Sunday, September 23

Kings Cross - remembered.

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.


ancient one said...

You really paint a picture with your words. You've had some interesting adventures.

Anonymous said...

Meggie, you really must write a book of these short stories. They are so interesting and you make them that way. Only someone who has seen that sort of thing could write about it so well.
Thank you for sharing your stories they are great.

bluemountainsmary said...

I haven't been to the Cross in years. I am a bit of a scaredy cat and seeing people careening out of control whether through drink or drugs disturbs me. Pubs never bothered me but the Cross did with its undertones and overtones. I believe it has been cleaned up to a certain degree. But Sydney is such a big city with so many diverse suburbs that I don't feel that I am missing out by not venturing there.

Marja said...

I love your writing. What you describe there sounds a lot like Amsterdam. I didn't go into the strip clubs but we walked down the streets were the ladies of the night display themselves in kindylike shopwindows. A dark world.

teodo said...

Meggie readind your story about Kings Cross it seems to see you in that adventure.
I can imagine your face when you came back in the room without finding your luggage......
It should have been so bad but now it funny to read about it.
ciao, ciao

joyce said...

Your story makes me think we won't stay in King's Cross with our 17 yr old granddaughter when we go to Australia. Well written.

sheoflittlebrain said...

Another fascinating story, Meggie... Your vivid description of Kings Cross makes me think that it's a lot like Las Vegas,,,

Tanya Brown said...

Thank you for the slice of life, Meggie. You do have quite a gift!

You've reminded me of being out and about with my husband and seeing a place called "Les Girls". "Ah, one of them Frenchy things," my husband quipped. Later I screwed up my courage to ask whether he'd ever been in such a place, and if so, what was it like. "Sad," he said succinctly. "Not arousing?" "No."

That sounds pretty consistent with your description.

riseoutofme said...

Have been trying to catch up! I seem to have missed loads .... now if only it were in book form, I could take it to bed with me ....

Great stories Meggie ... hope the bruised (blue/black) phase is passing ....

Sheila said...

I have led such a sheltered life..!
They say it takes all sorts and obviously most of them were to be found at King's Cross.
I believe in live and let live, but I wonder how many of those people had other options..
You were brave to take the 'tour', I don't know if I would have..

meggie said...

Hi All, I forgot to say, Les Girls was an all male cabaret show. They stressed that there had been 'no surgery'. I forget there are overseas readers now & then. Some of the girls were breathtakingly beautiful, & their acts were funny & well done. The 'lady', Carlotta, who was the lead, did a complete strip, & she looked fabulous. She is still a well known identity about Sydney, & seems a very nice person, on TV.
Les Girls has closed now, but it was a 'must see' in Sydney for years, for tourists.
We came for another holiday, with another couple, the following year, & went to visit Les Girls again. Our friend F was terrified to find the girls used the womens toilets. She seemed to think they might stab her if she went there. I tried to explain to her, that it was their life, & living, & why would they jeopardise that. Her husband D thought the girls were beautiful!

My float said...

My grandmother lived in Kings Cross. To think of it! Here was this little old Greek woman, living in the pit of Sydney sin!! She lived there because that's all she and my grandfather and dad could afford when they came to Sydney as immigrants. Who knows what she thought of it all! But as she walked down the street, people said hello to her, I remember that.

When I was little, I even stayed with her from time to time, and I can't remember really feeling scared. I think I was even allowed to go and buy myself lollies from the newsagency. I remember the flashing Les Girls sign, the people standing in doorways. It was probably really seedy, but as a child I don't think I ever noticed that element of it. I do remember there were loads of pigeons!!! (By the way, this isn't a metaphor for anything - I really mean pigeons!)

These days, I still like the Cross, though I haven't been for a couple of years. I feel safe, perhaps because there are so many accessible targets, they're hardly going to go for me.

But to see the drugs and the women, things I never noticed as a's extremely tragic. Such waste of potential...

Tanya said...

Wow! You certainly have seen both sides of life in you days! I guess I'm glad I don't know so much! But I admire you for not being daunted by the difficult things you see. They make you think.

Mike said...

The whole time I was reading this, I was remembering my trip to Las Vegas. I see someone already pointed that out.

It was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to do it again.

meggie said...

I watch movies with Las Vegas in them, & am always thinking how similar it looks. A visit yes, but not a place to spend time, or your life!
I did notice the permanant residents were mostly treated with respect, so I can understand MF, that your grandparents would be known, & I am sure you would have been very safe, as it would have been known whose grandchid you were. Sleazy lives, but some of those people had hearts of gold, because they had to, to survive.

Henri said...

Meggie , I can well recall you and GOM taking Ralph and I into the Cross for a squizzy in 1990 -- It was afternoon -- early evening really ,I think , so far quieter than it is at night. Also we never really ventured into any sleazy places did we ? The El Alamein Fountain stood out for me -- beautiful - and I can still smell the rotting stench in , or from , the bowels of the Bourbon & Beefsteak Bar ( I think it was there ? ) -- It was packed out and the drains had blocked ! I have been back to the Cross several times ,with other people over the years and even stayed nearby for awhile on a couple of trips to Sydney .Yes , it can be sleazy and sad, but also exciting and fun , in the right company .

Lucy said...

Dear Meggie, I have enjoyed catching up! It never ceases to amaze me the stories you have, and your memory for detail, as well as your courage and compassion. You seem to have lived about three lifetimes in one!

My float said...

Yes, you're right Meggie. People do what they have to do.

a kings cross muse said...

Nice rememberings.
As my name suggests I live in Kings Cross and find it both beautiful and sad.I think everyone does. I like .... actually I think I kinda need ... that full spectrum of emotion. It's a vibrant,artistic,colourful,friendlyand intriguing place to live with a dark side.
I like my people like that too!

Thanks for your stories