Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Kings Cross sleaze debate

'Sleaze' is central to current debate about the Cross. I have asked for a non-judgemental definition of it in comments on this site but none have appeared. Let's face it, though, we all know what is being discussed here.

I respect the point of view of those who argue that the Cross used to be nicer but has been ruined by the onset of 'sleaze'. However I don't accept the argument. There are much larger forces at work, and the while the tone of the Cross has certainly changed a lot of it simply reflects the way society has changed. The 'innocent' days of Cary Grant movies have given way to Rambo and movies devoted to splatter or teenage gross-outs; Doris Day pop has moved over for Gangsta rap glorifying gun crime, and death metal. No wonder the Cross has a harder edge. It's just that it is visible here rather than hidden behind closed doors as in other suburbs, just as it was way before the '70s.

The Cross used to party a lot harder back in the '30s and '40s -- parties often ran very obviously all weekend. You could still buy cocaine over the counter in some local shops. The Westpac bank site on the corner of Springfield Plaza was known as 'battleship corner' because that's where the working girls used to hang out, enticing Yankee sailors and soldiers during the war. Single blokes walking down the road then would commonly be accosted by a young lady with the proposition: 'Want some company for the night? Strip to the earrings, thirty bob.'

Kings Cross Road, now an alienating freeway, used to hold rows of terrace houses operating as brothels and was known as 'Douche-can Alley', and gunmen inhabited Woolloomooloo and the Green Park Hotel.

These references come from 'Memories Kings Cross 1936-46', a fascinating locally produced book still available at the Community Centre, now moved back to the Rex Building (thru the double doors to the right of the PO -- go get a copy while they're still available).

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