Another front page screamer in the weekly Guardian, this time on June 7, 1978, above a cartoon of several women of varying bust sizes lounging outside a house. A large one says to one of the others: “Stop littering! You’ll give the street a dirty name.” The cartoon refers to the story below the subhead:
Investigation into massage parlour
[‘Massage parlour’ was a euphemism for ‘brothel’, which were still illegal in the 1970s. Brothels in NSW were legalised in 1988.]
‘The Vice Squad is investigating the activities of a Newtown massage parlour. This follows complaints to the police and South Sydney Council about the parlour, situated in Newtown’s narrow Fitzroy St.” [Fitzroy street runs behind Alpha House apartment building in King Street.]
“Chamber of Commerce President Joe Meissner says there is heavy congestion in the street as a result of the parlour’s business activities. In addition, local residents have complained about noise and abuse in Fitzroy St.
“In fact, businessmen want the parlour closed down. They believe it is damaging the reputation of the area.
“A proprietor of a nearby business said professional men were starting to move into the area and some were undertaking restoration work on the historic buildings. But, he said, the massage parlour was detracting from the reputation of the area.
“Later he contacted the VOICE and asked us not to use his name. ‘It’s not worth the hassle,’ he said.”
Three weeks later, the Fitzroy St massage parlour was closed down by the Vice Squad, but as the Guardian noted, two new ones opened up nearby.
Massage parlours were not only illegal, they were often venues for other types of crime. The Guardian repeatedly refers to allegations of stand-over tactics, bashings, hard drug pushing* and even bomb threats emanating from these premises.
These news stories are referred to in passing in a couple of Tom’s poems – eg– ‘Big Boys and Small Fry’, and in a light-hearted way in ‘Sauna Mystery’:
…But that No Standing sign is only yards from the front door
Of the famous No. 2 Fitzroy Street, well publicised recently
For ‘home comforts’ allegedly available there…
The Guardian’s editor often focused on crimes allegedly being committed in massage parlours and gambling dens around Newtown and Marrickville. There are lots of amusing now, but deadly serious then, reports of bribery, corruption, stand-over tactics and brutal murders, as well as bombings. The editor spoke out strongly, but was clearly frustrated by what he called “Newtown’s wall of silence”.
The editor’s ‘rants’, deserve several posts of their own. I’ll focus on them in later posts.
*Legalising brothels apparently didn’t stop drug pushing in brothels.
A story in this week’s Inner West Courier (Tuesday December 5, 2017) is headlined
‘Drug concerns cited in brothel raids’
“Police were granted powers to raid the brothel in the back streets of Marrickville, following alleged discoveries of illicit drugs on the premises.
“The raid, in the early hours of November 24, followed earlier raids which uncovered drugs such as cocaine, “ice” and cannabis in unattended rooms and among employees belongings.
“There seems to be an ongoing drug supply operation being conducted in this brothel despite police surveillance and repeated searching”, a representative of the Supreme Court said.
“The Inner West Council has slapped a proposed closure on the business in Sydenham Rd.”