William Street, Kings Cross at night 1970 by John Fitzpatrick, Credit: National Archives of Australia (A1200, L84008)

William Street, Kings Cross at night 1970 by John Fitzpatrick, Credit: National Archives of Australia (A1200, L84008)

Comic entertainer Frankie Davidson asked Australians in 1963 ‘Have you ever been to see Kings Cross?’

Whether you’ve been there or not, you probably know something about the Cross from its reputation and clubs: from Les Girls to Sweethearts. Kings Cross has a special place in Sydney’s history. It attracted migrants, bohemians, artists, eccentrics and working girls throughout the 20th century and has been a staple of Sydney nightlife.

Carlotta, Kings Cross 1970-71, by Rennie Ellis, © Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

Carlotta, Kings Cross 1970-71, by Rennie Ellis, © Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

Historian Mark Dunn describes Kings Cross in our entry on the Dictionary as a ‘state of mind’ as much as a place.

And you too can experience some of the history of Kings Cross in a new immersive cabaret performance called Hidden Sydney – The Glittering Mile.

The cabaret takes its name from the 1964 ABC television documentary, The Glittering Mile, where Kings Cross was described as a “glittering mile of dreams, delusions, hopes and headaches, where life comes out of an espresso machine and you can have it any way you like it.”

Presented by the City of Sydney’s Art & About program, the performance is set over 4 floors of The Nevada, the former Sydney brothel on Bayswater Road which once boasted the biggest bed in the world. Swirl through the decades meeting characters including Bea Miles, Les Girls performers, and Rosaleen Norton, the “witch of Kings Cross”. Rub shoulders with the crims and crooks of the day, including associates of Abe Saffron, finishing up with last drinks at the Chevron Hotel’s Silver Spade club.

The cabaret is on for a limited season, until October 9, so don’t miss out. It’s a chance to experience the sensory history of Kings Cross, rather than just read about it. I’ve been along (courtesy of the City of Sydney) and I have to say that this historian had a great night out.

As well as the cabaret and the Dictionary of Sydney entries linked to above, you can also explore the history of Kings Cross through the CIty of Sydney’s self-guided historical walking tours. Download the app or the pdf here and get outside!

Listen to the Lisa & Nic’s chat here and tune in to 2SER Breakfast with Nic Healey on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20 am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney. 

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