had been arrested a few weeks earlier following an incident at Nobbys that was described to us as "a bit different".
We took our usual position in Court 5 just behind the prosecutor.
Magistrate Truscott was the beak.
We waited and waited, as you do in court, and then some time either just before or just after morning tea we got the signal.
The prosecutor turned and raised his eyebrows. A bloke had made his way from the public gallery to the microphone at the end of the bar table that is reserved for self-represented litigants.
He was a big bloke from memory.
We couldn't see his face.
He stood right in front of us.
The prosecutor to his left.
Truscott went through the usual procedures.
"Are you in a position to enter a plea today?"
"You've got three charges here, how do you wish to plead?"
The prosecutor handed up the facts and record. Truscott read them. She frowned.
"What were you doing?"
The Big Bloke seemed stuck. Then he fumbled, "The facts aren't really what occurred."
Truscott asked about the struggle with the police.
"I just wanted to make myself decent, your honour."
"Why were you there doing that?" she asked. Silence, a shrug, then: "Stupid."
She asked him a few other questions.
There may have been a few minor matters on his record she was curious about and she asked him about his capacity to pay a fine, which was not great.
She gave a brief recitation of the facts that caused a few guffaws from the gallery then slapped him with a $600 fine.
The facts were these: The Big Bloke had parked his car in a no stopping zone on Pasha Way near Nobbys beach.
The coppers came along, noticed the car sitting in a place it shouldn't have been and then noticed The Big Bloke sitting in the driver's seat and a Jack Russell terrier who we would later learn was called Beer.
The Big Bloke had no shirt on and was doing something with his hands.
He spotted the cops and sped off.
The chase swept along Wharf Road reaching speeds of 20km/h.
Being late morning on a Sunday, the traffic wasn't co-operating with a bloke wanting to make a quick get away.
Police radioed in for back-up and by the time The Big Bloke reached Centenary Road he was blocked — near Fannys.
He was ordered to put his hands above his head. The coppers' concern was that he had a weapon. The officers used their batons and capsicum spray to remove The Big Bloke from the car.
Then the author of the police fact sheet included this detail: "The accused had his penis in a 750ml glass pasta sauce jar" as well as other details not fit for a family newspaper.
The Big Bloke was nude except for some loose clothing he'd draped over his lap.
"The accused was still fighting with police and now appeared to be pleasuring himself between bouts of wrestling," the fact sheet continued.
It took four officers to handcuff him.
The jar was removed.
The Big Bloke was placed in a police vehicle. Beer was "secured".
A home-made penis pump, some dirty magazines and a box of lady's stockings were seized from the car.
We got back to the office and recited the yarn to the boss.
Several gawkers started sharing their witticisms in the newsroom.
"Why didn't you interview him?" one tossed up.
What would we have asked?
How was it? What were you thinking? Can I have a look?
The story spread and it was still several hours before it would reach the press.
But the question was - what were we to do with the yarn?
Those at the afternoon news conference didn't know what to do with it.
A couple of them saw the funny side to it.
Down the bottom of page three was the most palatable option, apparently.
But then it hit the Herald's website and it exploded. It set every online record imaginable. Every news website across the globe pinched it. To this day, when you Google "penis" and "pasta jar" a host of rip-offs from the original, including the Tele's cut and paste job, pop up. It floated in and out of theherald.com.au's top 10 most read list for years. It will probably get another boost this weekend.
But if The Big Bloke thought that was the end of the matter, he was mistaken.
Our now former colleague Jeff Corbett couldn't resist. He tracked The Big Bloke down and rang him.
The Big Bloke told Corbo that he was none too happy about what the police had done — that was, turning a private matter in a private car public.
He said it was no one's business and that he wasn't hurting anyone.
He even denied the existence of the pasta sauce jar, saying that there was only a jar of hand soap to wash his hands.
We've come across other public masturbators, flashers and exhibitionists since The Big Bloke, but none has a story like his. Every now and then a junior journo will discover the penis in the pasta sauce jar story and they orbit towards us, their face beaming, their curiosity burning.
And like all tall tales, this one gets longer by the telling. We've walked the corridors of every Hunter courthouse in the six years since and not once have we bumped into The Big Bloke.
He probably learnt his lesson and kept his handiwork indoors.
And no, we don't know what happened to Beer.
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