I have no idea what Kings Cross is like these days. I would imagine it is much the same as when I first visited some 30 odd years ago. I have been back in the years between, but that first impression has never left my mind.
We had never been on an overseas holiday before. My Best Friend J & I had travelled to Christchurch, thinking we would be moving on from there, & planned to go to Aussie, which was the mecca back in the day, for young travelling Kiwis. And many musicians.
Of course life intervened & BFJ & I both ended up married to Southerners, & so thoughts of overseas travel went on the back burner. Or to be more precise on the 'never never plan'!
We had some good friends, & jokingly, they suggested we should come for a holiday together, to Aussie. Initially there were to be 3 couples, but one couple decided they couldn't manage it. We saved & planned, & excitedly looked forward to our trip.
The evening we left Christchurch, a lot of our friends came out to the Airport to see us off. A lot of drinks were shouted in the Airport Bar, & we were a little tiddly by the time we boarded our plane. In those days, free alcohol on the flights was the order of the day, & so people tended to gollop down far more than they should, or perhaps these days, would.
Our arrival into Sydney was dark & slightly fuddled. A maniacal taxi ride whisked us off into the Cross, & to our Motel. We had requested a 2 bedroom unit, but had been given a one bedroom unit, with sleeping for two in the lounge. Which meant we tossed for the bedroom. We won the toss & L & M slept in the lounge. They had to come into our room to access the bathroom, & we had to access the lounge to get to the kitchen. Not very happy, we complained, & were assured we would be transferred the moment something else became available.
Of course the first night we arrived, though we were tired, it was decided to walk up the streets, & see the sights. In those days Gom was HYPH, happy young publican husband. He knew a lot of people, so it was no surprise when he was greeted in the street. As it happened it was an ex pat, T, who had taken up residence in Aussie. He seemed to be involved in all sorts of things, & had entry to a lot of nightclubs, & strip clubs. He offered to take us with him, as he visited various venues.
So off we went, for a free tour of sleazy nightclubs, strip clubs, porn movie 'palaces', sex shops. I can't say it was an enjoyable tour. Imagine being confronted with genitalia 4 feet high! On a screen the size of a house! Not my idea of fun. Our friend M had to be nudged as he sat, with mouth gaping open in shock. We were moving on, time to go.
A rowdy nightclub next, down dark narrow stairs. Taken out to the kitchen area, where we were parked to wait for our host. A tall Fijian girl, with chest hair, snarling & growling about her girlfriend, who was apparently going on holiday without her. Killing her was the least of her threats of revenge, should she be unfaithful to her. A sight of a gun, in a man's jacket pocket. He realised I saw it, & leered at me. Our host laughing, assuring me the gun toter was no threat, to us, he was with T.
On to another venue, a strip club, to see tired strippers performing their sad rituals, & even sadder acts involving men. I fail to see the attraction. I am not a prude, if others want to see such things, & someone wants to provide it, well, who am I to say it is wrong. But I was to learn, over the course of that holiday, that many of those sad girls got into that vicious cycle & got hooked on the drugs, & then, could not seem to get off the roundabout.
The next morning, after very little sleep it seemed we were up & out again. We stopped for breakfast at the then famous & fashionable Bourbon & Beefsteak Bar. There were large windows along the front of it, & they were flung open to the street, & as was sat eating our breakfast, we watched a 'working girl' make 4 trips up the stairs in the doorway opposite, each time trailing a man. And each time she returned, after the man had scurried off, she seemed to have not a hair out of place. Our friend M could not get over it. He always talked about how in the time it took him to eat bacon & eggs that girl had 4 customers!
Imagine our horror on the second day, when Hyph & I came back to the motel, we found our belongings completely gone. The unit was bare with no sign of L or M, & we rushed down to reception, aghast at the thought we had been robbed.
It turned out a larger unit had become available, & so L & M had just packed all our stuff up, & moved down there. Reception had been supposed to tell us.
We had a lot of fun on that trip. We had contacts in the Liquor Trade, & we were hosted to wonderful boozy days out, with a meal at a famous hotel that had a BBQ where you could cook your own Steaks. Of course I didnt eat steak, but there was Quiche or salads for the non meat eaters. We were taken to a fabulous huge Chinese Restaurant, & spent the afternoon there. We were given a lot of free booze delivered to the Motel, with flowers & chocolates. We had wonderful nights out at nice Nightclubs, & were taken to some fabulous Leagues Clubs, the likes of which New Zealand didn't have.
We went to Les Girls, & had a fabulous night out there. There were a lot of NZ people who worked there, & the cabaret was really worth seeing.
But under all the glitter & the false glamour, there was such a sad undercurrent to Kings Cross, to me. I couldn't stop thinking of sad ruined lives, & I felt sorry for the prostitutes, of both sexes. Their sad & sorry eyes just haunted me. I hated the men who lived off those people.
We watched the spruikers outside the clubs, calling people in, to see the delights of the flesh. We laughed at some of the calls, the 'suggestive' things they said. We used to stand across the road, & watch one such character, & then M, who was really a scallywag, began to mock him, & mock his calls. I swear that Spruiker would have flattened M, if he had caught him.
We would see some of the residents, coming & going in the midst of the clamour. I wondered how they could stand to live in among such sadness & squalor. Murder even. Drug addicts dying.
Kings Cross left me very depressed for mankind.
We had other holidays, where we stayed there again. It was so central to the city of Sydney. There were characters who seemed happy to be living there. Some said they felt at home there. They could be accepted, in a way they never were at home. I could sympathise with them, for that.
I never felt so depressed about Kings Cross again, after that first visit. But a niggly little voice inside me wonders if that is a good thing- or bad.
Emmy Lou Harris, Hour of Gold.