State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 87 May 2011


Richard Peterson
The Australia, the Woolshed, and Sexual Gaze

As Early as 1868, the Block on Collins Street's north side, stretching from Elizabeth to Swanston Street, was fashionable: 'ablaze with its crowds of colonial fashionables and celebrities . . . passing the hour in an easy, careless, lounging, gossipy manner'. Whilst 'doing the block' on Saturday mornings, middle-class Melbourne showed that it was the best dressed in Australia.1 So popular indeed, that soon this celebrated stretch was sold, demolished and replaced, as it has been twice since.
Back then, the most desirable place to be seen in Melbourne was Café Gunsler on the Block, later known as the Vienna Café. In 1916 it was remodelled as the splendid, spacious Café Australia, and in 1927 became the Australia Hotel. In 1939 this was demolished and replaced by the larger, glamorous Hotel Australia, some of whose bars immediately became the most popular meeting place in Melbourne for homosexual ('camp') men,2 particularly the Collins Street first floor cocktail bar and the basement public bar, which from 1970-80 became the Woolshed. In 1992 the Hotel Australia and an adjoining hotel were demolished and replaced by Australia on Collins. This site has a significant architectural history in which creative women played a strong role, but after briefly tracing its development, I want to explore the much less known experiences and memories of its gay clientele, mainly from 1930-1992, as far as evidence allows.
Most of the rich experiences of gay men recounted in this article were concealed from the community and straight historians at least until the 1970s, and even today. Most of the gay men whose stories are quoted here seem to have led happy lives and did not feel oppressed, but they knew the limit of their behaviour, without exposing themselves and their friends to risk. So describing their lives openly for the public record was risky. Aberrant lives are known from court records, but until ALGA oral history interviews, the social experience of ordinary lesbians and gay men in Melbourne before about 1980 remained systematically unexplored. For instance, although it describes other underworlds and minority behaviour, Andrew Brown-May's Melbourne Street Life, published in 1988, only once mentions homosexuality, and that as a nuisance in public urinals.3
There is only the slightest evidence of whether the Café Australia, or the pre-war Prince of Wales supported a gay culture, or even that one existed in private.4 Other than the legal records and Truth's prurient histrionics, the earliest evidence of generalised gay social life is from c.1930, from the gays born during the Great War who lived long enough and were courageous enough to record their memories on tape.

The Vienna Café and the Café Australia

The eminent architect Lloyd Tayler designed Harrington's Buildings (1879-1939) for the
new owner and in 1891 the first building of the ambitious Block Arcade was completed. Soon after, Café Gunsler's (to its left) was bought by Austrians who renamed it the Vienna Café (1890-1915).5 It remained fashionable and popular: theatre celebrities and famous men gathered there and its Melbourne Cup festivities were the highlight of the year, when Collins Street was thick with hansom cabs and often the vice-regal party attended.6

Collins Street looking towards Swanston Street from the Block Arcade, c. 1934-1938, with The Australia' visible in the top left of the photograph. Pictures Collection, H99. 100/4.

Oral history interviews can take us back as far as living memory allows (to about 1930). Before that often the only information about unconventional behaviour we have comes from court records. On 22 September 1908, Alan McKail (aged 20), Douglas Ogilvie (22) and Tom Page (25) were charged with behaving indecently in a public place, Collins Street. They were dressed as women in the Vienna Café. Page and Ogilvie worked for the Melbourne Steamship Company, whilst McKail was 'well connected', had £500 a year and trained as a fashion designer in Paris. The judge said 'they were either sexual perverts, or damn young fools; that the difference between male and female apparel was one of the cornerstones of civilisation and no one could be allowed to flaunt that convention'.7
In late 1915, the significant Chicago architect of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) and his wife Marion Mahony (1871-1961) redesigned and rebuilt the interiors as 'the most beautiful café in Australia', and our earliest architectural modernism.8 When it opened in November 1916 Australia was at war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose capital was Vienna, so the name was sensibly switched to Café Australia. Six o'clock closing had been imposed that October, substantially reducing its opening hours. At least one patron remembered the Café Australia as being 'slightly gay' in the 1930s.9
In 1927 it was renamed the Australia Hotel and by 1932, sold to hotelier Norman Carlyon's company, The Australia Hotel Pty Ltd.10 Later, Carlyon owned the freehold with Frederick Matear (1888-1968). The State Library of Victoria holds an evocative mid-1930s street photograph looking east, depicting the Block Arcade, the Australia, the Tatler Bar and their neighbours.11

The new Hotel Australia

In October 1936 Hotel Australia Pty Ltd acquired 262-268 Collins Street (including the Tatler), Harringtons (including the Hotel Australia) and 291-299 Little Collins Street. Leslie M. Perrot, an architect recently returned from studying hotels abroad, designed a greatly enlarged Hotel Australia for the whole site12 and in May 1938, the company had the existing buildings demolished. The greatly enlarged modernist hotel opened in 1939, its 12 stories built to the City Council's 40-metre height limit, with 'many features new to Melbourne hotels seen by Mr. Matear, on a recent visit abroad'. It had three levels of public spaces beneath nine floors of 122 bedrooms, whose fittings left 'nothing to be desired'.13 This was only a year after architect Robert H. McIntyre's Prince of Wales Hotel had opened in St Kilda. Though smaller, the Prince was equally glamorous, modernist, successful, and may also have attracted gay patrons since the day it opened, as it still does some 70 years later.14
Immediately, the Australia became Melbourne's smartest society hotel; a stylish meeting place and a favourite of Americans during World War II. The Packer family had a suite for 25 years, it was Sir Robert Menzies' favourite eating-place and in 1946 Harold Holt and his petite bride Zara held their wedding reception there, decorated with loads of blossom carted from Mt Macedon. No other Melbourne hotel had such identifiably personal management as the socially prominent Matears. (Amongst restaurateurs. Gloria Staley at Fanny's was comparable). Bruce Matear was often seen standing on the landing talking to his clientele. Age journalist Gerald Mayhead found him very sympathetic to his gay customers, but then Mateur needed Mayhead's journalistic connections.15
On the first floor was the Main Dining Room, whose ceiling evoked the Griffins' 1916 Banquet Hall. By 1966, Mayhead reported that this was the Gold Room, whose balcony 'affords the opportunity of dining in comparative seclusion from the gayer atmosphere . . . below'.16 In the Venetian Court Ballroom, Madame Claire and the

The Hotel Australia, Collins Street, Melbourne, c. mid-fifties. Rose Stereograph Co. postcard. Pictures Collection, H32492/2532.

'Famous Leveeta' would, free of charge, read patrons' futures in their teacups, and by the sixties there was a call girl service, always most sophisticated.17
Both the basement and the 40-shop arcade, the largest in Australia, ran through to Little Collins Street. When it closed in 1988, 26,000 people were walking through daily on the mid-block route from Flinders Street Station to Myer, many of whom stopped off for a drink on the way home. In the basement were two public bars, one accessed from Little Collins Street, and the other from Collins Street, or from the elevator lobby. Behind the bottleshop was the Silver Grill, where by 1966, one could choose chops, steak, or fish from a refrigerated showcase.18
Behind the public bar the Tatler Newsreels Theatrette opened in May 1939 and the Australia Feature Cinema in October, a month after World War II was declared. In their foyer was the Coffee Lounge. In 1961, the Tatler changed its name to the Curzon, and from August 1968, when the Australia Cinema became Australia I, it became Australia II, until it closed in October 1989.19 The Tatler was a pick-up place for camp men. On 17 February 1951 Truth reported an 'Offensive Act At Newsreel'. Despite looking 'the manly goods', Edward Meyer, 27, of Fitzroy Street, St Kilda was apprehended grabbing the thigh of a policeman, then 'moved his hand here and there' and said: 'I haven't much time today. We'll have to hurry. I've done enough for one day and time is short'. He was fined £5 or gaoled 14 days, for 'offensive behaviour'.20

The first floor Club Bar

The elegant long cocktail Club Bar, upstairs on the right, was gay from the day it opened. It was seen to replace the 'slightly gay' old Hotel Australia bar.21 'Bill' recalls it being camp before the basement bar was, particularly on Saturdays, but busy, too, at lunchtime and after work on Friday and Saturday nights from five until six o'clock closing.22 It was always packed, and there was only an hour, so 'everybody knew everybody'.23
In March 1942, the Herald announced that General Douglas MacArthur had decided to make two floors of the Australia Hotel his headquarters for the Allied Forces in the southwest Pacific24 and over 30,000 US soldiers arrived in Melbourne, followed by MacArthur himself. They stimulated the city's economy and its social life, and educated Melburnians about real life in the USA, so different from the impression transmitted by Hollywood. In January 1943, another 15,000 soldiers of the US First Marines Corps Division arrived and by September, there were 119,000 US military in Melbourne. Elite volunteer heroes of the strategically victorious Guadalcanal campaign, they had horrific wounds and various tropical diseases, and recuperated in Melbourne for nine months. Most were farming, or blue-collar teenagers, often sons of recent immigrants, and Melbourne was the biggest city they'd seen.25
The Australia became the centre of camp activity during World War II, especially as a place for picking up servicemen.26 One interviewee felt that servicemen went there to pick each other up and that wearing their uniform covered their real purpose.27 The

Page from 1939 promotional booklet promoting the'new' Hotel Australia.

'Blue Orchids' (uniformed Air Force personnel: a nickname used not just by camps, but as a put-down by the other services) were very visible, even until the 1960s.28
In August, 1943, Prime Minister John Curtin (helpfully) urged all states to ban mixed-sex drinking in hotels. This was not implemented, but the conservative Victorian Premier, Albert Dunstan, compromised by excluding women – except as barmaids – from all public bars.29 In 1940, the artist Joy Hester was a part-time barmaid at the Australia and depicted a public bar in her drawing, The Bar (c.1940).30 From the mid-1940s, camp men became very fond of the Australia's older barmaids: 'Winnie [was there] for years and years. She was the first woman let into the saloon bar at the Prince of Wales . . . when she died, the hearse had to go by past the Prince. She had a big party – either for her 70th or 80th – held upstairs at Pokeys for 200-300 people, and they put on a big show for her. The piano bar pianist Pat Murphy, and all her friends sat with her.'31 Doreen was a barmaid remembered from the 1960s32 and a 1970s photograph depicts middle-aged barmaids and young gay men skylarking in someone's flat.33
The Collins Street end of the Club Bar was interestingly scruffier, but the left end attracted more suits.34 In an 'anthropological' analysis from about 1955, Barry McKay, then 17 years old, noticed the SQs (social queens) at one end attended by barmaid Dulcie, and the PEs (piss elegants) at the other, serviced by Mona, with 'non-scene' camps in between, all full of posing and pretension. The SQs were wealthier, but the PEs were aspirational.35 The PEs and SQs didn't mix, but if 'something gorgeous' appeared, 'a bit of fresh meat', then they were 'like flies on shit'.36 Gerald Mayhead remembers that the bar could be packed, yet: 'There's no-one there', that is, no one of interest.37 Upstairs, beer was thought 'common', and many ordered expensive mixed drinks for show, even if they couldn't afford them. The sexual labels 'butch' and 'bitch' were freely applied to indicate preference, as 'top' and 'bottom'38 are today. A 'tootsie' expressed no preference.39 Anyone with a bowtie or cravat was 'looked at askance . . . particularly when you tied your own', but if you went to the Club Bar without a tie, then the barmaid would throw you a cravat you had to put on until you left. 40

The Pink Sink, or the Snakepit

There was a downstairs bar41 as well. It had antiseptic green tile walls, linoleum floor and two yellow-tiled counters on opposite walls. It was soon popular with homosexual men, known as the 'Pink Sink,' and later the 'Snakepit'.42 The deliciously named IN Guide: International Guide to Interesting Institutions lists not only the Club Bar, but also the basement coffee lounge 'for action' in the mid-1960s.43 But it existed much earlier than this. In the period 1942-48, some of the young 'fancy boys' and their boy and/or female friends who worked at RKO Pictures, used to go to the coffee lounge after work.44 By 1945-46, 'Malcolm' and 'Robert' remembered finding it 'a bit rough'.45 It attracted 'matelots' (sailors). (In 1966, Mayhead described that bar's 'seaport atmosphere).46 Dennis and Russell remember the barmaids (Patty Breen, Patty Carroll and a third Pat) 'were fabulous' . . . and remembered, too, 'another dragon in the middle'.47
Both upstairs and downstairs were good pick-up bars, with lots of people who knew each other.48 But there was a clear divide between the two crowds. Upstairs didn't explicitly exclude anyone, but those who were 'a bit rough' wouldn't want to go upstairs, be thought 'piss elegant,' and feel uncomfortable with people in suits. 'Martin' didn't like the upstairs bar, 'full of TQs [travel industry queens] and WDs [window dressers]' and, as Russell Grant recalled, theatre people from the Princess, Comedy and Her Majesty's.49 Upstairs queens generally wouldn't be seen downstairs, so would seek butch trade elsewhere. In about 1947 'Edward' preferred Friday and Saturday nights to 'pick up a bit of trade; if you didn't, you could go on to the St Kilda Road beat'.50
But there was some crossover. From about 1946 Roderic Anderson would go every Saturday afternoon 'looking for rough trade'. The 'upstairs bar was . . . piss-elegant queens', but downstairs, 'butch types'. Yet it was at the Snakepit that he first met Alan Swinburne, dressed in the 'camp uniform of reefer jacket, grey trousers, paisley cravat and suede shoes'. Perhaps typically of the camp world, they remained friends for 35 years, with Alan opening doors for Roderic to a more sociable camp life and new experiences in food and drink.51 (Mayhead recalls the 1960s camp 'uniform' as: Old Spice, pale pastel pullover, khaki shorts, and long socks.)52
In the 1960s, the downstairs bar was open at lunchtime too, operated by two German sisters, who had been in Hitler Youth. Jewish customers would reveal their numbers to them, but they were not embarrassed, and they were understanding of their camp customers. The cinema manager, brother of an early director of Channel 2, was also camp.53
On Saturdays friends would meet and go there, or to the London Hotel to find where the party was that night, and if you were 'a young thing', you'd be included. James remembers that he'd press his suit, 'till you could hardly walk . . . Hair all oiled and that nonsense'. '[Y]ou wouldn't dare ask for a gin and tonic there. You could only drink . . . fancy drinks . . . upstairs. The barmaid would tell you to fuck off, they didn't mince words'. He would wear a leather jacket, t-shirt and jeans, and 'play the room . . . you'd go there and have a drink, and speak to no-one all night, until you were leaving, and someone would want to drag you away, never having dropped a spangle all night'.'Mark' liked downstairs for the 'Dagos'. 'All those Greeks and Italians who left mama and the kids back in Italy or wherever, and were working hard at the Snowy River. They'd come down with these raging horns, and I was waiting for them!' He laughed: 'I was cementing Australian-Italian relations'.54
Another memory is of the 'chicken line' outside the bar entrance, of kids under 18, lined up to arrange meetings.55 'You only went to the pub for the last 30 minutes, looking for a party.' 56 Once 'there, [you might] meet 100 guys like you. Once you had your network organised, anything happened behind closed doors', without much risk. Some wore drag to the parties, but never to the Hotel Australia itself.57
Noel Tovey (b.1934), Aboriginal dancer, actor, choreographer and mentor, remembers that:
after the bars at the Hotel Australia closed, everyone I knew hung about outside on the pavement in Collins Street waiting to hear if there was anything happening anywhere later. The lesbians, who had nothing to fear from the law, wore masculine clothes and Elvis Presley hair-dos. They had very butch names like Terri, Pedro, Rikky, Toni and Billie. The men, with the exception of one or two who deliberately flouted [sic] themselves in a camp way, were mostly straight-suited. There was always a party somewhere. They were usually wild drunken affairs, everyone giving vent to their repressed desires. Addresses were given out in whispers . . . Drag parties were the big thing in the fifties . . .
Today, drag queens are . . . caricatures of women, whereas in the forties and fifties they were true female impersonators. They claimed to be professional entertainers and as such were persona non grata with the camp crowd at the Hotel Australia.58
The parties declined from February 1966 when licensing hours extended to 10-o'clock closing,59 and since people could stay later in the pubs, camps became more visible in public. Maisies (Her Majesty's Hotel, South Yarra), owned by a gay man and his family, was a uniquely hospitable suburban evening alternative to the Australia.60 Then from the 1970s, there were saunas.61 SQs [sauna queens] might go to Bucci's Sauna (formerly Californian Health Studio), opposite the Australia in Centreway Arcade's basement.62
Drugs were not apparent at the Snakepit, but alcoholism was, and theft was frequent. Police harassed camp men near the Australia, with such nasty comments as: 'pushing the poo tonight, girls?'63 Gerald Mayhead recalled: 'Police regularly walked in pairs through the bars because, remember, we were all potentially criminals, and one Saturday afternoon I was having a drink at the casual end of the bar – rare for me to be in there on a Saturday – and I was sitting on a step talking to a guy. Cops asked us to leave. No reason. Just go'.64
There were also 'ex-cons, trying their luck with the poofters', either bisexuals seeking both sex and money, or seeking only money without any sexual desire, though adopting a prisoners' 'nothing for nothing' attitude.65 'The Snakepit had 'some pretty rough numbers'66 and there were often fights,67 'blue collar workers in their 40s and 50s, [or] crims straight from Pentridge, if they wanted to . . . get some money'.68 Russell Grant recalled criminals in both bars.69
Barry McKay gave a vivid account of the uninhibited last night at the Snakepit. It was to be renovated, perhaps in the hope that it would divest itself of its camp clientele, who promptly returned when it re-opened.70 Less subtly, the Prince once tried to change its clientele overnight, resulting in its temporary boycott by gay patrons.71
The Little Collins Street Public Bar (later the Hub Bar) was quieter and more mundane.72 Here, Dulcie reigned as barmaid.73 Barry McKay said that Hub Bar patrons were 'leftovers' from the Silver Grill. 'You went to the Hub Bar to get pissed. And that's how I recall it – a really hard drinking, older camp crowd.' Barry remembered the Hub as a place to pick up sailors who didn't want to be seen in uniform in the Snakepit, which was 'too notorious'.74

The Woolshed

On Anzac Day 1970, a couple of days after I returned from my honeymoon, a strikingly remodelled Snakepit reopened, re-named the Woolshed.75
In 1968 Fred Matear died and by 1970 his son Bruce was Managing Director. He and his wife Judy planned the bar while on a tour of woolsheds, and Pauline Faulkiner opened it. The Faulkiners were grazing pioneers with sheep stations in the Riverina, and their ram was depicted on the Australian shilling. There were beautiful people at the launch: Matear intended to make the bar attractive – the kind of place a fellow could take his lady, to be companionable and attractive to women, like an English pub. Mixed company, conversation and the expense of buying drinks for two, could reduce alcohol consumption.76 Matear might have hoped the bar's new rural theme would attract women, but the butch theme was immediately fashionable for cruising gay men, military personnel and Western District cockies alike.77
The bar's entrance from Collins Street appeared to descend into a mineshaft. The décor consisted of electrified hanging kerosene lanterns, rough-sawn timbers, corrugated steel roofing, boxes stuffed with straw bales and 'Nigretta East J.H.M.' wool bales to sit on. Walls were decorated with large black and white photographs of shearing and RAS ribbons, timber tables projected from walls and others were barrels. The seating was hessian covered, and a squarish island bar replaced the two facing bars.
For gay men, the Woolshed's competitors were the Graham, Young & Jackson's, Hosies', the London, the Elizabeth, the Oasis Sauna, and Maisies which had a cocktail bar next door, with its own gay customers. One weekly 5.30 pm ritual was Mondays: Maisies, Tuesday: Prince, Wednesday: Australia, and only on Friday: the Windsor's discreet corner bar.78 Just as a group of camp friends in the late 1950s, feeling reluctant to be seen at the Australia, might meet for Friday night drinks at non-camp hotels: the Royal Arcade, Menzies and the Windsor,79 Francesca recalled that in the late 1940s and 50s: 'We dined with friends at the Saracen's Head and the Hotel Australia when women weren't allowed into public bars'. She saw the Hotel Australia as 'a gathering place after work for dinner, rather than to meet people'.80 However, Robbie recalled that she 'went to the Woolshed with a few people, but I got the feeling I wasn't very welcome'.81 Even in 1970 when I began visiting the Woolshed, there were few women. It did not exclude them, but public bars generally did not welcome women. On Friday and Saturday nights many would continue on to John Barry's Union Hotel, Fenwick Street, North Carlton, and later the University Club, Collins Street. The Woolshed was closed on Sundays and many went to Blades (later Annabelle's, now Comme), Alfred Place, where there was drag and supper to comply with the Licensing Act, but it was hard to find another licensed premise open on Sunday.
Michael Casley visited the Woolshed from 1974 and recalls most bar staff being female: one was Fiona, Eurasian and 'very, very beautiful', and a couple of others, then in the final eighteen months, a 'lovely guy called Eric who was gay, but not overtly'. Even
then, most entered the bar from the basement, to make it less obvious. Michael recalls management as extremely tolerant, quite accepting, but keeping their distance. The manager was quite short, with an English accent and a pinstripe suit, but rarely worked the bar. Michael remembers window dressers from Myers and Buckley & Nunn's (now David Jones) regularly there, particularly at lunchtime. He recalls a friendly bar, never any fights, and generally a pleasant place 'amongst your own', though he doesn't think a lot of pick-ups occurred. Around 1976 they installed a jukebox. About that time, my straight brother Stephen often went to the Woolshed alone, and to the upstairs bar with a female friend, although 'never noticed the gay element . . . but perhaps that was due to the time of day I was there'. 82
When the Hotel Australia threatened to sue the Melbourne City Council because of its plan to establish a Collins Street Mall, Bruce Matear boasted that the hotel had 300 employees and 22,000 customers each week, including 4,000 in the cinemas.83

Death of the Woolshed

After almost ten years, the Woolshed, 'the best known meeting place for gay people' in Melbourne, closed permanently on Saturday 8 September 1979.84 By then the place had deteriorated and the management had become hostile to the gay hand that fed them. Staff were given only two days notice of the closure. Notoriously, during that final evening, police arrested Terry Stokes and Darren Turner outside the bar in Collins Street, for kissing. The Melbourne Magistrates' Court convicted them of offensive behaviour on 5 October.85 Later at the same spot, two women initiated a 'Kiss-In' protesting against that arrest, but by then the police were no longer offended, and a photograph of that 'scandal' of Jamie Gardiner and Alan Hough kissing appeared in the Age on 10 October. The Woolshed basement was said to have been sealed over, some even whispered it had been filled in with concrete.
Some of the Woolshed's camp clientele, including my partner Geoffrey Peterson-Wright and myself, continued to meet after work in the Hub Bar, where occasionally drag queens drifted in, or even to the rough Royal Arcade Hotel (built c.1910), in Little Collins Street, which had, from 1959, been the first meeting place of a camp group, later called The Boilers: now the longest running gay social group in Victoria. 'Ben' recalled them meeting there at 'a non-gay hotel . . . because they didn't feel comfortable at the Australia'.86

The Laird

On 28 September 1980, just over a year after the Woolshed closed, and the day after the Richmond and Collingwood Grand Final, a redecorated Laird O'Cockpen Hotel, Gipps Street, Abbotsford was opened by Ron Watkin as manager, with his partner David Allen. Unlike the Woolshed, it specifically targeted gays. It had a front bar for locals, a restaurant, a gay back bar decorated with a masculine rural theme, two roaring log fires and another in a 44-gallon drum in the courtyard, which they planted with an
elegant Sugar Gum sapling. Some say it was derived from the famous Eagle Tavern in San Francisco, but the Eagle opened a year later than the Laird. A fortnight later, Geoff and I walked there. Its décor was so reminiscent of the Woolshed, almost a reincarnation: natural materials, bench-seating, rural and industrial memorabilia. I recall a long conversation with a friendly barman. In September 2010, the Laird celebrated its 30th anniversary: the second oldest gay bar in Melbourne. Perhaps the Woolshed should also have been remembered: it would have also been 40 years old.
In 1987 the Matears sold the Australia to concentrate on the Dorchester in Alexandra Gardens they'd owned for fifty years and Allison's Restaurant (now Jacques Reymond) in South Yarra.87 Over 1988-92 the Australia and Royal Arcade Hotels were demolished88 and replaced by Australia-on-Collins, designed by Buchan Group Architects in gaudy Post-modernism, opening in October 1992. It has a Novotel Hotel, thoughtfully with a Vienna Room. In the pavement, three mosaics depict the nineteenth century streetscape, the Australia in 1939, and the present building. Needless to say, no gay men are represented.89


I gratefully acknowledge Gary Jaynes' generous help in researching this article. Many of the interviewees quoted in this chapter have been given pseudonyms to protect their privacy.
'For The Block': Illustrated Australian News, 11 July 1868, quoted by Michael Cannon, Life in the Cities. Australia in the Victorian Age, vol. 3, South Yarra, Vic., Currey O'Neil Ross, 1975, 1983, pp. 31-32. 'Doing the Block': Graeme Davison, The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1978, p. 201.


Gary Simes, A Dictionary of Australian Underworld Slang, South Melbourne, Vic.6: OUP, 1993, pp. 37-38. In Australian slang, 'camp' came to mean homosexual. This was different from in the UK and North America, where, from 1918, it generally meant ostentatiously and effeminately homosexual, or queeny. There, 'to camp' was to behave in the manner of an outrageous queen, or to flaunt one's homosexuality.


The Encyclopedia of Melbourne (see following note) and redresses this with three lesbian and gay-related entries, although its entry for the Hotel Australia does not mention its gay cultural histories.


There are some suggestions of a possible gay culture in oral history interviews done by the ALGA but they are somewhat vague and inconclusive.


Chrystopher J. Spicer, 'The Hotel Australia,' in Andrew Brown-May & Shurlee Swain, eds, The Encyclopedia of Melbourne, South Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p 43, updated in 'eMelbourne: The City Past and Present', School of Historical Studies, Department of History, The University of Melbourne, updated: 19 November 2009, This, unlike other sources, refers to the three cafés as Gunsler's Café Hotel, Vienna Café Hotel and Café Australia Hotel.


Judith Buckrich, Collins Street: the story of Australia's premier street, Kew, Vic: Arcadia, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2005, p. 133, includes more on patrons.


'The Female Impersonators – McKail, Ogilvie & Page Before the Court – Ball for "Girls Only" Their Alleged Objective', Truth, 5 December 1908, p. 5, with line illustrations of the three men.


Jeff Turnbull and Peter Y. Navaretti, The Griffins in Australia and India: the complete works and projects of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, Carlton South, Vic: The Miegunyah Press, 1998, pp. 135-139.


'Bill', born 1916, interviewed by Mark Riley, ALGA, 4 July 2001. This comment is the only known evidence that the Café Australia may have had gay clientele.


Jenepher Duncan, Walter Burley Griffin: a re-view, Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Gallery [exhibition catalogue] 1988, p. 44.


[Collins Street looking east from Block Arcade], State Library of Victoria. Reproduced on page 33 of this issue.


Hotel Australia, publicity brochure, 1939, Royal Historical Society Collection, exhibited in the 'Camp as . . . Melbourne in the 1950s' exhibition, City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, January 2005.


Journal of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, September 1939, pp. 191-201.


The Prince and its gay life are discussed in Richard Peterson, A Place of Sensuous Resort. buildings of St Kilda and their people, St Kilda Historical Series Number Six, Balaclava, Vic.: St Kilda Historical Society, Edition 2, 2008, chapter 16, at, and Edition 3, current, but unpublished. There is not yet any documentary or oral evidence that the Prince was gay in the two years before the war.


Gerald Mayhead, interview 31 May 2010 by Richard Peterson. Mayhead was a journalist at the Age from 1966-74 under the paper's famed editor, Graham Perkin.


This supreme irony is from Building, July 1939, pp 43-47, 114 and 115.


Gerald Mayhead, 'In which we're served', Age, 20 December 1966, p 7.




Also spelt 'Tattler' and 'News Reel,' but not on its signage. Daniel Catrice, 'Cinemas in Melbourne. 1896-1942', PhD thesis, Department of History, Monash University 1991, vol. III, pp. 191 and 233.


Truth, 17 February 1951. Reference courtesy of Wayne Murdoch, who kindly sent me his summaries of all of the gay references in Truth, from 1902-58. There is no record of whether gaol, or a fine was actually imposed.


'Bill', born 1916, interview. Presumably this was one of the two bars entered from behind the stair down to the Bottleshop.


'Bill', born 1918, interviewed by Graham Carbery, 19 January 1983, ALGA.


'Malcolm' and 'Robert' both born 1927, interviewed by Graham Carbery, 9 November 1993, ALGA.


Herald, 21 March 1942, quoted in James Grant & Geoffrey Serle, eds, The Melbourne Scene, 1803-1956, Neutral Bay, NSW: Hale & Iremonger, 1978, p 287, (first published in 1957).


Kate Darian-Smith and Rachel Jenzen, Over-Paid, Over-Sexed and Over Here? U.S. Marines in Wartime Melbourne 1943, exhibition catalogue and website, 2010,; suggests Melbourne's population from the 1947 Census was 1,228,000, so the 119,000 US military personnel in Melbourne during World War II probably comprised over 10% of the population.


Dennis O'Keefe, born 1937, and Russell Grant, born 1948, interviewed by Graham Carbery, 24 February 2005, ALGA.


'Bill', born 1916, interview.


Gerald Mayhead interview.


Herald, 10 August 1942, p. 3, quoted by Kate Darian-Smith, On the Homefront: Melbourne in wartime, 1939-45, South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 172 and 173. The Australia's basement bars were public bar. Trading hours were reduced by an hour in Victoria and drinking in public places in the Melbourne metropolitan area was prohibited.


'[T]wo women sit chatting in the peaceful and uncrowded bar, while a barmaid carries a bottle back to the bar where a lone man seems engaged in contemplative serious drinking', John Slater, Through Artists Eyes: Australian suburbs and their cities 1919-1945, Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press, 2004, p. 115. Autonomous images depicting Australian pub interiors that included people were then rare, and Slater mentions only two others earlier, a Max Dupain photograph in 1941 of the six-o'clock swill, and a drawing by James Wigley of a bar in Newcastle in 1938.


Dennis O'Keefe, born 1937, and Russell Grant, born 1948, interviewed by Graham Carbery, for ALGA, 24 February 2005, discussing photos of Winnie, in the Tommy McDermott (1923-94) photo collection held by ALGA.


Gerald Mayhead interview.


ALGA Photo Album 2, page 19, photo 19b, 'Barmaids'.


Gerald Mayhead interview.


Barry McKay, born 1938, interviewed by Graham Carbery and Gary Jaynes, ALGA.


'Mark,' born 1928, and his friend 'James' interviewed by Graham Carbery and Gary Jaynes, 3 December 2007, ALGA.


Gerald Mayhead interview.


'Top' and 'bottom': sexually active, or passive.


Barry McKay interview.


'Mark' and 'James' interview.


Street signage for the Collins Street basement public bar is just visible in the Marc Strizic's 1969 photograph, 'Collins Street at Hotel Australia, 1969', reproduced on pages 34-35 in Emma Matthews, ed., Mark Strizic, Melbourne: marvellous to modern, Melbourne: State Library of Victoria/Thames & Hudson, 2009.


Gary Jaynes of ALGA, email to Richard Peterson, 15 February 2010, says that a few people have called it the Pink Sink in oral history interviews for ALGA, including with Dennis O'Keefe and Barry McKay, but why green and yellow tiles should be referred to as 'pink,' remains a mystery. Also, 'Bill,' born 1918, interview. Other Melbourne rough basement bars were also known as 'The Snakepit,' including those at the George, Fitzroy Street and the Hotel Esplanade, St Kilda, neither of which were gay.


IN Guide: international guide to interesting institutions, New York, 1966. Interestingly, the basement coffee lounge, not the Snakepit, was listed.


Steven Roberts recalling the recollection of his late grandmother (b. 1927), in two emails to Richard Peterson, 24 and 25 May 2010.


'Malcolm' and 'Robert' interview.


Gerald Mayhead, 'In which we're served'.


Dennis O'Keefe and Russell Grant interview.


'Geoffrey' interviewed by Graham Willett, 20 February 2001, ALGA.


Russell Grant, born 1948, interviewed by Graham Willett, 27 January 2005, ALGA.


'Edward' interviewed by Barry McKay, 10 November 2000, ALGA. 'Trade' in the UK, invariably means prostitution, but in Australia, whilst it may mean that, it also means potentially attractive and available 'lower class' gay men. 'Beat' in Australia means a place, usually a public toilet, known for potential homosexual sexual encounters.


Roderic Anderson, Free Radical: a memoir of a gay political activist, [Caboolture, QLD] : The Author, 2006, pp. 74-75.


Gerald Mayhead interview.




'Mark' and 'James' interview. 'Spangle': a gay 'come-on', knowing glance, or invitation for sex.


'Donald' born 1926, interviewed by Barry McKay, October 2000, ALGA.


'Mark' and 'James' interview.


Francesca Curtis, born 1931, interviewed by Gary Jaynes and Liz Ross, 17 October 2008, ALGA.


Noel Tovey, Little Black Bastard, Sydney: Hodder Australia, 2005, p. 129. Tovey was born 1933, 1934, or 1935, 'depending which of my papers you read'.


Don Phillips, interviewed by Gary Jaynes, ALGA.


'Mark' and 'James' interview. Keith Dunstan describes 6 o'clock closing and the introduction of extended opening hours to 10 o'clock in Wowsers, North Melbourne, Vic.: Cassell, 1968, pp 107-128.


'Grant' interview.


Black and white photograph depicting the 'Continental Baths. Health Studio for Men, Prop. M Bucchi', IP-74B, Ivan Polson Collection, ALGA.


Barry McKay, interview.


Gerald Mayhead, email to Richard Peterson, 7 July 2010.


Barry McKay interview.


'Number': person.


'Mark' and 'James' interview.


'Bill', born 1918, interview.


Russell Grant interview. Perhaps this refers to the Woolshed.


Gerald Mayhead, 'In which we're served'.


Probably named because that section of Little Collins Street between Elizabeth and Swanston had been named the Hub and closed to vehicular traffic for a couple of hours at lunch-time, possibly from about 1970. The Hub Arcade still exists, opposite the rear of Australia on Collins.


Gary Jaynes, ALGA, email to Richard Petersen, 15 February 2010, says that a few people have called it that [in oral history interviews held by ALGA], including Barry McKay. This contrasts with Russell Grant's comment earlier.


The thematic décor was so well done that I wondered if a Myer window dresser had been involved. I cannot recall ever visiting the Snakepit, or the Club Bar, but once I began visiting the Woolshed in 1970 and over the following three years until I left for overseas, I was picked up by more potential lovers in the Woolshed than anywhere else.


Nan Hutton, 'Drink and the Devil', Age, 1 May 1970, p. 8.


Around 1972, the self-descriptor term 'camp' was, somewhat reluctantly in Australia, replaced by the American word 'gay', initially for both men and women.


Gerald Mayhead interview.


'Louis' born 1924, interviewed by Geoffrey Stewardson, 9 July 2001, ALGA.


Francesca Curtis interview.


Robbie, born 1946, interviewed by Lucy Chesser, 29 March 2007, ALGA.


Stephen Peterson, telephone conversation with Richard Peterson, 17 February 2010 and clarifying emails 9 and 14 March 2010.


Richard Goodwin, 'Mall: Hotel may sue city council', Age, 9 November 1976, p. 2.


Campaign's Melbourne Gay Guide, 1978. For the closing date, Gay Community News, had 8 September 1979 and Robert Ross, 'The End of an Era,' Click!, no. 1, 29 September 1979, pp. 4 and 5, had 29 September (both Saturdays), but it seems that 8 September is correct. The Age on 10 October 1979, p. 3, reported the kiss-in protest the 'night before' and the original arrest as being on 8 September. Click's black and white photograph, IP-05, 25 October 1998 and black and white photograph, Age, 10 October 1979, IP 70-01B, both Ivan Polson Collection, ALGA.


Age, 6 October 1979, p. 3.


'Ben', born 1916, interviewed by Mark Riley, 4 July 2001, ALGA.


Claude Forrell, Age, 25 April 2010.


Miles Lewis, Australia Centre, Collins Street, Melbourne, 1987; DV Bick, Significance of Australia Hotel, Melbourne, 1987.