Sex, crime and Kings Cross – the wild side of Sydney

Wall to wall people looking for a good time at Kings Cross on a Friday night

If you want to behave badly, you have to come here. Mobsters, murders and knock shops make Kings Cross the Sydney centre of scandal where anything goes. In my night exploring the seedy side of Sydney, anything did go. Down the stairs.

One of the friends I was with got kicked out of a strip club – quite a feat for a woman who usually inhabits more classy joints. She complained loudly about the price of the very watered down drinks and was frogmarched down the stairs by a 160kg Samoan bouncer. Like, are you gonna argue?


It was time to go anyway. Watching bored pole dancers gyrating and jiggling their bits at salivating men loses its appeal faster than you can say “Brazilian”.

The red light area, also known as the Golden Mile, has traditionally been the centre of Sydney nightlife for some decades with its wall-to-wall bars, strip joints, adult shops, nightclubs and restaurants. And knock shops. It started as the den of sailors from visiting ships – thirsty for drink and hungry for women after months at sea.

All night every Friday and Saturday night it’s heaving. In fact the Cross never has a quiet night. It’s a magnet for tourists, the rich and the homeless, criminals, the under-30s and, um, broads like us out for a girls night on the slightly wild side.

Knock shop is an old fashioned term for brothel, and Kings Cross is full of them. Part of its scintilating history includes the story of two brothel madams in the days of sly grog, cocaine and razor gangs. We did a walking tour and it was quite a revelation.

Sworn enemies Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh ruled the Cross in the 1920s and incited the violence known as razor gangs, where a cut-throat razor was the weapon of choice. Charming. Their exploits were turned into a recent TV series called Underbelly: Razor which was hugely successful in Australia.

We did the Crimes & Passions Walking Tour with a jaunty chap from Bounce Tours, who gleefully told us all about the most gruesome crimes and took us down darkened back streets to the most infamous spots in the Cross.

This guy was shot here, that guy was slashed and stabbed there, and over there hookers fought over the most lucrative spot to stand for trade. It was a hoot. We also bar hopped a bit and even stopped at a brothel just to giggle at the prices. Honestly. Full service for an hour was $200, if you really want to know.

Kings Cross was the drugs centre of Sydney until there was a concerted clean-up. It’s also famous for its crooked cops and nightclub barons, and we got to know a fair bit about The Tunnel, The Love Machine, Strippers, Porky’s, Bada Bing and The Pleasure Chest. There were so many cops on the take, eventually there was a royal commission in the 1990s to investigate: 284 police were named, 47 faced charges and 12 committed suicide.

Our night out was a package deal. The Mercure Potts Point hotel offers a special Crimes and Passions package that includes overnight accommodation in a harbour view room, buffet breakfast for two, late check-out and a guided exploration with Bounce Walking Tours all for just $A259 per night. The walking tour on its own is $A39 per person and takes about two hours.

The Golden Mile of Darlinghurst Road literally stretches below the Mercure, nice and close to stagger back to. The rooms are well soundproofed so you don’t hear the all night action when you’re trying to sleep it all off. If you’re visiting Sydney the Cross is easy to find. Just head for the massive Coca-Cola sign. This package is valid until December 30, 2011, subject to availability. For bookings – call 02 9397 1777 or email reservations@mercuresydneypottspoint.com.au
More on the walking tours: www.bouncewalkingtours.com

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