Monday, January 31, 2011

A South Yarra gay outing

'R, it is the Midsumma gay history walk next Sunday. You don't want to go do you?'
'Where is it this time?'
'South Yarra.'
'Wouldn't mind.'
'It is forecast to be 34 degrees.'
'Bit warm, but we should do it.'
'I'll book then shall I?'

In the meantime the forecast changed to 40 degrees for the day.

We met at eleven at what is called the Pink Palace in Claremont Street, South Yarra. It is the home of ALSO who have given space to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives organisation, who run the walks. Cost for the walk $17.50 pp including booking fee by whichever ticket agency does Midsumma bookings.

Next Sunday is Pride March day in St Kilda. We went last year and had a great time. This year I am working.

I had heard that Midsumma Carnival was to be at Birrarung Marr this year. At some point a week or so ago I wondered when it was. I was surprised to hear that it had been and gone. We normally attend, but again, I think I was working that day. As I thought, there was not enough shade and it was very dusty. I am not sorry to have missed it. It was also a thoroughfare for those going to the cricket at the MCG. The last couple of years Canival has been at Treasury Gardens, which was good, but City of Melb were concerned about the impact on the Gardens. It used to be at Alexandra Gardens and I am not sure why it isn't now, possibly the same reason. Rather irks me when Yarra Park gets handed over for carparking for sporting events. You just know his name is Justin Madden.

We have done a St Kilda gay walk tour, and a Carlton one. There have been many we haven't.

The walk intro was done in the foyer of the afore mentioned building. First stop was within view of Melbourne Boys High. We were hailed with oral history anecdotes of those who attended and what the student lads got up to in a general sense.

Stop two was at South Yarra Station, a place where men could loiter without raising suspicion.

Stop three was at number 9 Darling Street, now a reception centre. What is was before I missed, but the late and great Jan Hillier used to host parties and dances there before she and Doug Lucas established Pokeys at the Prince of Wales in St Kilda. Poor Jan died while trying to rescue her dog when her house caught fire.

As we walked to the next point, I overheard a chappie talking about Ava Gardner and the Regent Theatre????

Stop four was Masies, Her Majesty's Hotel. Masies is not a corruption of Her Maj, but the camp name of the licensee.

Stop five, Kevin O'Neill's florist, the flower arranger for the rich and famous.

Stop six was opposite what was a gay cafe in perhaps the sixties. There were quite a few sprinkled along Toorak Road. In the programme one mentioned is Flowers. It was an error in an oral history and the place was Brummels. I have written about Brummels.

Stop seven was a fairly general chat about Chapel Street. A constant running thread was the social development of South Yarra.

The last stops eight and nine were combined because of the heat. I had no idea the Imperial Hotel was the first dyke bar in Melbourne. Chaps in the front bar, girls to the back. It was a rough place, the kind of place where a girl might just break a pool cue over her girlfriend's head. Mention was also made of the Daughters of Bilitis book shop which went on to become Skorus Books.

The official tour ended, but most went back to the ALSO building where tea, coffee, cold drinks and nibbles were served. A few of us who were interested viewed the actual archive areas, upstairs and downstairs.

In spite of the heat, it was a good event.


The speaker amp failed and I missed quite a lot of what was said.

I know in the past they have done two walks of the same. I don't think they did this year and the number of participants was too high.

Oh yes, the bit about Ava Gardner. When she was here filming On the Beach, one evening she and a companion quietly slipped into Australia's first night club Embers in Toorak Road. She was spotted and the spotlight went on her. I forget the exact circumstances but she was pestered by to say a few words and eventually she relented and stood and said 'f*** off'. Amusingly Embers nightclub later burnt down.

There was one particularly interesting building I knew nothing about, The Regent Theatre, in Toorak Road. Here is a photo of it here.

This is its most attractive replacement.

View Larger Map

I didn't take any snaps except for this one of Michelin Man in the Window of Duttons in Yarra Street as we returned to the car.


  1. OOO ... another reason to like AG ... sorry to see her name is so popular ... she would hate that too!!

    re the walkway

    I looked everywhere for something like that!! HOW DID YOU FIND IT!!

    The real irony about it being called th 'Cutler Footway' is that old Roden Cutlet had a tin leg, losing the flesh and bone one in the war in return for a VC. We have a very wierd sense of the ridiculous in this country.,

    I have photos of it from underneath and boy is it tacked on. The underneath is timber! It looks like a walkway around a gaol. Tomorrow, the barbed wire surrounds ... creepy! Not tomorrow .. but Wed. Tomorrow is Theme Day ... daDAH!

  2. The sketch was reproduced in David Keenan's The Eastern Lines. It is only a side elevation.

  3. yes ... Justin Maddening.
    His ancestors probably allowed the demolition of the South Yarra Regent Theatre.
    Anyone who follows your link, should also click 'Next' to get another interesting view.

  4. Yes, another shot of it. Today I saw a reference to you by me in a post of mine, or in comments, and I can't find it now. It was a time when your puter was broke. Jah Teh spoke up on your behalf.