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









1960 - 1966























































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

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

Venues 1960s

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
  • 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
  • SD Harvey The Ghost of Ludwig Gertsch Macmillan 2000


Restaurants, coffee shops

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)

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.

Vadim’s Restaurant

Set up by Vadim Kargopoloff in the early 60s at 12 Challis Avenue, Potts Point, this was a late night bar, “where the brandy came in coffee cups after a certain time of night…” (PHG Oral History Interview 060704 JFB)


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 (Quarter Deck Bar)

Situated at 81 Macleay Street, Potts Point, this was favourite drinking spot for naval sailors and camps. Upstairs in the Cocktail Bar actors like Gordon Chater held court. (PHG Oral History Interview 050719 AK)

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.

Lord Roberts Hotel

Located at 64 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst this was Ken (Kandy) Johnson’s first hotel after he sold the Purple Onion to David Williams perhaps as early as 1965. (PHG Oral History Interview 050908 DW) (PHG Oral History Interview 051126 KJ). There were popular drag shows in the Volga (Vulgar) Room.

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)

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.

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.

Welcome Inn Hotel

Located at 81 Sussex Street, Sydney, this was a rough merchant sailors pub, on par with the Montgomery and a class below the Rock and Roll. (PHG Oral History Interview 061117 BP)

Bars, nightclubs

The Annex

You entered by the Kings Cross Theatrette 85 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross and “there was a jukebox, coffee and soft drinks, and (the) same sex dancing was a major added attraction” (GW P158)

Capriccio’s aka International Vanities

Operating 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.

Chez Ivy Wine Bar

Around 1962, the owner, Ivy Richter was convinced to turn the run down wine bar at 101 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, into a camp friendly place and it quickly became a Sydney institution. It probably closed in the early 1970s.

Finnochios then 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)

Ivy’s Birdcage

Located above Taylor Square at 191 Oxford Street, this was Ivy’s second more ambitious venture bringing professional drag performances to what was then a run-down part of Darlinghurst around 1967. After two fires the Birdcage closed around 1969. (PHG Oral History Interview 060522 IR)

Jewel Box De Luxe Restaurant

A pioneer drag venue and strip joint operated by Arlene and Lee Gordon at 41 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross behind Nick’s Milkbar in the early 60s before both Les Girls and the Purple Onion. It closed after 1963. It was a rough venue. (PHG Oral History Interview 050719 AK)

Kandy’s Coffee House aka Kandy’s Garden of Eden

Located at 95 Enmore Road, Enmore, opposite the Enmore Theatre, this was Ken Kandy Johnson’s first (very) camp venue in the mid 1960s. (Ken (Kandy) Johnson Kandy what a drag! 2011)

Karen’s Castle

This was the first drag venue owned by Dawn O’Donnell in Cleveland Street, Redfern and named after its compere Karen Chant. This is where Ayesha first performed while she was still teaching in the mid 1960s.

Les Girls Restaurant

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.

Purple Onion Coffee Shop

Started by camps around 1963 at 83 Anzac Parade, Kensington it was a mixed venue, predominately camp on Sundays and became famous for turning drag shows into an art form. Owners included Dormie McIvor, Rose Jackson, Ken Kandy Johnson and David Beatrice Williams.

Rhine Schloss Restaurant

A German themed bar listed in the 1962 telephone directory at 65 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross. Lee Gordon recruited Carlotta for her first professional drag performance here.

Stork Club

Located in a cluster of sly grog clubs in Sylvania Waters, the Stork Club featured young frocked up 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)

The Trolley Car Bar

Listed in the 1967 telephone directory at 10a City Road, Broadway, opposite Sydney University, this was a short lived wine bar operated by Dawn O’Donnell and her partner Julia Farmer. (PHG Oral History Interview 061115 DF)

Male sex on premises venues

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)

Updated and revised: John Witte 22 August 2016



1965 Events


If not in Sydney


March 1965


The ALP wins government and subsequent moves by Attorney-General Don Dunstan to decriminalise homosexuality are endorse by cabinet but rejected by by the ALP caucus.

April 1965


The Humanist Society publishes an article on civil liberties declaring that government has no role delimiting freedom “to choose one’s own way of life and private behaviour”.

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