Paul Charles Dozsa – the Harry Houdini of fine dining

Paul Charles Dozsa

I’ve watched Dozsa’s arrest video and I cannot stop laughing. But his tale is much more surreal than that.

Back in 2012, I ate at a restaurant in Hampstead, London, just outside the Royal Free Hospital where my dad was getting cancer treatment (he’s fine now). After I finished, I got up and walked out and about halfway between the restaurant and the hospital, I realised: I hadn’t paid. Then I asked myself two things – should I carry on or go back and pay? I couldn’t deal with the guilt of leaving without paying so I went back.

For some, eating and skipping the bill is a way of survival. But for others, it’s a form of arrogance and you’re gonna get caught eventually. Paul Charles Dozsa was the finest example. Born in Szeged, Hungary, in 1940, the former chef and world chess champion was eccentric to say the least. He described himself as a “Hungarian nobleman” and liked to wine and dine in the best hotels and restaurants in Australia where he spent his later life. But he didn’t like to pay for the privilege. He regularly left without paying – pleading poverty when asked. How you can say you are of noble heritage and say you’re poor is beyond me but there we are. Dozsa hustled his way through 54 of these acts. Attempt 55 was the final straw.

And that’s where the video comes in. His arrest in 1988 is one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen and gets funnier with every viewing. The ludicrous backstory is the icing on the cake. Every sentence out of Dozsa’s mouth is a thing of ostentatious beauty. The arresting plainclothes officer sounds fed up of Dozsa’s protestations as a group of policeman bundle him into the vehicle. He was a true thespian from start to finish. I could quote his lines forever and I probably will for the next few weeks.

Gentlemen – this is democracy manifest!

Paul Dozsa, upon being put in a “headlock”

Dozsa’s ways of escaping payment included a misplaced wallet, bounced cheques, poverty, and convincing the restaurant that police involvement was a waste of time. As the venues for his crimes were always 5-star establishments, he was discreetly removed without arrest as not to disturb the guests. One such case involved feigning illness to avoid paying.

What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?

Dozsa questioning the reason for his arrest

And the reasons for his crimes? The Hungarian Army had implanted a device in his head. He was half right though. At least with the head part. Dozsa passed away in 2003, apparently from a brain tumour (although the story revelation involved breaking the Hippocratic oath). The tumour might have explained the behaviour and his subsequent cognition. But I’m sure he died as he lived – by the seat of his pants with a full belly and no money to pay for the privilege.

For more info about his life (there’s a lot more, trust me) check out this forum thread. And join me in laughing heartily at his arrest video. RIP Paul Charles Dozsa.

And you, sir? Are you waiting to receive my limp penis?

Dozsa before being shoved into the car

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