Doris Goddard, the glamorous publican of the iconic Hollywood Hotel in Surry Hills, died last week at the age of 89. On Friday on 2SER Breakfast, Lisa and Tess talked about the life and careers of the much loved ‘Gorgeous Goddard’.Listen to the whole conversation with Lisa and Tess on 2SER here
Born at St Margaret’s in Darlinghurst in 1930, Doris Goddard grew up with her mother Essie in Cowper Street, Glebe. She did her Leaving Certificate at a convent school in Moss Vale and in 1948 went to the University of Sydney to do an Arts degree. There she joined the Sydney University Drama Society (aka SUDS), and after six months she ‘just had to get into show business’. Doris began performing in musicals and singing in nightclubs like the ‘Celebrity Club’ in York Street.
In 1952 Doris left for London, ‘seeking new world’s to conquer’. She was also heading overseas for an operation on a congenital heart defect, which could then only be performed in London.
The operation a success, Doris started singing in clubs, perfecting her performance and point singing techniques. Point singing, a popular cabaret and variety style, is both singing and acting, using spoken word and acting as well as singing to bring out ‘the point’ of a song, and tell the story. She was working in variety theatre and nightclubs, and was also doing modelling as at about 5′8″ she was taller and more statuesque than most women at the time.
She was working as a nightclub singer at the Coconut Grove in the West End in 1954 when an agent sent her for an audition for a part in the British film Geordie. She was offered the role of Helga, a Danish ‘giantess shot putter’ who falls in love with a hammer thrower.
With this success, she found work in other films, including Iron Petticoat with Bob Hope and Katherine Hepburn, as well as television, radio and theatre.
In 1958 Doris returned to Sydney to see her family. Her mother asked her not to go back, a difficult decision as it meant giving up her promising career. Her mother prevailed, and Doris decided to go into into the hotel business, something she later described as a ‘bit like show business’.
She and Essie became the licensees of the Belmore Park Hotel in Surry Hills in the early 1960s, and then the West End in Balmain and the Marlborough in Newtown, before buying the Hotel Hollywood on Foster Street in Surry Hills in 1977.
The hotel had originally been called the Nevada, but in 1941 it had been rebuilt and renamed the Hollywood for the film industry that was clustered around the area, like Paramount House and 20th Century Fox. By 1977 the pub was bare and run down and numbers were dwindling, but Doris built it back up again. Female publicans had been around in Sydney for a long time of course, but the exotic cache of having a former Hollywood actress running the pub lent the hotel an additional glamour. She put carpet down, installed the booths and the wood panelling on the walls and made everyone welcome, often sitting on the bar, playing her guitar and singing. Doris and her husband Charlie lived in one of the apartments above the hotel and her mother Essie lived in the other.
Doris continued her acting career in Sydney in a smaller way, taking on roles in the Sundowners, Robbery Under Arms, Number 96, Caddie and Tim. The hotel has also featured as a location in many productions, its Art Deco charm and atmosphere an asset for period features in particular.
Since 1977, the Hollywood Hotel has been a place where everyone has felt welcome, thanks to Doris. Her beautifully diverse clientele will miss her but she certainly won’t be forgotten.
You can listen to two interviews with Doris by the ABC:
ABC Half hour interview presented by Michelle Rayner in 2008:
And another interview in 2005:
and the National Film and Sound Archive oral history interview by Nancye Bridges in 1990:
Dr Lisa Murray is the Historian of the City of Sydney and the former chair of the Dictionary of Sydney Trust. She is a Visiting Scholar at the State Library of New South Wales and the author of several books, including Sydney Cemeteries: a field guide. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Lisa! You can follow her on Twitter here: @sydneyclio