Chronology

A chronology of lesbian and gay communities, movements, and venues in Sydney

1920s

 

1930s

 

1940s

 

1950s

 

1960 - 1966

1967

1968

1969

1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

 

 

 

 

 

Australian society in the late 1960s was hostile to homosexuals or, at least, its institutions were. The Law treated gay men as criminals who could be locked away for 14 years for the “abominable crime of buggery”, and the police were active in trying to prosecute them.

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Coming Out Into a Hostile World

Francesca (Chesca) Curtis's television appearance on The Bailey File, a Melbourne-based current affairs programme on commercial television TV's Channel 9, in May or June 1970, speaking about the aims of the Australian Lesbian Movement was arguably Australia's first "coming out" in the media.

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Australia's First National Coming Out

Homosexual/transgender social groups began forming in the early 1960s in Sydney. They offered membership of a discreet “camp” organisation. Their dances provided the perfect stage for Sydney’s new amateur drag scene to flourish and a place for men and women to meet up and find Miss or Mr Right – at least for the night. In the Leichhardt area, there was no shortage of public halls for these groups.

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Leichhardt/Dykehardt Exhibition

Male homosexual acts are no longer criminal in NSW – the law was amended in 1984, and ‘gay’ men can live quite open lives, with a range of venues where they can socialize in ways similar to their heterosexual counterparts. Also, the two worlds now softly collide, with gays and straights mixing together quite easily in many places in Sydney’s inner suburbs.

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And The Beats Go On...

The following people participated in the first Mardi Gras and/or the related events . While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, the list could include errors and omissions. Some names are also likely to be the arrestees' aliases.

78ers Honour Roll

 

1950s

 

Over the decade hung the spectre of the Cold War and with it the paranoia typified by McCarthyism in the USA and its equation of homosexuality with the Communist threat.

In Australia this manifested itself in B.A. Santamaria's ideology of a Roman Catholic family utopia, bolstered in part by returning prosperity and the spread of suburbia based on the motor car.

The dramatic increase in housing stock however, including flats and the inner-city vacuum caused by the exodus from inner ring working class suburbs laid the foundation for the emergence of distinctive gay and lesbian sub-cultures, sometimes miss-named gettos.

Events in England, leading to the Wolfenden Committee, put homosexual law reform on the UK and to an extent Australian political agenda. In the US, 'Aversion Therapy' to 'cure' homosexuality, gained a foothold, coming to Australia in the 1960s.

 

1950s venues

Most of these camp/gay/lesbian venues are named in Garry Wotherspoon’s Gay Sydney: A History NewSouth Publishing (2016) (GW) and slotted into the decades he allocates them. References are also made to his book, Being Different Hale and Iremonger 1986.

You might find these useful as well

  • Ken (Kandy) Johnson, Editor Gavin Harris Kandy what a drag! Self published 2009
  • Prue McSween I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Carlotta  MacMillan 2003
  • Pride History Group Camp Nites 2006 http://www.camp.org.au/books

 

Restaurants, coffee shops

Cahill’s Coffee Shop

GW notes the Market Street, Sydney branch opposite David Jones was as a discreet meeting place (GW interviews with Ian D September 1977 and John C March 1980). The telephone directory had no Cahills in Market Street.

California Coffee Shop

Originally listed in the 1930 telephone directory at 9 Darlinghurst Road, by the 1940s it is at 41 Darlinghurst Road Kings Cross. Frequented by a homosexual clientele in the 1940s.

Galleria cafe

Listed in the 1956 telephone directory at 27 Rowe Street, Sydney, it was opened by Mervyn Horton in 1956 as a place for artists to meet. ( Art & Australia May 2013)

Hasty Tasty

Located at 86 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross (State Library call number Home and Away 23298) this was a favourite hangout for queers (SD Harvey The Ghost of Ludwig Gertsch (2000) and a favourite for the young Carlotta (Prue McSween I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Carlotta 2003)

Kashmir Coffee Lounge

Listed in the 1949 telephone directory at 105 Macleay Street, Kings Cross, it continued into the 1960s. With its walls painted by Rosaleen Norton, it was an important meeting place for bohemians and homosexuals – a place Carlotta felt safe. (Prue McSween I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Carlotta 2003)

Latin Cafe

Run by Madam Helen Pura, it attracted a wide spectrum of society, including a large homosexual clientele. (GW source: Interview with Madam Pura 1979). Listed in the phone directory from 1927 – 1956 at No.1, 2nd Floor Royal Arcade, between Market and Park Streets.

Mockbell’s Restaurant

GW notes it was a male venue frequented by artists and bohemians. (GW source: J. Lindsay The Roaring Twenties Penguin 1980). The phone directory lists “Mockbell Kabell, Mecca Coffee Houses” from 1925. In 1949 a Mockbells Restaurant was at 53 Castlereagh Street until 1954.

Rainard’s Restaurant

Located in the basement of 180 King Street, Sydney a favourite for Sydney’s homosexuals. It is listed in the 1930 telephone directory and was still operating into the 1950s.

Repin’s Coffee Shop

GW says this was patronised by workers and actors from the nearby Theatre Royal pre-war. The 1955 telephone directory lists two Repins, one at 130 and another at 138 Market Street, Sydney.

Shalimar Restaurant

 

A middle class restaurant, with musicians playing light music. Downstairs in the old T & G Insurance Building cnr Elizabeth and Park Streets. (GW source: Interview with Ian D, September 1977). Listed in the 1950 phone directory and was still operating in the 1960s.

Hotels

Adam’s (Tattersall’s) Hotel (Marble Bar)

In Garry Wotherspoon’s Being Different John O’Donnell remembers the toilets always being busy pre-war. The address in the 1930 telephone directory is 259 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Belfields Hotel

A working class hotel on the corner of King and George Streets, Sydney. (GW source: B Warren “The Good Old Days of Kamp” Campaign 53 May 1980) Not listed in listed in telephone directory. Site developed as shops in 1955 (City Council records)

Carlton Hotel/Carlton Rex (Dugout Bar)

At 56 Castlereagh Street, Sydney the Carlton was close by other hotels popular with homosexuals in the City in the 1930s. The telephone directory lists this hotel in 1950 and for Adrian Dixon in Being Different it was among the “gayest bars mid-week”. It was renamed the Carlton Rex Hotel in 1958. The Boomerangs Social Group was formed in the Dugout Bar in 1967.

Criterion Hotel

Located at the corner Pitt and Park Streets, Sydney (258 Pitt Street) it was described as a mixed venue “popular, and fairly rough ... you could say what you liked” (Pride History Group Oral History Collection 050902 KG)

Hotel Australia, the Long bar/Sportsman’s Bar

One of the gayest bars mid-week, with a discreet entrance in Rowe Street, attracting professionals, white collar and country visitors.  (Source: G Wotherspoon, “History” Campaign 53) It was located at 45 Castlereagh Street, between Martin Place and King Street. Closed in 1971.

Hotel Rex (Front Bar/Back Bar/Bottoms Up Bar)

Listed in the 1955 telephone directory at 58 Macleay Street, Potts Point, but with a homosexual clientele before this. (GW Interview with George D June 1980) The Bar continued on as a gay venue with a “good commercial scene” until it closed in 2001 to be converted into apartments.

Montgomery Hotel

Listed in the 1955 telephone directory at 96 Union Street, Pyrmont, opposite Pyrmont Bridge it was described as a blood and guts place with pianists and queens doing the “palais glide” up and down the aisles. The clientele was the local merchant seamen. (PHG Oral History Collection 050923 DF)

Pfahlerts Hotel

Described (PHG interview 051126 KJ) as “pimms, cocktails, leisurely, bit more screamy, possibly a queen’s bar”. Listed in 1930 – 1955 telephone directories at 50 Margaret Street, Sydney. (GW source: Ian D September 1977, Brian B March 1980, R Connell “The Way it Was” OWN 25, 20 October 1983)

Rock and Roll Hotel

Located at the corner of Cowper Wharf Road and Bourke Street, it was a place to pick up navy sailors. (PHG Oral History Collection 050923 DF)

Tatler Hotel

Located at 432 George Street, this was a place for a quiet conversation before you took someone home. (PHG Oral History Collection 050923 DF)

Town Hall Hotel

Located at 530 George Street (corner Park and George Streets) it was a venue to pick up men in the 1950s (Pride History Group Oral History Collection 050902 KG) and was last advertised as a gay venue in 1981.

Ushers Metropolitan Hotel

In Garry Wotherspoon’s Being Different John O’Donnell remembers this hotel as the “main one” pre-war and Adrian Dixon says that it was among the “gayest bars mid-week“ in the 1950s. The 1955 telephone directory lists the address as 64-68 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.

Dance venues, bars

Stork Club

Located in a cluster of sly grog clubs in Sylvania Waters, the Stork Club featured frocked up young performers such as Rose Jackson in the late 50s early 60s. (Ken (Kandy) Johnson Kandy: what a drag! 2011 and David Hickie The Prince and the Premier 1985)

Taxi Club aka the Grosvenor Club

Listed in the 1948 telephone directory, but in 1956 the Club lodged a development proposal to use 40 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst as a taxi drivers’ social club. In the 1960s it was described as “a bloodbath, a mix of bohemians, criminals, drag queens and plumbers”. (PHG Oral History Collection No. 050908 DW)

Updated and revised: John Witte 22 August 2016

 

1951 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

19 Oct 1951

 

Police Superintendent Colin Delaney declares that homosexuality is on the increase.

Updated: 11 May 2015 by John Witte using information in a chronology compiled by Robert French in 2014.

 

1952 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

5 December 1952

 

Douglas Annand, Australia’s leading graphic designer is arrested in the public toilets near Chatswood Park for soliciting an officer of the NSW Police Force for an immoral purpose.

Updated:17 November 2015 by John Witte. Additions, alterations and corrections are welcome. Please contact me through the contact page

 

 

1953 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

30 April 1953

 

Graphic Designer, Douglas Annand arrested on 5 December 1952 and charged with soliciting an officer of the NSW Police Force for an immoral purpose is found guilty in the Central Court of Petty Sessions. No conviction was recorded.

28 July 1953

 

Graphic Designer, Douglas Annand’s appeal against the finding of guilt for soliciting is heard in the Quarter Sessions Appeals Court. Judge Neild allows the appeal, satisfied the charge was “baseless”.

Updated: 8 April 2016 by John Witte. Additions, alterations and corrections are welcome. Please contact me through the contact page

 

1957 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

4 Sept 1957

UK

The Wolfenden Report recommends homosexual law reform.

Updated: 11 May 2015 by John Witte using information in a chronology compiled by Robert French in 2014.

 

1958 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

10 June 1958

 

Police Commissioner Delaney declares homosexuality to be “Australia’s greatest menace”.

Updated: 11 May 2015 by John Witte using information in a chronology compiled by Robert French in 2014.

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From the 1950s

 

 

Date

 

 

Name

 

Address

 

Notes

1950 - 1960s tbc

Shalimar Restaurant

201-211 Elizabeth Street, City down stairs in the old T & G Insurance Bldg.

Wotherspoon's informants claim that there was a lot of same sex flirting but no dancing.

1950 - 1960s tbc

Carlton Hotel. It became the Carlton Rex in 1958.

56 Castlereagh Street, City

Oral history informants remember this as an important camp men's meeting place. The Boomerangs Social Club was formed here in the Dug Out Bar in 1967.

1950 - 1960s tbc

Rock and Roll Hotel

Cnr Cowper Wharf Road and Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo

Navy sailors pub. Rough.

1950 - 1960s tbc

Tatler Hotel

432 George Street, City

Working class homosexuals.

1950 - 1980s

Town Hall Hotel

530 George Street, City

Working class homosexuals.

From the mid 1950s

 

1955 - 1980s tbc

Rex Hotel. The Back Bar, The Bottoms Up Bar.

58 Macleay Street, KX

The main Saturday night meeting place for camp men in Sydney, before they moved on to other night spots or house parties.

1955 - 1960s tbc

Repin's Coffee Shops

130 & 138 King St &175 Pitt St, City

The haunt of nearby Theatre Royal workers.

1955 – 1959 tbc

Colony Restaurant a.k.a. Colony Club

755 Prince's Highway Sylvania near Tom Ugly's Bridge

A mixed audience enjoyed drag shows. It had a large swimming pool and a show called the Aqua Follies.

1955 – 1959 tbc

Usher's Metropolitan Hotel

64 - 68 Castlereagh St City

One of the gayest bars mid week, it attracted white collar workers and professionals.

1955 - 1960s

Montgomery Hotel

96 Union Street, Pyrmont. Opposite Pyrmont Bridge

Close to merchant shipping docks. Pick up place for rough trade.

1955 - 1960s

Hasty Tasty

 

A meeting place for queers. All night fast food.

1955 - 1960s

Criterion Hotel

Corner Pitt and Park Street, City

A mixed clientele

1956 - 1960s tbc

Galleria Espresso

27 Rowe Street, City

Arty, literary crowd. Owned by Mervyn Horton later editor of Art and Australia magazine