Sydney’s new Lord Mayor, the glamorous Lucy Turnbull, has just announced the 1,458th go at cleaning-up “The Cross,” since 1962. Lucy’s ideal of Kings Cross seems to shape as the kind of place where a go-getting squattocratic Darling Point girl can shut her eyes and imagine herself in an uberhip antipodean version of The Marais in Paris – or the Paris end of Collins St anyway. I’m picking that the vision is all fabulous little ethnicy lunch places, colourful, interesting people like A List homo hairdressers and more distresssed sandstone than a bull can shit. The last thing she’ll be wanting to see when she opens her eyes is an army of hanging-out-for-it hookers spruiking for the next cap of smack outside a neon-lit lap dancing lounge, while some off his face street person defecates in the gutter and howls at the moon, concurrently.
But that’s precisely why people go there. It’s the raw, urban edge danger thing that’s always pulled the punters. The proximity of the CBD on one side and Australia’s busiest Naval base on the other has created a rascally redlight zone at the heart of our most densely populated urban landscape.
Darlinghurst Road, the main drag (the Cross – for those who don’t know – is the point where Darlo Rd crosses Victoria St, at the top of William St) is a tawdry strip where young drug dealers dressed in “Look at me! I’m a drug-dealer!” Hip Hop attire jostle through the Saturday night Rugby-club-on-the-piss crowds while doing their agitated, edgy business on mobile. But these days it’s but one arm of an Axis of Sleazle that runs along the Darlinghurst ridge to Oxford St and then follows that Boulevard of Broken Dreams down to the gambling dens and Adult Lounges of Haymarket/Chinatown.
On one notable occasion I walked the Axis from the El Alamein fountain in Macleay St (opposite which I once lived) down to the Eros lounge in Pitt St – backroom 10 bucks entry – and encountered no fewer than 53 people who were clearly not compliant with lithium dosing schedules and who were keen that I should spare them some change to ensure their continuing medication confusion. It’s that kind of urban environment and it’s been that way for many years. What Lucy doesn’t confide is what she plans to do with those people now that the ratio of yups to weirdo’s has tipped the urban balance thing dangerously towards gas lamps, cobblestones and horse-drawn carriage tours of the Historic Bohemian District kind of horror? Do they all get shipped out to Leura or something? I mean, they’re way too unreliable to work tourist McJobs in period Les Girls costume.
People – if you didn’t have to consider them, urban landscaping would be a bloody breeze….