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“Immerse yourself in the stories of Bea Miles, Abe Saffron, Roie the Witch, Standover Jim and the iconic Les Girls. Rub shoulders with the crims and crooks of the day, finishing up with last drinks at the Chevron Silver Spade.” That’s the ‘come-on’ for Hidden Sydney – The Glittering Mile, a naughty and nostalgic adventure in nightlife and the underworld of ‘the Cross’ from the 50s and 60s.

The Glittering Mile was not so glittering in a literal sense; "I was there, waiting at the tables of the quickly legendary Bourbon & Beefsteak Bar, serving the GIs on R&R from Vietnam and watching the ‘tricks’ disappear into a doorway across the road for about 7 minutes at a time," recalls Andrew L. Urban.

But it is glittering in the memory, and it was a glittering mile of neon lights and endless opportunities for fun, adventure and a little law breaking. A lot of law-breaking for some … but there’s much more to this Mile, not least the Wayside Chapel, a couple of hundred meters from Les Girls.

This 90 minute, multi-layered and immersive event includes patrons passing through scenes from Les Girls and brothel rooms to drug deals and other nefarious pursuits of the era. It also includes a unique session, From the Horse’s Mouth, hosted by celebrated playwright, author and screenwriter Louis Nowra, who describes the neighbourhood as a no-holds-barred place where backpackers, prostitutes, strippers, chefs, mad men, poets, beggars, booksellers, doctors, gangsters, sailors, musicians, drug dealers, eccentrics, judges and artists live side by side. Part flaneur, part historian and part eyewitness, Louis Nowra is the best possible guide to a place that is both real and a state of mind. Patrons will hear from a cast of fascinating characters who came, who saw and who still live to tell the tale. It’s on at The World Bar.

Louise Keller says: “It's something special. Choreographed sex, drag queens in fine fettle, cabaret at the Silver Spade.. .Lovely, not ugly and totally authentic, this marvelous interactive immersive theatre is a sophisticated & fabulous revisiting of Kings Cross in the 50s & 60s. Superbly conceived and executed, it's a unique offering not to be missed!”

Andrew L. Urban says: “At the very start, waiting for the event to begin, outside what used to be The Nevada – the 50s and 60s brothel - I was singled out by the bouncer, who ‘recognised me’ from previous visits to the Nevada, and referring to me as a VIP, sent me off with a tall, smiling blonde in a hanky of a dress. I found myself alone with her (once a him) in a small ground floor room inside the resurrected brothel. She began to read to me from a porn paperback, one hand squeezing my right knee. We were interrupted by a call to move on …

A little later, I was taking a swig from a bottle of red wrapped in a brown paper bag, listening to a reincarnation of Bea Miles (Morgan Maguire), who looked like a tramp but quoted Shakespeare like a lady.

When we got to the darkened room with two figures on a black linen draped bed, the woman in a black horse’s head – the famed Rosaleen ‘Witch of Kings Cross’ Norton (Fiona Jopp) - I was no longer surprised when during the erotic and acrobatic routine she grabbed my hand and, along with the hand of two others, used it to support and propel herself in one of the acrobatic routines. This is immersive and intimate theatre, and while every punter shares the spaces with the performers in close proximity, I can’t promise you’ll get the same level of immersions!

Visitors will also hear from former Push members - film producer Margaret Fink (My Brilliant Career, Candy) and long time friend, journalist and activist Wendy Bacon (Honorary Professor at the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism).

What’s the Push, you ask: The Sydney Push was a zeitgeist led by writers, journalists, criminals, bohemians, and feminists (think Germaine Greer, Wendy Bacon, Margaret Fink, Clive James) who scorned traditional values, practiced free love and vehemently opposed political conservatism. Fuelled by a potent mix of ideas, talks, alcohol and fornication, The Push gathered in Sydney pubs, cafes and backyards, sharing maverick opinions about society's status quo.

There is plenty more: The Cross's red light district has made way for small bars, apartments and empty shop fronts. As brothels vanish from Kings Cross to the 'Burbs, there is a session with Julie Bates, Principal of Urban Realists, a long term activist and coach for the human and legal rights for the sex industry.

But if you want to scratch the real underbelly … Deborah Locke was a gutsy young city detective who began her career in 1984, working in the Kings Cross Drug Squad. Deborah witnessed widespread police corruption and bribery, involving crooked detectives associating freely with colourful members of Sydney's underworld. On her way to work, the prostitutes on Darlinghurst Road would tell her "I've already paid Sergeant so-and-so today... be careful of the blokes you are working with" an understatement which later led to Deborah risking her life to expose police corruption. Her best selling book Watching the Detectives, inspired Nine's television drama Underbelly: The Golden Mile. (Sunday June 11, 11.15 at The World Bar, The Rear Entrance of “THE NEVADA” at The World Bar, 1 Mansion Lane, Kings Cross)

Published May 18, 2017

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25 May – 18 June 2017

Wednesday – Thursday:
6:30pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:15pm

Friday – Saturday:
6pm, 6:30pm, 7pm, 7:30pm, 8:15pm

4:30pm, 5pm, 7pm, 7:30pm

More info:www.hiddensydney.com.au

Tickets $50: Ticketmaster 136 100 or ticketmaster.com.au

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