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

 

b. 1976 - 1978 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.

Sex on premises venues. Main reference has been Jason Prior’s thesis Sydney gay saunas 1967-2000: fight for civic acceptance and experiences beyond the threshold.

You might find these useful as well

  • Rebecca Jennings Unnamed Desires: a Sydney lesbian history Monash University Publishing 2015
  • Gavin Harris and John Witte Camp Nites 2006 Pride History Group http://www.camp.org.au/books
  • Prue McSween I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Carlotta  MacMillan 2003
  • Ken (Kandy) Johnson, Editor Gavin Harris Kandy what a drag! Self published 2009
  • Rebecca Jennings and Sandra MacKay Out and About Pride History Group 2009 http://www.camp.org.au/books
  • SD Harvey The Ghost of Ludwig Gertsch Macmillan 2000

Hotels

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.

Chevron Hotel

Situated at 81 Macleay Street, Potts Point. Not listed as a gay venue in 1982.

Crest Hotel (Downstairs Bar and Louise Room, 1st Fl)

Located at 111 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross details of ownership and start up dates of these bars are available. The Louise Room was advertised in Playguy in 1979.

Cricketer’s Arms

Established in 1973 at 106 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills, it had a DJ and a restaurant. Remembered as a women’s venue. (PHG Oral history interview 090706 SM). Closes around 1984.

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.

Sussex Hotel

Located at the corner of Sussex and Liverpool Streets, Sydney the clientele were mainly women and Friday was “girls night”. (PHG Oral History Interview 081204 RM). Closed for redevelopment in the mid 1980s, a women’s disco was still advertised as late as  January 1983.

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.

Unicorn Hotel

The first gay pub in 1978 on Oxford Street at 106 Oxford Street, Paddington (Faro and Wotherspoon Street Seen 2000) it was described as a mostly male pub with restaurant.

Bars and discos

Barrel Inn

Listed in the 1973 phone directory at 12 Challis Avenue Potts Point (See Vadims) it was the watering hole for the Roo Bike Club and one of the first venues to enter a float in the Mardi Gras parade. It closed in 1981.

Capriccio’s aka International Vanities

Operated at 163 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst from 1969 to March 1982.  It was an “international style” night club, with shows on two floors, a disco and cruising bars. It was initially owned by Majorie Hathaway and Dawn O’Donnell and later Allan Mills. Tommy Brown was the last owner.

Castellos

Around 1973, the Il Castello Restaurant moves to 2 Kellett Street, Kings Cross and Rod Stringer operated it until 1976. His publication Campaign operated from the second floor from late 1975. He sold Castellos to John McLean in 1976.

Charlie’s Place Wine Bar

This was a small suburban wine bar operating in Shop 4, Earlwood Arcade, 363 Homer Street, Earlwood. It is listed in the 1977 phone directory.

Enzo’s Wine Bar then Traffic Light

This small venue at 242 Oxford Street Paddington (opposite Paddington Town Hall) was staging sophisticated drag performances in 1963. It then became Enzo’s named after its manager and had a friendly inviting atmosphere. (PHG Oral History Interview 160323 RH)

Flo’s Palace

Opened in August 1979 at 97 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, this was a Dawn O’Donnell Roger Claude Teyssedre operation and Dennis Flo Fuller was the manager. It was aimed at the older gay male market. (PHG Oral History Interview 061115 DF) It closed in September 1983.

Ida’s Disco

Listed in the 1978 telephone directory at 161 Brougham Street, Kings Cross, it would have closed sometime in 1979.

Jools Restaurant

This was a classy theatre restaurant leaning toward the homosexual market, established in 1973 at a two storey building at 121 Crown Street, East Sydney by Dawn O’Donnell and Roger Claude Teyssedre. (SD Harvey The Ghost of Ludwig Gertsch 2000) It closes around 1979.

Les Girls Restaurant and the Carousel Club

Opening in 1963 this up market drag show venue was listed in the 1964 telephone directory at 2c Roslyn Street, Kings Cross. It was owned and operated by Sammie Lee and Reg Boom and in 1974, Les Girls moved to 11 Oxford Street, Paddington while the Carousel Club opened in 2c Roslyn Street. By September 1980, Les Girls was operating at Roslyn Street.

Patchs Cabaret

Located at 33 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst in what was the 33 Club casino. It was opened by Rod Stringer in 1976. He sold it Walter Furlong who sold it to Dawn O’Donnell in 1979 It was an Oxford Street gay institution and then became DIVA in 1989 and  then “Formerly Patchs” and finally DCM in 1990.

Patchs at the Beach

Listed in the 1977 telephone directory at 155 Dolphin Street, Coogee, it was an unsuccessful attempt to expand the Patchs brand.

Ruby Reds

Opened by Dawn O’Donnell and Roger Claude Teyssedre in 1976, (PHG Oral History Interview 061115 DF) on the site of the defunct Ruby’s Reds Steakhouse. It was in a building rented from Abe Saffron at 273 Crown Street, Darlinghurst. It was a lesbian venue which you entered by a long flight of stairs. Closed in 1986 to become the Querelle Restaurant.

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)

Tina’s Bar

Located at 242 William Street, Kings Cross it was owned by Abe Saffron. It became Bona Inn late 1980 and closed in 1981.

Tropicana

Located at 85 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, (date unknown) it was owned by Nick Lorschi and David Ross. The nightclub was up a flight of stairs was considered a down market version of Patchs. In August 1980 it was converted to 85/A Man’s Disco/Midnight Shift.

Yolanta’s Bar Bistro

Located at 9 Pittwater Road, Manly “flat, level, backyard, not big, ... would have been an old fruit shop ... bar on the right as you walked in, there were chairs and it had a good backyard”. (PHG Oral History Collection 110801 CW) It opened around 1977 and was a small friendly local bar It last advertised in 1983.

Male sex on premises venues

253 Sauna

This sauna opened in 1973 and closed in 1988. It was owned by Neil Taylor and operated from 253 Oxford Street, Paddington. (Jason Prior)

Bondi Junction Steam Baths aka Viking Sauna then The Pits

Sydney’s first camp/gay sauna at 109 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, was owned by Dawn O’Donnell.  It is listed as Viking Sauna in the telephone directory and in March 1980 it was renamed The Pits. It is destroyed by fire in September 1980. (Jason Prior thesis Sydney gay saunas 1967-2000: fight for civic acceptance and experiences beyond the threshold)

Bunkhouse

Opened in 1977 and closed in 1980 (Sydney Star) and operated at 2 Kellett Street, Kings Cross. It was owned by Abe Saffron (Jason Prior).

Ken’s Karate Klub aka Kensington Karate Klasses

Established by Ken Kandy Johnson in 1972 (see Jason Prior) at 83 – 85 Anzac Parade Kensington (see Purple Onion) by transferring his sauna licence from Ken Baths. The design was based on steams baths he has seen in Muslim countries. After a number of owners, remakes and renames it closed in 2012. (SSO April 2012)

King Steam

Opened at 127 King Street, Sydney by Roger Claude Teyssedre in 1974 and remained here until 1979. (Jason Prior)

Roman Bath

A venture of David Ross and Nicolas Lorshy it was located at 250 Pitt Street, Sydney (the site of former Latin Quarter Nightclub) It opened in 1977 and closed in 1986 and was advertised as the most luxurious and well-appointed steam bath in the southern hemisphere.

Signal

Located in a storeroom above and behind the Jools nightclub at 121 Crown Street, East Sydney, you entered by a side staircase in Crown Lane. David Beschi moved here from Oxford Square around 1978. It closed early in 1982.

Updated and revised: John Witte 22 August 2016

 

 

1976 Events

Date

If not in Sydney

Event

January 1976

Melbourne

The Homosexual Electoral Lobby (later Homosexual Law Reform Coalition) is formed by Gay Liberation and Society 5 to lobby for homosexual law reform.

29 March 1976

Launceston

The Tasmanian Homosexual Law Reform Group is formed.

May 1976            

 

The Homosexual Rights Coalition questions candidates in the upcoming State election.

1 May 1976

 

The Wran Labor Government is elected.

1 May 1976

 

Graeme Donkin, a gay Christian activist and member of Acceptance, runs for the State seat of Bligh.

10 May 1976

 

Gay march through Kings Cross.

14 May 1976   

 

Activists picket Club Castellos in Kellett Street Kings Cross for refusing to admit women.

14 May 1976

 

Formation of Socialist Lesbians and Male Homosexuals.

June 1976

 

Premier Neville Wran addresses the NSW State Labor Conference and advocates homosexual law reform as a conscience vote.

8 June 1976

 

Tasmanian conservationist Dr Bob Brown ‘comes out’ on ABC-TV.

27 July 1976

ACT

A Law Reform (Sexual Behaviour) Bill is passed by the Legislative Assembly and is forwarded to the Minister.

5 August 1976

 

CAMP sends a deputation to the new Attorney-General, Frank Walker.

20  August  1976

 

CAMP holds its first meeting with NSW Premier Wran.

17-19  August  1976

 

Second National Homosexual Conference is held at Sydney University.

14 September 1976

Mt Isa

 

Gay activist, Lex Watson is assaulted whilst appearing on the ABC’s Monday Conference.

20  September 1976

 

CAMP meets with Premier Wran, who urges gays and lesbians to change public attitudes to homosexuality before there can be law reform in NSW.

17 October 1976

 

The Gay Film Fund is launched at a BBQ by a collective of lesbians, including Digby Duncan.

4 November 1976

ACT

Ordinance legalising homosexual acts in private is signed by the Liberal Attorney-General.

18  November  1976

 

An Anti-Discrimination Bill which does not include ‘homosexuality’, is introduced into State Parliament.

23  November 1976

 

A second reading of the Bill includes “homosexuality”.

23  November  1976

 

NSW Labor Government’s bid to outlaw discrimination against lesbians and gay men is defeated by a conservative majority in Upper House. The homosexual provisions of the Bill are to come into force by Regulation after the ADB undertakes further research and report on its findings.

27-28  November  1976

 

Tribunal on Homosexuals & Discrimination is held at the University of NSW and is organised by CAMP (NSW). Dr Jim Cairns MHR, Bridget Gilling, Barry Egan and Senator Arthur Gietzelt sit on Tribunal.

29 November 1976

 

The Cronulla Gay Group form at a meeting at the Taren Point Hotel.

Updated: 17 November 2015 by John Witte using gay publications and various chronologies.