It’s not uncommon to see celebrities out and about in Potts Point and Kings Cross, with our local area long attracting fascinating famous people.
We’ve rounded up 14 luminaries who shone brightly in Potts Point and Kings Cross in their day, but whose names have since faded from the spotlight – until now.
Bungaree, the first known Aboriginal person to circumnavigate Australia, was the community leader of the local Cadigal people in the 1810s. The Cadigal used Elizabeth Bay / Gurrajin as a fishing village and built bark huts in the area where Beare Park is today. Bungaree was famous in the colony for his diplomatic skills and his talent for mimicry. He was buried at Rose Bay after he died in 1830.
Joseph Hyde Potts
Potts Point is named for Joseph Hyde Potts, accountant and first employee of the Bank of New South Wales (now known as Westpac). In the 1830s, he acquired a large tract of land in the area, which he renamed Potts Point. Today, the popular Llankelly Place cafe Joseph Hyde is named for him.
Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo and Kings Cross were held in thrall by the Razor Gang Wars. Razor gangs (so-called because their choice of weapon was a cutthroat razor) led by Devine and Leigh battled for control of the criminal underworld, resulting in many deaths, disfigurements and jail sentences.
Arthur Stace, aka Mr Eternity
It was 1932 when Arthur Stace first wrote the word ‘eternity’ in chalk on a Darlinghurst street. Inspired by a sermon at the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, Stace went on to inscribe the word ‘eternity’ more than half a million times on footpaths across Sydney before his death in 1967.
Artist Dobell lived on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and Roslyn Street in the early 1940s and found inspiration in the streets and people of Kings Cross. Known for his portraiture and landscapes, the three-time Archibald winner had a profound impact on Australian art. He was awarded an OBE in 1965, and the federal electorate of Dobell is named in his honour.
Poet, humanitarian, political activist and social reformer Gilmore was another of the bohemians to call Kings Cross home after the Second World War. In fact, William Dobell’s 1957 Archibald entry was a portrait of Gilmore. Since 2017, her face has graced the Australian $10 note.
Slessor’s name might ring a bell with current and former high school students as well as fans of Australian poetry. Journalist, war correspondent, and poet Slessor spent more than 40 years living in and near Kings Cross. His 1935 poem William Street is just one of the many pieces he wrote about the area. Slessor’s poetry has been studied for the HSC for many years.
A writer and activist whose work focused on social issues, Cusack said that her time living in Kings Cross’s Orwell Street in 1941 fed into her best-selling novel Come in Spinner. Written with Florence James, the satirical epic evoked the excitement and danger of wartime in the Cross.
In 1960 ‘Mr Sin’ opened Australia’s first strip club – The Staccato – in Kings Cross. Over the next 20 years, he operated numerous premises along the Cross’s ‘Golden Mile’, including The Carousel Club, home to Les Girls.
Texan Houghton was among the first to bring American food to Australia. He owned Kings Cross institutions the Texas Tavern and the Bourbon and Beefsteak. Liza Minnelli, Elton John and Cher are among the stars who performed at the famous Bourbon. Houghton, who donated around $1.5 million to charity in his lifetime, is remembered by a bust erected in his honour in Fitzroy Gardens in 2002.
In 1964, the Reverend Ted Noffs established The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross. Under his guidance, the chapel hosted regular church services as well as topical debates and small theatre productions and published a poetry magazine and an ideas journal. Noffs built unconditional relationships with drug users, eccentrics, marginal intellectuals and people hard on their luck. The Wayside Chapel and the Ted Noffs Foundation continue to create community and help young people with drug, crime and mental health issues to this day.
In 1970, Martin Sharp established an artists’ collective in Potts Point called the Yellow House. The community of artists, including such well-known names as Brett Whiteley, Peter Weir and George Gittoes, turned the building into their canvas, painting on almost every surface and exhibiting photography, film, sculpture and more. Today the heritage-listed building is home to vegan restaurant Yellow downstairs and designer apartments upstairs.
In the early 1970s, when Nielsen was the publisher of a Kings Cross alternative newspaper called NOW, she used the paper to campaign against the redevelopment of Victoria Street. Tensions over the street’s development were sky high for years, with green bans imposed on the site and residents squatting in their homes to keep the bulldozers at bay. One Friday in 1975, Nielsen attended a meeting at Abe Saffron’s Carousel Club. She was never seen again. She is remembered by the Juanita Nielsen Community Centre in Woolloomooloo.
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Photo credit: Wikipedia