Entertainer and entrepreneur, born in 1935 in Petersham NSW.


Ken Johnson went to school in Petersham and then sent to a selective school, Canterbury Boys High and gained his Intermediate Certificate in 1950. After leaving school, he worked as a clerk and in 1954 as a safety officer with Dr Darcy Kroll’s Industrial Medical Service.

During his stint with National Service in 1957, Ken gained his name Kandy from fellow nasho’s who affectionately treated him as their camp mascot.

He drifted apart from his boyfriend Darcy Kroll after National Service and became involved in the camp commercial scene of the late 1950’s – Pfahlerts, Ushers, the Australia Hotel’s back bar, the Rex Hotel and the Kashmir Coffee Lounge.

By the early 1960’s he became a Personnel Officer, began a course at Technical College and was performing in drag at parties.

He transferred drag performances to stage shows at the Surf City Night Spot in Kings Cross and later to a venue he opened in Enmore, an inner western suburb, called Kandy’s Garden of Eden aka Kandy’s Coffee House.

There he assembled a group of drag performers and performed comedy routines. Much loved was when he voice synched to edited tape recordings of Round the Horn.

Kandy also performed at the Purple Onion and at Les Girls, but left the Les Girls because of the mistreatment he witnessed being dished out to one of the performers.

It was after a performance at the Purple Onion that he decided to take up an offer to become a partner in the Purple Onion in 1967 with Dormie McIver. The Onion and the Garden then merged their performers and shows.

At the Onion, Kandy perfected his comedy routines and technical expertise with tape editing. It became the place to go for the late night 1960s camp set, international celebrities visiting Sydney and Sydney’s demimonde. Kandy was now a full time performer and entrepreneur.

He then decided to become a publican at the Lord Roberts Hotel in East Sydney in 1968, and sold the Purple Onion to David (Beatrice) Williams.

Kandy had mixed success with this venture and again in 1970-1973 with the Park Inn Hotel in Woollahra. However, he decided that he could open a steam bath and yet avoid the inevitable trouble with a cautious local Council and corrupt police.

He first opened a steam bath in an existing gym in Randwick in 1971, and then transferred the licence to its current premises on the site of the old Purple Onion in 1973.

Kens Karate Klub aka Ken’s Karate Klasses was successfully owned and managed by Kandy until 1984, when he sold it to the former owners of the Roman Baths.

Later ventures such as the Kristal Pistol in Haymarket in 1974 and the Paddington Green Hotel in 1984 were dogged with problems and folded.

Kandy performed as an entertainer in Turkey, New Zealand and Australia until his retirement in 2003. He now lives in Sydney, Noosa and Turkey.


By John Witte - January 2006.
(based on an oral history interview with Ken (Kandy) Johnson November 2005.