Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"Annabella's" anniversary party imagined, illustration by Darian Zam

Marien Oulton Dreyer (1911-1980), was an award-winning , prolific writer and journalist. She won the Walkley Award in 1959 for non-fiction Best Magazine Story article with ‘The Day I Wiggled My Big Toe’. Her satirical play, "Bandicoot on a Burnt Ridge", won her the Journalists’ Club award for 1962-63. A figure who was very much part of Bohemian circles in Kings Cross, she was renowned for giving annual parties for "Annabella', her wooden leg. I was privileged to be able to talk to her son Louis Cooper about her fascinating career and life, and his memories of the locale in the 1940s and 50s.

I was born in 1940 in Melbourne. We all moved to Sydney when I was about five months old, into “Harvard” at the corner of Kings Cross Road and Craigend Street. My brother Joe was born much later in 1955. The birth certificate says my parents were married 1938 . I later requested the marriage certificate and received a reply saying there was no record. My father Rod Cooper had already been married to the daughter of Sir Henry Parkes1 and presumably his quote forms the title of Marien’s more successful play-writing, "Bandicoot On A Burnt Ridge", and was an inside joke.

The period being discussed was a fairly relaxed society. I was growing up at the end of the war and King’s Cross was still essentially a village; still small enough that people knew you. I knew the area and the trouble spots; I felt comfortable and I suspect my parents didn’t worry.

People had gone through a war and wanted to make something of their lives, but they also wanted to have some fun. Ships came into the dockyard in Pott’s Point with several hundred sailors on the loose. In the early to mid 1950s the Vietnam War was underway and US forces were also in and out; Sydney was a recognized R&R centre. It seemed to be accepted, except by those who actually lived there, that The Cross was Sydney’s “red light” district. My bedroom window overlooked the street which had deep doorways . They were used for quick sex, mostly by uniformed people. The building opposite had several hookers residing and at least one bisexual man. French sailors often showed up for a romp . Windows were left open and curtains undrawn; it was a very practical sex ed class!

King’s Cross, when I was growing up, was more “raffish” than “rake-ish”. It could be that many of the “characters” one saw on the street were there because it was The Cross. In other words, they played up to the image. I wasn't aware of police harassment. I felt their attitude in King’s Cross was “so long as you don’t frighten the natives, have a good time”.

The Harvard building where the family lived, in 1966.

As a young child, I really didn’t make the connection between “regular” and “Bohemian” life. I guess I thought everyone lived that way. I was introduced to Dulcie Deamer 2, Ken Slessor 3, Tilly Devine 4 - but no memory of where or when. My memory of (Dame ) Mary Gilmore 5 is of an old, gentle lady dressed in early floating 19th century-style clothes. She had a soft voice and a somewhat salacious twinkle in her eye. “Bumper” Farrell 6 I knew later when I was a court reporter and he’d ask after Marien. Later on in my career, working for TV Week, I had free access and meals at the Chevron-Hilton on Macleay Street and interviewed many performers; Nat King Cole , Mel Tormé. Raymond Burr, Ricky and David Nelson. Diana Dors. The Ink Spots.

I knew Chips Rafferty 7 modestly well. He told me I had my first bath in Sydney in his kitchen sink at the Cross! Dorothea McKellar 8 was old when I met her, and she lived in a cluttered and crowded couple of rooms with lots of mementos. I seem to recall she read the first verse of "My Country" to me as a treat. I sensed Marien visited these people as an equal. She was either looking for memories to make real, or she was seeking character traits to use.

I later came to know and understand that everything was grist for her writing. Marien was writing a column for the New Idea named 'This Week with Marien Dreyer" (1955-62), which was, in effect, a “reality” column about our lives, including using our real names. She didn’t read her work out loud to us that I can recall. I did sometimes see the published result, but I didn’t often read it - why would I? I'd already lived it!

The sixteen jobs she supposedly held between 1937- 1939 (which is lore, and mentioned Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996), I have no knowledge of. I suspect she wanted and needed money. But if it is true, I’m certain all the jobs provided excellent fodder for her later writing. Background and ideas for situations - she took them from anyone and anywhere.

Marien did write a lot, or at least, to me she seemed to spend a lot of her time on a typewriter. It’s one of the reasons I suspect Rod took me out of the way while "the muse was hot". I remember Rod was working as a journalist on a magazine in a loft office and I went with him. I assume it was to get me out from under Marien and her writing. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what he did and who he worked for during much of my early life. I knew he was at AWA when television arrived in 1956, and also worked for GE. I think he was described as a “design engineer”. He seemed to have skills in aesthetics as well as practical knowledge. He didn’t talk very much about it.

Studio publicity shot of Marien, probably the late 1940s.

Rod was tall and handsome man, artistic - painting, drawing - and loved sailing. They mostly seemed to enjoy each other’s company. He was given to sudden, explosive rages and I later discovered these happened when he had been drinking. With both parents creative, some of that energy was bound to boil over into rows. In later years Rod’s drinking and Marien’s hatred of it caused a great many conflicts. I think Marien buried herself in writing.

"Annabella" the wooden leg was part of my entire life. Marien walked slowly and when I was with her I had to walk slowly too in case she needed help. Bending down to pick up something off the floor from a standing position was impossible. I can recall one or two occasions when Marien would go out to a café or perhaps a bar to celebrate Annabella’s “anniversary”.

The most common version of how she came to lose the lower part of her leg was she had a knife thrown at her by a Chinese cook in a kitchen. The wound became infected and at that time medicine was still pretty rough and ready. It was around 1922 and in rural Victoria amputation must have seemed the best solution. Many details were sketchy but having told me Grandpa had beaten his wife almost to death (his violence and cruelty towards his wife was mentioned in a family letter), it’s possible Marien was being very creative at a young age. Did she tell the story for sympathy? Not in my hearing. She told it to explain why she had a wooden leg and did it with humor and panache. It seemed as natural to Marien as writing. It slowed her down somewhat, but it never stopped her and enjoying life. She made a feature of it which is probably one of the best ways to get over such a traumatic incident. I don't know much about my grandparents and relatives and their life in New Zealand or later Melbourne, her father Joseph Dreyer talks about his younger brother Fred, “the writer”, in a note, so there was a literary history (bios incorrectly quote Joseph Dreyer as having had a journalism career).

What was her process for "inspiration" and writing? She certainly smoked a lot. She rolled her own cigarettes and it was a “gimmick” she used at meetings and such. Former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson used his pipe in much the same way: it was a public prop. I think it fair to say she wrote mostly at home. She would start at eleven and write till five. She wrote when she could “fit it in” and I’m sure other household elements went by the board.

Marien with Louis in the apartment at "Harvard" in the early 1940s.

It seemed just about everything was fair game. She wrote a magazine column. She wrote short stories. One act plays for children. Kid’s stories for ABC Radio. Three act plays. She’d get an idea and almost without thinking, she was writing it. Marien had no office, unless you regard the table on wheels at home as an "office". The main area of the apartment was divided in half with a bookcase . On one side was a sofa, chairs and the mobile table which Marien used to write. She made carbon copies of everything and the sofa, which also doubled as a bed, would often seem to be buried under paper. While she might not have all the accoutrements of an office, it was there she seemed happiest and it’s there she wrote the most.

She did spend an awful lot of time at the typewriter. She enjoyed it and it made money; not much to start with but she worked hard at it and seemed to be starting to come out ahead when she died. Apart from actually writing for anyone who would print or publish or perform her work, Marien wrote for the money and what I think might have been the pure sensual love of words and how to use them. The shading of words. Mentally picking just the right word get the thought or idea across. I always felt she was very self-assured.

She did short stories for The Sun, and took me with her when she was delivering work. I have warm memories of the main newspaper floor - I also got to see the inner workings of the ABC children’s show on radio. Marien had written a couple of short plays for them. So those experiences were instrumental to me becoming a journalist.

She liked to have several projects on the go to keep her mind active and alert and could switch fairly easy from one to another. Marien was certainly attentive to detail. You only have to read the production notes for “Bandicoot On A Burnt Ridge” to understand that -but ironically was often slapdash about either finishing a project or how the project looked. If Marien was ever worried about a deadline she never showed it and I suspect she enjoyed writing under that kind of pressure. As a journalist, I wrote under the same pressure and it never worried me and I suspect I got that from Marien. I write better and sharper and I think she did too.

Marien with her trusty typewriter, Rod and Louis looking on, late 1940s.

For the most part she was very outgoing. She enjoyed meeting people and was enthusiastic about lots of “things”. She would take up people - help them in their chosen field. Marien was known for the many letters to the editor in an attempt to sound off on a social injustice. Marien genuinely did not like seeing people being screwed ( she was publicity officer for the King's Cross Protection Association, on the board of the NSW Commission of Peace) and she knew that a letter to the editor was often the best way to get the situation out into the open. I think Marien felt you could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so she used humor to take any potential sting out of her complaint, but she also wrote it in such a way that the message came across loud and clear. Like many Australians of that period, I think she did not trust government or politicians to look after the population and as she got a name, people came to her for help. talking to a great many “little people” she got ideas for stories.

"Story of a Lame Duck" (1951, which had a theme of disabled issues and was autobiographical in basis) was a play I’d never heard of nor knew that Marien had written it. "Bandicoot" I knew because it was clearly set in “Harvard”. I sense Marien got a lot of her personal frustrations out of her system simply by writing about them. While much of her writing was “fiction” it was often heavily based on real events. The lines about softening the butter and yelling out over the balcony came straight from within our family. Rod and my brother and I knew where they came from. The painter character was a real person living in our building. The apartment block opposite which I've already described, was real with the bright light in the window– the hooker would sometimes pull down a blind when she was “working” but the light was left on all day and night. Marien listened to the police radio at home and we knew many of the voices of policemen , and it gave heft and weight to what she wrote in the play. I don’t think any of us worried about it or even commented on it. You live with a writer that’s what happens. She dominated our lives.

Marien's invitation for the "Walkley Award" in 1959, which she won.

There was substantial drama at certain times. Marien knew when she had to “give a performance” and did it well. She seemed not to care how she dressed or looked, except for one thing: her fingernails. I was fascinated when she put on polish (author Audrey Tate mentions her signatures of 'careless dress in skirts and sweaters, but a passion for ornate drop earrings and exotic perfumes'). The “unusual” homemade outfits all contributed to the “Dreyer Mystique”. I don’t think she hammed it up; she simply gave people what they were expecting. Marien enjoyed the theatre and had a great many friends in that industry (early on she had aspirations to go on the stage but because of her leg this wasn't possible). With her I saw a great many shows and learned much about the craft and production. I know we went to a lot at the Minerva Theatre in Pott’s Point, Which was all red plush with excellent acoustics. I later worked there first with an over-shoulder tray to sell ice cream pots and chocolate bars; later as an usher.

At 14 I went to work as a summer-time copy boy at The Sun. and within a few months I was appointed a first year cadet reporter – at that time the youngest The Sun had ever promoted. So from 1955 to 2003 I worked fulltime in the news business; the bulk of it in network TV news as a producer. I was independent at quite a young age even though I still lived at “Harvard”. But because of my working hours, I saw little of my family. And within three years I’d moved away never to again live in Sydney.

Later when I was living in Melbourne, Marien would send me copies of stories and essays and plays for me to read and comment. I think I wrote back offering some thoughts, but not very often; I sensed she was doing it to kind of keep me in the family loop not because she was looking for constructive criticism. Frankly, I don’t think Marien took advice or criticism rather well!

We’d stayed in touch by letters and occasional calls. In 1974 I was sent, in a defence aircraft with other news people to Saigon; I used that trip to visit to my parents and took them out for supper. I think they were more nervous about the meeting than I was. But it was low key and there were no sour moments. They came to Sydney Airport to see me off. I have this memory of my walking down this long ramp to boarding. just before I turned, I looked back and they were standing at the top waving; Marien waved her stick and Rod waved his arm. We waved for two or three minutes. I turned and walked onto the ramp. That was the last I saw them alive.

1 Sir Henry Parkes GCMG (1815-1896), known as" the "Father of Federation" was a politician and journalist and is generally considered the most prominent of the Australian Founding Fathers. He appears on the Australian five dollar note.

2 Dulcie Deamer (1890 -1972) was an influential Australian novelist, poet, journalist and actor. She was a founder and a committee member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Known as "The Queen of Bohemia", she was notorious for doing the splits in her leopard skin on tables at parties into her old age.

3 Kenneth Slessor OBE (1901 –1971) was an Australian was one of Australia's leading poets and journalists, notable particularly for the absorption of modernist influences into Australian poetry. The title of this blog is taken from a line in his poem "William Street."

4 Matilda 'Tilly' Devine (1900 –1970) was a prominent Sydney crime figure, involved in a wide range of activities, but most notable as a madam. She became one of Australia's most famous female criminals.

5 Dame Mary Gilmore DBE (1865 –1962) was a prominent Australian socialist poet and journalist. who was widely read. She appears on the Australian ten dollar note.

6 Frank "Bumper" Farrell (1916 - 1985) , who earlier had a career as a celebrated footballer, was employed in the NSW Police Force 1938-1976. During his long tenure as sergeant of the 21st Division Darlinghurst (Kings Cross) police station in Sydney he was outwardly respected, but his enforcement by harassment and violence was legendary.

7 Chips Rafferty MBE (1909 –1971) was an iconic Australian actor. Called "the living symbol of the typical Australian", he appeared in British, American and Australian productions. Rafferty's career stretched from the 1940s until his death,

8 Dorothea Mackellar OBE (1885-1968) was a poet who published her first work in the London Spectator 1908, and quickly became established and well-known. She is best remembered for her poem, "My Country", with the immortal line "I love a sunburnt country".

Transcribed from an email interview conducted with Louis Cooper in March 2011, and excerpts from a memoir written by Louis especially for this blog.

© 2011 Darian Zam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, photocopied, transmitted, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature,without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Redrawn by Darian Zam from and uncredited publicity photo

I realised I was musical at about age 5,6. From that age I wanted to play Clarinet. Dad had a great record collection of Swing music - Artie Shaw and the like. On my 9th birthday he sent me to the train station to pick up a parcel that had arrived. It was a Clarinet! I never had any formal lessons - I just learned the songs from all of his records.

I was born in 1939 and we moved around a lot; from Newcastle to Maitland, then Tamworth. I'm not really sure why. My father was in management of retail furniture shops; probably he was offered better jobs, or transferred. Finally about 1952 we made it to Sydney - I was about twelve by then; first living on the North Shore and then to Mascot.

At 15,16 I started lessons for saxophone and that became my passion. I Have five saxes now. Apart from clarinet I also play flute, drums and percussion and I use piano for composition.I started playing professionally around 1956, 1957 at "Club 11", which was a nightclub in the State Ballroom on Wednesday nights, under the State Theatre in Market Street. At the same time I was playing nights at the "Bel Air" in Woollahra, near Cooper Park.

"Get A Haircut" single, Max Merritt and The Meteors, 1959

Through that, I made connections with a piano player and started playing at the Rockdale Hotel, with "Johhny Rebb and the Rebels" - and that in turn led to Johnny O'Keefe coming into my life. 1. We recorded two 45's - one was "Rebel Rock/Johnny B. Goode" (1958) at EMI in Castlereagh St, and there was another record with two tracks which was for Lee Gordon's "Leedon" label, recorded at Natec Studios in Bligh street, on the fifth floor above the Savoy Cinema. The tracks were "Hey Sheriff", and our own -"Noline". Johnny Dellbridge (2) would have written it, about the relationship with his girlfriend, which it was named after (laughs). Were the records successful? I can't really remember but they got air-play.

Anyway, it was when we were recording "Hey Sheriff", and Johnny O'Keefe, who was with "Leedon"3, came into the studio and heard us playing while we were recording. He took me aside and asked "would you be interested in joining the band?", and so I did - that lasted for 5 years. O'Keefe really turned everything around for Australian music through Lee Gordon's 3 stadium shows, and his own TV show. He got all the new young rockers into the spotlight - Lonnie lee 4, Bary Stanton 5, Booker Hyland - and we were the backing band. Working with O'Keefe we were travelling a lot doing stadium shows, and TV shows like "6 O'clock Rock" 6 on ABC channel 2 - it was between 6-7 Saturday nights, opposition to "Bandstand" on TVC9 in the afternoon.

Max & the Meteors in one of their many appearances on "Uptight" an Australian TV pop show of the late 60s - early 70s.

There were all sorts of stories on Lee Gordon, like his sleeping in a white coffin! It's true he was pretty messed up; he was always into all sorts of dope (He was eventually charged with attempting to obtain drugs without a prescription in Mexico). he was a "hyper", a wheeling-and-dealing kind of guy. I personally found him very respectful; he often just liked to "hang around" on the scene much like Abe (Saffron) 7. I worked for Abe, got on well with him and never had bad dealings; in my view he was just an ordinary guy, who obviously had some shady stuff going on, but he never "dudded" me money-wise. I think he treated performers with respect.

I was performing a lot during 1958-59 at El Rocco 8. It wasn't what you'd call a main gig, the strip joints provided that. The Cross was packed with small clubs all along the streets. Many were strip places and some were music places like El Bongo, Taboo, and also the Afro-Cuban that had bands -there were lots of them. They were more "night clubs", not jazz venues. I didn't play at those, and didn't frequent them because it didn't interest me. But they were known as "after hours" drinking clubs (6 O'clock closing was enforced in NSW until 1967). "Clip joints" 9 is an apt description of them, the equivalent now would be those seedy places with the bouncers hawking outside on the main drag. "Getting our musical rocks off" was what El Rocco did for us.

Max & the Meteors 1968 Stewie Speer and Bob Bertles at back, seated John "Yuk" Harrison, at front, Max.

Even to play there was a great indulgence, and we'd take two or three quid, whatever was on the door. As for the story that musicians would work there just for privilege and a good cup of strong black coffee, well you never got a good cup of good coffee - it was Nescafé instant! We would take our bottles of whisky down and put it in cups so it looked like black tea. The atmosphere was very bohemian- which the new version is not. Occasionally we'd see the police hats from a distance making their way down the street to grouse the place, looking for joints and stuff, occasionally someone got busted and spent the night in jail!, Yes We did have a lot of "speed" in those days - Ephedrine, Dexedrine; we ate them like lollies! A whisky and joint to slow us down when things got too wound up. We thought we were invincible! Generally the musicians were pretty well behaved apart from booze or the odd spliff though,. and there wasn't a lot of heroin and hard stuff like that. The R&R period (generally considered to be 1939-1975, with troops coming and going throughout the wars) really killed it off. there always marijuana around, but the influx of heroin and coke changed the scene for good.

Max & the Meteors 1968 advert for a Coburg concert.

There was a lot of work backing for strip shows in those days. I was playing at El Rocco with Chet Clark 10 on Sunday nights when we got a good gig and opened a new strip club halfway up William Street from the city direction, on New Year's Eve 1960-1961 - so I don't know what year you would technically call that!. It was called the "Folies Bergère" and was on the left hand side, around Forbes street. It was 6 nights a week. It was a quartet; piano, bass and drums - and myself on Alto Sax. I did that for somewhere up to a year. It was fairly upmarket, with a few steps down from hat check into the main room - that seated about 250 people. It was more or less like a night club except with less clothes. There were 3 shows a night with 8 strippers a show. I remember "Yolanda", a black American, "Gay Abandon" (laughs), she did an unusual reverse act starting naked in the bath and slowly got dressed! "Big Julie", a blonde with huge boobs. We would back the performers with numbers like "The Stripper", "Harlem Nocturne" and "Peter Gunn" - some of them had charts but most were happy with anything they could boink around to on stage! (laughs). Booze was all bought in to order for customers, it was all labelled with bogus names on the bottles in case the police raided us!. Frank "Bumper" Farrell I never really knew but he was around. They could do with a new Bumper in my opinion to keep things in line now! There was a bit of bashing then - but it's gone out of control now. He used to come in to Folies Bergère, Strip City, and El Rocco. Folies became "Whiskey a Go Go" after a couple of years.

I played with Johnny O'Keefe from 1958-1963. In between that and the various strip clubs it was a pretty busy time. But it wasn't musically satisfying for me and El Rocco was really for letting off creative steam in those days!

The "Out of the Blue" album (Arista, 1976) hit number #13 on the Australian charts.

After that came "Chequers" (Goulburn street), "Spelson's" (Castlereagh street). But it was mainly the "Latin Quarter" (Pitt street) owned by Sammy Lee 11 and Reg Boom 12. Ricky May 13 and Norm Erskine 14 were playing shows and roped me in.

Reg Boom also had "Andre's" (Castlereagh street) and I was sometimes working there too. All three were Night Clubs in the strict sense of the word, starting at 7:30 playing dinner music, then dancing. There would be Several acts such as Sarah Vaughn, Billy Ecstine, Shirley Bassey, or Billy Daniels. Also there were showgirls as opposed to strippers in the other clubs. Occasionally I sat down with Reg for a drink - we got on well and I thought he was a really nice man. Sammy Lee was all boisterous, with that Chicago, Chicago kind of stuff, you know what I mean. Sammy was a very good drummer actually, he sat in with the band sometimes. I don't know technically accomplished he was, but he had a good feel. I really liked his wife, Maureen Lee. She was lovely and she was like opposite half of Sammy - Sammy was bad cop, she was good cop shall we say.

There were a couple of incidents there I recall. One was some gangster got his head blown off in 1967. I don't know who it was, but I can tell you that apparently 250 people were in the room and no-one saw a thing - amazingly they were all in the toilet when it happened!

Eventually Sammy Lee and I came to blows on New Year's Eve 1966-67. I had been band leader there for 18 months, 2 years by that time and I'd had enough anyway. This night, Sammy came up and said "I want you to play..." whatever it was he wanted. I remember I said "I can't play it because I don't know it". He responded that I was to just play it anyway. "Fuck you!" I yelled at him and it quickly became a fist fight. I stormed off into the dressing room. The band held him back and while I packed up to leave. He had a mild stroke or heart attack or something, and they took him downstairs to lie down! He died years after that so I didn't kill him! Anyway, that was the end of my Latin Quarter gig, not long after I saw that the poster with Norm and Ricky was still up but my face was blacked out! (laughs).

Photo of Bob Bertles by © Laki Sideris

So I went off and joined Max Merrit and the Meteors15, playing sax. After a couple of months we moved to Melbourne to try our luck and we started to get success around 68-69 with a big hit. By 1970 we went to London to make it there and nothing much happened, which didn't matter because we were on a retainer - but it was boring! I did session work outside to keep occupied, and the band was starting to peter out - eventually just folded by 1974. I next joined a group called Nucleus 16, and after some time in Europe I came back to Australia in 1976.

I live up the Cross. I've always said that there's no such area as "Kings Cross". It's more people's idea of Kings Cross. It changes as soon as you get to the El Alamein fountain. Some of it has it still has a real village feel - like Upper East Side of New York. The real Cross was always where the Coca-Cola sign was, where there was a bit of excitement and underground stuff. I live on the fringe of it on Macleay Street now and have done for about 30 years. I've always loved this area. It has changed a lot but even though a lot of it is gentrified you'll never get rid of that seedy element!

1 Johnny O'Keefe (1935-1978), Australian Rock'n'Roll artist, Often referred to by his nickname, "The Wild One", remains Australia's most successful chart performer, with twenty-nine Top 40 hits between 1959 and 1974.

2 Johnny Dellbridge known as "Johnny Rebb" (-) Australian singer, went to the US solo to try his luck and released a few singles with no real success. Was dubbed the 'Gentleman of Rock' by the DJs of the time. 1Rebb joined The Atlantics from 1965-70, mostly known for their classic hit, "Bombora".

3 Lee Gordon (1923-1963), entrepreneur and rock'n'roll promoter, brought out OS acts for stadium tours including Frank Sinatra and Bill Haley amongst others. In 1958 Gordon started the "Leedon" record label. Johnny O'Keefe was signed and was also responsible for signing other Australian acts.

4 Lonnie Lee (1940 -), is an Australian Rockabilly artist, with 8 #1 hits and 5 Gold Records. His recording career achieved a number of notable firsts in the 50s and 60s. He worked in the US in the 70s with Glenn Campbell and Roy Orbison.

5 Barry Stanton (1941-) Discovered by fellow recording artist Johnny O'Keefe in 1958 and had several big hit records. He was one of the most popular Australian performers of his era.

6 "6 O'Clock Rock" was an Australian Rock'n' Roll television show which showed on ABC Television from 1959- 1962. It was the first youth music program and many entertainers got their first big exposure on it.

7 Abe Saffron (1919-2006), was an Australian nightclub owner and property developer who was reputed to have been one of the major figures in Australian organised crime in the latter half of the 20th century and was known as "Mr. Sin". Second and most well-known owner of Roosevelt Nightclub after founder Sammy Lee.

8 El Rocco, at cnr. Brougham & William Streets, Kings Cross is only one of a few establishments from the 1960s still operating - it re-opened recently. At 50 years +, It is the oldest jazz cellar in Australia. Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra have graced it's small stage.

9 Clip joint: A restaurant, nightclub, or other business where the entertainment is poor quality and customers are regularly overcharged.

10 Peter Clark, known as "Chet Clark" (-) was discovered after an appearance on "Australia's Amateur Hour" age 17, and started playing with jazz and rock groups and writing hit songs for other artists. He hosted one of Australia's top TV shows "Six O'clock Rock" on ABC for a year and a half. He left Australia for the US for good in 1963 and had a long career as "Chet Demilo" .

11, 12 Sammy Lee (1912?-1975), celebrated night club and restaurant owner, founded Les Girls and the "Latin Quarter", both with Reg Boom. The "Latin Quarter" was a supper club at 250 Pitt Street that was turned into a discotheque in 1965, but business fell off dramatically following the shooting there of an underworld figure in 1967, and it became the "Cheetah Room".

13 Ricky May (1944 1988) was a vocalist, and also musician, who found fame in New Zealand and then Australia from 1962. He had a few hit records and found national fame and popularity with the show "Hey Hey It's Saturday".

14 Norm Erskine started as a boxer but discovered singing and was taken up by Lee Gordon, who took him to the US where he stayed and ended up recording with Capitol. Most of his career was in nightclubs and he befriended Frank Sinatra who dubbed him "The Singing Kangaroo".

15 "Max Merritt and the Meteors" were having minor hits in NZ from the late 1950s. After many line-up and record label changes they moved to Sydney in 1964 and made an appearance on Johnny O'Keefe's TV program. By 1968 they had become one of the most popular bands in Australia with Max acknowledged as "the soul king of Australia". There were big hits in the late 60s and mid 70s after returning from trying to crack Europe, but generally success was chequered.

16 Nucleus were a pioneering jazz-rock band from Britain led by trumpeter Ian Carr, who continued in different forms from 1969- -1989. In their first year they won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Transcribed from a phone interview conducted with Bob on 26 March 2011.

© 2011 Darian Zam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, photocopied, transmitted, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature,without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I first recall Kings Cross in the late 1930s, regularly visiting my aunt Elaine Wagstaff in Challis Avenue. We would almost immediately be sent for a walk! My aunt was quite fastidious and you know how children are, touching everything! She lived with "Uncle" Kurt Hervig who was an émigré from Vienna, he had a beautiful white grand piano which we were only allowed to look at. He was a pianist in the music department for the ABC. In the photo they are wearing matching suits which is quite extraordinary. She already had a daughter, from an earlier relationship, who was at boarding college. I suppose it was easier to live in a more "Bohemian" area, where living out of wedlock would be more acceptable at the time. I think there was some Chinese in the family from the gold rush times but I was never able to find out. So I would say, it was another reason to reside in the area. We had heard that you could go and get your newspaper in your dressing gown and slippers, which was, we thought, just amazing. Very Bohemian!

I was attending National Art School from around 1951, three nights a week for four years. We girls would go away for weekends and at a dance on one of these trips I met a man named Eric Turton who was an interior decorator. I said to him "How do you get to be that"? And he said "you go to art school" - next thing I was enrolling. It was that easy! The first night I remember I had this yellow rayon duster coat on, of course I was very out of place and totally unsuited to an art school life! It wasn't too long before I was trying to look more the part, but soon I realised, I didn't have to do anything. I really was a Bohemian. This was really the end of my childhood and knowing only a family life. I met people who became friends like Kevin Tenney and Ken Muggleston 1, He worked at Metro Goldwyn-Mayer during the day. from there I got to know people in the editing department at MGM. We didn't use the word "gay" then and it wasn't until later we realised that quite a few people we went to art school with were. I knew the gay scene well in the 60's but we called it "camp" then.

You only know your family and then suddenly you go out into the world and meet people from all sorts of different places.

Occasionally we would cross Darlinghurst Road to "Repins". It was a long narrow café which I chiefly remember you got a second cup of coffee free. There was a block of flats, called St. John’s Flats (they’re still there) opposite St. Johns Church (120 Darlinghurst Road), and I would gaze at them and think "how wonderful it would be to live here!"

In 1953 I moved into “Rosary Villa” at Darling Point. My Aunt Elaine had arranged it through the Parish Priest at Edgecliff. It was an old Hordern mansion that was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of California for country girls who were in the city. I lived there from 1953 to around '57. By then I was about 22, working as a colour consultant at Taubman's. Most of my peer group by then were living in boarding houses like Birtley Hall and Wyldefeld gardens.

We could get a late night pass from the nuns and take the 369 bus and hang out at the Cross. There was a lot of a lot of socialising , and also a lot of balls during this time; the "Artist's Ball" and the "Art Student's Ball" were mainly at The Trocadero (near the corner of Bathurst and George Streets). Afterwards we would be in the Cross, there was a café near Springfield Plaza where we would have, of all innocent things after a ball, a bowl of porridge! Another favourite haunt in Challis Street, "The Boomerang" served "Viennese Coffee" with cream on top, and cinnamon toast - this was considered very exotic at the time! We also used to go to "The Arabia", where we would meet Bohemians - we knew Frank Howards, he was a poet. I remember he read us a poem -

Roads cannot be said to exist

Nor can they be said not to exist

But when many people pass one way

A road is made.

I've remembered it all these fifty or more years. we thought it so surreal at the time!

This advertisement is from the "Home Cafe" in Victoria Street, which was a very desirable venue between 1953-57. the lighting was candles in Chianti bottles and we thought this very modern. There was a Hungarian café run by Magnus where "The Landmark" is now. They served peppers stuffed with rice in a tomato sauce - those were the first we had seen, for the time it was very different and very interesting! "Sweethearts" (a famous cafe at 45 Darlinghurst Road) was one of the first to serve espresso.

I have always been a person who was interested in ...things, so I knew of Chica Lowe 2 a good ten years before I met her. She had a place in Elizabeth Bay after Merioola 3 in the 1940s, a boarding house and we knew Ray Blaxland who had lived there at some time in the 1940s. However he was behind with the rent and he came home to find that Chica had put him in an old motor car crate in the garden. She'd painted it pink. "I've moved you out to Lolly Lodge", she announced. She was a raconteur. I was invited to a dinner party at her place in Bondi Junction once.

The 1920's in the Cross were absolutely wild, we heard from the older people we knew. There were big parties in the William Street area with free love, as they called it, and Cocaine. We had heard about both Roie Norton 4 and Dulcie Deamer 5, they were part of our discussions. Roie's William Street cafe was later a Jazz hangout, about 1961 I recall. Dulcie I did know. At the time we belonged to the Australian Society of Writers in Clarence Street. It was a place we could get a drink after 6 O'clock Closing. We had all these haunts worked out! Dulcie would have been a member given her profession, so we probably met her there. This photo of my friend Mary McGahey and myself with Dulcie was taken around 1962 when Dulcie was in her old age, at the Art Student's Ball. And yes, I saw her do her famous splits at this event! you can see I am wearing low jeans and a rope belt. About this time I remember making and wearing my first pair of hipsters - I wore them over to Mary's house, her husband John Auld opened the door and just gaped. He quickly said "Oh...they're very...nice..." he was clearly shocked!

We associated with artistic people - painters, potters, sculptors. Folk singing was fashionable during this time. Artists I remember are John Passmore 6 , John Perceval 7, Matcham Skipper 8 and of course John Olsen 9, whom I knew very well during this time - between 1953 and about 1956. I probably met John through "The Push" 10. A friend of mine took me to the "Tudor Hotel", on Phillip street, which was one of the early "Push" pubs where they would shut the doors at 6 O' Clock and you could drink after closing. A lot of us were on the fringes of the group. I have this painting by him which is dated 1954, so that indicates the period. I saw the painting in his studio in the attic of "The Witches House", in Victoria Street, sitting on a chair and to me it looked like virgin and child. I liked it so much John gave it to me.

Later I went to England, New York and Canada, I worked at the United Nations in New York, I was away for four years. It was a chance to see some art and experience life.

When I eventually returned, about 1961 and got back to Kings Cross it was changing. in the 1950's it was really the innocent years in a lot of ways. The world was changing, so it filtered down.

I moved in with a friend of mine Ann Thomson 11 , who was also working at Taubman's. it was a converted garage around the back of Brown Street, Paddington that was dubbed "The Dustbins" by her mother! She was a very...superior sort of woman - she hated the idea of her daughter living in Well, Paddington was very cheap at that time! By the '60s artists were starting to move in - quite a few. Richard Neville 12 lived next door, and Martin Sharp 13 nearby, Charles Blackman 14 across the road from us, so it was becoming fashionable. I spent quite a bit of time living in Paddington, into the '70s.

Now I am back at the Cross, living here at the Gazebo. It's nice and level, perfect for older people really! I want to be here for the rest of my life. It's an area where things have always happened, and will continue to happen!

1 Ken Muggleston (1930, Australia) Set decorator. Won an Academy Award for Art Direction, "Oliver", 1970.

2 , 3 The Merioola Group was named for the colonial mansion in Woollahra, Sydney. Managed from 1941 by Chica Lowe, an exceptional character; she was interested in creative people as tenants, forming a Bohemian community including Donald Friend, William Dobell, Loudon Sainthill.

4 Rosaleen (Roie, Rowie) Norton (1917-1979) was a writer and artist. Her public scandals of the late forties and fifties for obscenity charges made her a household name as "The Witch of Kings Cross".

5 Dulcie Deamer (1890-1972 Deamer was an influential writer known as "The Queen of Bohemia" and notorious for doing the splits in her leopard skin, on tables at parties.

6 John Passmore, (1904- 1984) Australian painter.

7 John de Burgh Perceval AO (1923-2000) Australian artist, surviving member of a the Angry Penguins group who redefined Australian art in the 1940s. Other members included Nolan, Boyd, Tucker.

8 Matcham Skipper (1921-2011) Australian sculptor and jeweller strongly associated with Melbourne artist colony "Montsalvat". Works are represented internationally.

9 John Olsen (1928-) Australian painter, see first blog interview.

10 "The Push" was a loose group, born from forces within Sydney University, who had a rebellious approach to life that was in opposition to the conservative values of the 1950s and '60s. Most were involved in creative endeavours. Famous members: Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer, Clive James, Robert Hughes.

11 Ann Thomson (1933, Brisbane) Australian painter, has mostly lived and worked in Sydney since the mid '50s after completing studies at the National Art School in 1962. She won the Wynne Prize in 1998.

12, 13 Richard Neville (1941), Australian author who along with Pop Artist Martin Sharp, came to fame as a co-editor of the counterculture magazine "Oz" in Australia and the UK in the 1960s - early '70s.

14 Charles Blackman (1928-) Australian artist, member of the Antipodeans, a group of Melbourne painters that also included the Boyds, Perceval and Clifton Pugh.

Transcribed from an interview conducted in person with Elaine Ellis on 18 March 2011.

© 2011 Darian Zam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, photocopied, transmitted, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature, without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Robin Dalton's 1965 memoir "Aunts up the Cross" become an Australian classic of sorts - a charming and witty book about growing up in Kings Cross and her family's privileged lifestyle at "Maramanah" - the only private residence left in Kings Cross by the late 1920s.  The house was sold to the City Council in 1945 and demolished by 1956 to build Fitzroy Gardens and the El Alamein Fountain.

story removed by request

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Phaedra on the Mike walsh show in the early 1970's.

Phaedra worked in the Darlinghurst precinct from 1968 and remembers a wild afternoon at the Yellow House with Martin Sharp and Sylvia and the Synthetics.

I wish they would stop using the term legend for a middle-aged drag queen. A legend is King Arthur (you have to be dead, or mythical). I have been called a legend. Let's get this in perspective. I spent 20 years miming to records and dancing a bit. I did not save a nation. I also wish they would stop using the term "icon" for a middle-aged drag queen. An Icon is a religious painting set often in silver or gold!

I started actually living in the Kings Cross area in about 1972, perhaps a bit earlier. When I arrived in Sydney it was my third visit by myself. There had been lots with my parents as a child. I found myself here at age eighteen, working as a Dance Director at Fred Astaire Dance Studios Australasia.

"No son of mine is going to be a Ballet Dancer!". Quote Mr Nunn-Smith...then, oh dear. He came with Uncle Bob to see me at work, and by then I was no longer a dance director, I was in the drag show, and my big number was, "This Girl's In Love With You" and I wore a fishtail in orange brocade. I was very pretty.

So I saw Kings Cross from the late 1960's, about '68 or '69, just after I left school. The 10 years or so I worked at Les Girls cabaret (internationally famous all-male revue, Darlinghurst Rd and Roslyn St, Kings Cross) were amazing.

When I arrived on the scene Reg (Boom) 1 had died, Sammy Lee 2 had gone quite mad but was often there, and Mrs. Boom, Ilene, ran the place. She was brilliant. Sammy still thought he was in charge but Mrs. Boom looked after everything; and I mean everything that running a business in the Cross entailed. This included diplomatically handling some very nefarious members of the "White Shoe Brigade"3 and on the same night, often, members of Sydney's social elite including members of the Black & White committee.

Back in those days Kings Cross was always the centre of excitement, especially on New Years eve. It really is so hard to describe how exciting it was with everything being illegal. The parties were better, and the makeup stayed on longer. I thought I had died and gone to heaven… there was of course a very dark interesting side too. I loved it.

Really seedy, strange terrace houses with little gaming houses in them, and so enjoyable. Strip clubs... these were the campest clubs to go to and I so wish they were still there - they didn't mind a drag queen at all. Then down the strip itself it was Surf City, and round the corner Whiskey A Go Go. The Whiskey and Surf were quite straight but if you "butched it up" they let you in. Loads of strip clubs dotted all along and crowning it all Les Girls. Yes, the drag queens had the best spot. Ironically, depending on definition of the word, probably the straightest people I knew were the gangsters.

The block of flats, "Bayview" in Roslyn Gardens was full of very elegant prostitutes including a number of the very early un-springable sex-changes. These prostitutes and their flats were rented for the duration of, usually an American servicemen's stay. So they had all their rent paid for, all their food, lots of presents and some extra money to feather the nest. These girls did very well. As one serviceman left another was found to rent out the property and the girl for the next duration. and on it went.

I returned to Adelaide for a moment, and was back again by '70 working at Les Girls and from then on the years were like a dream. For me Kings Cross and Oxford St, Darlinghurst from 68 til 85 was like a magic carpet ride.

I know people had other jobs, but I can't for the life of me think why - nor do I want to. Being a drag queen at any club in those days was just fairy-tale.

I remember Doris Fish4 starting off, I am that bloody old. I actually met her at "The Yellow House" ( a pop art collective and "24 hour a day happening" in Macleay Street from 1970 - 1973, in the former Terry Clune Gallery building), now that really dates me.

Barbara Williams, a Lesbian that we called "George", was frightfully well connected on the art scene and all that. So adorable. We rescued her, the poor love, when she was a waitress at the Texas Tavern (a big bar down Macleay Street for R&R gentlemen, past the Rex Hotel, on the same side. They would have a floor shows and topless singers).

I felt sorry for her because she had to wear a skirt, and she so hated it! We told her that had to stop - so first a job back stage, then doing lighting. She never looked back. Then she went on to become lighting director at the Belvoir Street Theatre for many years. She was the only biological female to appear on stage with us at Les Girls - as a Spanish man of course!

Collage of Phaedra based on a Barry McKay photo taken in the Les Girls dressing room in the early 1970's.

She did the most amazing portrait of me in oils, it was huge, and very good. I wish I still had it. For some reason I am holding a bottle of perfume like in an ad. So strange yet wonderful. It hung in the lobby of our flat on the waterfront at Elizabeth Bay. The odd thing is I don't think George really painted. I never saw any other art she made. She did lighting, and her lighting was like art.

George knew everyone at "The Yellow House". She took me there a number of times during the day. "Phaedra, you must see this!" I remember her saying that, as it was very hard to get me out in the daytime, all that bloody sun! It was like Barbara knew something important or very different was happening.

There was very little furniture it seemed. Everything was painted. Even painted floorboards. I remember the noise of women's shoes on bare floors. I have never liked it. Stage makes a different sound to houses for some reason. I think people slept upstairs during the day time and I got the impression it may have been more "on the go" of a night. Of course I never saw it then as I was working.

To me the place was strange, often empty. I suppose in perhaps three times I went there with George I met five or six people; and I only ever met one painter and he was going over a wall already painted. To my untutored, philistine eye I thought it was all very ho-hum. But apparently it was some important art movement I witnessed. George knew what was going on - she was on our "draggy" wavelength; she understood all that - but she also was so ahead of us too.

I remember being introduced to Doris Fish there; she stuck out because of her name. I knew she was just starting as the look and makeup was not refined as it was later (eventually refined enough for Doris to appear on many greeting cards for the popular humorous West Graphics line).

And she was in drag in the day time! You just did not wear drag in the day time. We just did not need to antagonise the police. To see all these drag queens including Doris Fish, in the cruel light of day, was really quite shocking.

I was dressed as a boy of course as was George (it only occurs to me right this minute she was actually technically in drag). But these queens had pencil skirts, ballerina skirts, blouses cheekily open at a non-existent cleavage. And slap that went for days. Much more even than we wore of a night time at Les Girls! We could have all been arrested - the doors to the house were wide open to Macleay Sreet!

They were doing this drag show of sorts in the painted rooms of The Yellow House. I suppose it was what we would call today "Vogueing". They just struck poses everywhere while some artist kept painting one of the walls. He became recognisable to me in later years as I thought about it, as being Martin Sharp. I don't remember any music.

We, the audience of about 15 people were applauding the tableaux they presented. We had of course smoked something. Well, no self respecting person went out without being stoned. It was the '70s after all!

I think this lot bought their stuff at Vinnies (St Vincent De Paul charity shop) or somewhere because they had really lovely 1950s shoes - but to my uncultured eye they looked as tho' they were wearing just old women's clothes. A few weeks later it turned out that some of these people were "Sylvia and the Synthetics"5.

I got to work with them later on. I was dressed as Judy Garland, miming "Singing in the Rain" and half way through they threw a bucket of water over me! Well that's OK, but the bit I did not get was why they had my boyfriend, a Mr. South Pacific, standing behind me all oiled up and beautifully glistening - ripping the arms and legs of dolls, and making out to eat their heads. Drag in the day time. I still sort of feel uncomfortable going out in daylight, full-stop!

These days all I remember is the Kings Cross of the past. It was safe. Actually, the Les Girls dressing room was the safest place to be in Kings Cross...well that is until Carlotta sat on the wash basin, pissing, and broke it.

Anyway, it has long gone. The old Cross where no one would dare touch you. Any tourist was fair game tho'...

1, 2 Sammy Lee (1912?-1975), celebrated night club and restaurant owner, founded Les Girls and the Latin Quarter, both with Reg Boom.

3 The "White Shoe Brigade" was used as a term in Australia, to describe a group of Gold Coast property developers who backed, and benefitted from, former Queensland State Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

4 Phillip Mills was a performer and artist, stage name was Doris Fish. Born in Australia, he later resided in San Francisco from 1976 where he had a successful career, and died there in 1994.

5 "Sylvia and the Synthetics", were a groundbreaking performance art troupe of the early 1970s led by Phillip Mills, that used drag as "political theatre". It had a fluid member line-up - but with three mainstays: Doris Fish, Miss Abood (Daniel Archer), and Jacqueline Hyde.

Transcribed from emails and Facebook chats with Phaedra Nunn-Smith between 2008- 2011.

© 2011 Darian Zam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, photocopied, transmitted, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature,

without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I lived in the Cross on and off, and the first period was 1961. It was very much a cross-over period in it's history - the "old" Cross and the advent of "new" Australia. I went on to have a long career as an administrator in the arts, and as a playwright; but at the time I was what you'd call a "knockabout" - just someone looking for anything that wasn't "suburbia" - looking to have fun, like we all were. I was an anarchist.

Before the Cross, in the 1950s, I was a self-professed "Bodgie" 1, The uniform was particular style of pants tight at the ankle, pegged, we called them, and big drape jackets; an arrow tie, and crepe soled shoes ( the style known as "Brothel Creepers"). We were interested in style.

That was over by the early 1960s when I came to Kings Cross from Perth - By then "Bodgiedom" had finished. The "Bohies" and the "Larroes" (Larrikins) ruled. The Bohemian scene was select, I think there was a paranoia of being exposed as having that suburban background. there was a huge fear of the police, who targeted anyone with unconventional behaviour, unconventional appearance - like the gays.

It was a small community. Perhaps a few hundred people who were influenced strongly by French Existentialism, and the Hipster culture of the U.S. This was characterised by a cool demeanour and lack of expression - being "cool."

But there was also a good-heartedness; and kindness. I have to stress that. We were battlers in a world of adventure. It was a village in the true sense. If someone was in trouble, that hat would be passed around.

A small community of knockabouts would turn up at the Abe Saffron parties that he used to hold in a house, I can't now remember exactly where it was. There was a crossover area between the Bohemian crowd and the "underworld". You would be asked to take a package somewhere and not be told what was in it, or something like that.

Rowie (Rosaleen) Norton bridged that gap between the criminal and bohemian milieu. She had a cafe on William Street in the basement opposite the fire station, downstairs. (This later became Tatlers, a private gentlemen's club eventually turned exclusive early hours habitué of the Nouveau Riche in Darlinghurst Road). I went to her house once in East Sydney, she was celebrating a black mass 2 . It was full of criminals!

Danny was an older gay Italian man who owned the "Toohey's Mansion" 3, which was a boarding house at the bottom of Barncleuth Square ("The Tor", which was at 10 Barncleuth Square). He had a restaurant in it. And at that time, the restaurant was not open to the public, only guests and their friends. Of course he had a mortgage to pay and still he really looked after everyone. Lots of the lodgers were writers, they were probably having a lot of novels rejected at the time!

The first time I ever smoked Marijuana was at the "Toohey's Mansion" with a bunch of Jazz musicians. We would often have a "Cockatoo" posted outside, which was someone who looked out for the police and would give a signal if it looked like they were coming!

Another venue was "Jackie's" and it was run by a very tough Lesbian woman. It was a place you could go and everyone knew everyone. It was in "Ricky's Arcade" built by a guy named Rick Marshall who kept sending himself to jail because he loved to run the dramatic society!

It was a hard life for the small gay community. They would tell you of the hardships, it was difficult to get a job, they would get beaten up a lot, all that kind of thing.

There was a lot of discrimination and punishment.

"Sweethearts" 4 was another cafe like Jackie's where everyone knew each other. Everyone would sit at a semi-circular bar and converse.

Lance Carolli 5 was a painter, and quite a good one. He was also what they called a "hoon". It didn't mean what it does today, someone who speeds in a car and does wheelies and that kind of thing; in those days it meant a pimp - living of the earnings of hookers. At one time he sold me a Hudson Hornet with a crack in the windscreen and when I asked, he told me that a piece of gravel had hit it. As it turned out it was a bullet hole from somebody trying to shoot him! I was advised to get rid of it as soon as possible, so I sold it immediately before the car ended up being recognised! He gave up his business as he stole a girl from a competitor and ended up being pushed against a wall and had boiling oil poured down his back.

Gordon Mutch was an artist I had known in Perth before I arrived in the Cross. He painted murals on café walls. We shared an apartment where he painted murals on the walls because he said "it would attract women." I don't know why he thought that would work!

I remember he devised a machine to flick paint and make abstract expressionist paintings for tourists. It was a turntable with these bowls stuck on it. He would set it up in the street somewhere, like Lankelly Lane, say to people "would you like an abstract expressionist painting?" and he would take their one pound and spin the machine, which would put paint on the canvas but at the same time it would also put paint on everyone else around!

Vicky Reardon was a jazz singer who sang in a club in Orwell Street. She was very tall and kind of haughty. She was as good as any international singer and could have had a real career in my opinion. A golden voice. Only the best musicians could get into "El Rocco", which was in Brougham Street. It was a jazz club we went to in the early 1960's. It has re-opened recently. The black American musicians inspired and taught the others.

I got to know some of the "crims" - Paddy O'Neil was one I knew well. He ended up dying in Fremantle Prison, murdered. I was excited to meet a real, professional criminal. He walked a lot like lurch. He was sitting in a chair overflowing, he was so big! He literally had to get up in sections! A paranoid man, he carried a Smith & Wesson. "everyone's laggin' me!", he would constantly complain.

Peter O'Malley 6 was another petty criminal who would break open the box at church after service!

"Sexual Slim" who was a big guy, hence slim, who constantly bragged about his conquests with younger women. He and a mate had a scam where they would turn up at a shop wearing white coats, with a trolley and a clipboard. They would present a fake invoice "we're here to pick up the fridge..." and wheel out an appliance, and sell it down the pub! People who were engaged in illicit activities would call themselves "professional gamblers". I went to a couple of those infamous Baccarat clubs that flourished at the time. there was a lot of money involved. Drinks were always free. They were decorated in the most grotesque taste!

Even "Consorting" was a criminal offense. If you were just seen three or four times associating with "undesirables", you could be arrested. So, I knew all the people, but was not expected to get too involved in their shenanigans!

1Bodgie (Australian English) (slang) a member of a 1950s rock subculture. An unruly or uncouth young man; teddy boy. According to Clem Australian Bodgies were not associated with "Teddy Boys"

2 Rosaleen Norton was known for giving parties to celebrate this occasion and was famous for the sign on her front door "Gone to mass. be black in an hour."

3 Clem remembers the mansion he refers to as being at the bottom of Barncleuth Square, which is located on a 1948 map as "The Tor" at 10 Barncleuth Square, almost opposite "Kinneil". There is a building named "The Tor", that was built during the R&R period which still stands adjacent at 51 Roslyn Gardens that obviously took it's name. The Toohey family - who owned Toohey's Beer - had lived in Sydney from 1869 but no evidence has been found to prove any connection to ""The Tor", perhaps there were boarders that resided during a period whose preferred tipple was Toohey's and perhaps "Toohey's Mansion" became a nickname. Advertisements show a long history of "The Tor" as a boarding house , from at least 1930.

4 "Sweethearts" was a legendary Café in Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia in the 1960s -1980s, but has since been demolished. It was located where the present-day McDonald's is now, in the middle of Kings Cross. It later moved to near the Bourbon & Beefsteak. Cold Chisel wrote their famous hit "Breakfast at Sweethearts" about the venue and it's regular inhabitants.

5 Lance Carolli's real name witheld for privacy reasons

6 Peter O'Malley's real name witheld for privacy reasons

Transcribed from notes taken during Clem Gorman's talk at Memory Lane, Kings Cross Arts Guild on 16 February 2011.

© 2011 Darian Zam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, photocopied, transmitted, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature,

without the written permission of the copyright owner.