FROM THE HORSES MOUTH! Everyone has a story about Kings Cross.Celebrated playwright, author and screenwriter Louis Nowra describs the neighbourhood...

Kings Bloody Cross: From the Horses Mouth!


The World Bar
2011 NSW

Kings Bloody Cross - From the horses Mouth


Louis Nowra

Louis Nowra

Louis was born in Melbourne and writes for film, theatre and television.

He is the author of such plays as Inner VoicesVisions, Inside the Island, The Precious Woman, Sunrise, The Golden Age, Capricornia, Byzantine Flowers, The Watchtower, Summer of the Aliens, Cosi, Radiance, The Temple, Crow, The Incorruptible, The Junle, The Language of the Gods and The Boyce Trilogy

He has written six non-fiction works, Kings Cross: A BiographyThe Cheated, Warne's World, Walkabout, Chihuahuas, Women and Me, and Bad Dreaming; the novels The Misery of Beauty, Palu, Red Nights, Abaza, Ice; two novels for young adults, Into That Forest and The Prince of Afghanistan; and the memoirs The Twelfth of Never and Shooting the Moon.

Some of his radio plays include Albert Names Edward, The Song Room, Sydney, The Divine Hammer, Far North and Jez. He has translated plays and written libretti including the recent Midnight Son and written the telemovies Displaced PersonsHunger and The Lizard King. His screen credits include Map of the Human HeartCosi, Heaven's Burning, The Matchmaker, Radiance, K-19: The Widowmaker and Black and White. He was co-writer of the documentary series First Australians and created TV series The Last Resort and The Straits. Also an essayist, he lives in Sydney and is married to the writer Mandy Sayer.


Elizabeth Burton

Elizabeth Burton

Burton began working in strip clubs in the early 1970s, when the conventions of burlesque were still evident. Burlesque was a form of theatrical or cabaret entertainment featuring crude comedy and risqué dancing that often mocked a serious subject.

"Burlesque venues taught me the craft of stripping. You’d get up between comedians and novelty acts. All the girls would have a character and a gimmick. There was less emphasis on nudity and more emphasis on tease. For a fifteen or twenty minute show you would have twenty or thirty garments to remove. Costumes were very important," Burton once said. 

Although she had no training in dance, Burton mastered the choreographic gestures and rituals of striptease. By the mid 1970s she was reputed to be Australia’s highest paid stripper, working at the Pink Panther club in Kings Cross with a supporting cast of seven female and three male nude artistes. She pioneered a modern style of striptease that moved beyond the traditional bumps and grinds. She added elegant gymnastic twists and turns, executed with grace. At the same time she pushed her performance towards contortionism and acrobatics. She finished her routine completely nude. She chose her own music and used special lighting effects.

Burton regards striptease as a craft in which costumes become important props in creating a fantasy on stage. Her act was often built around a theme. For example, she appeared on stage as a boxer (complete with boxer shorts and boxing gloves), a biker girl wearing a leather vest, a can-can dancer, a harem girl and a private detective (dancing to the ‘Peter Gunn’ theme). However, her signature act was as ‘Miss Modesty’, making her entrance fully dressed, complete with hat, gloves and shoes. She would wear lots of garments to prolong the act, including hats, stockings, suspender belts, underwear and several g-strings.

Burton presents striptease as an exercise in empowerment and a way for women to be unashamed of their sexuality. According to Burton, "People have not been educated to be comfortable in their own bodies with their own sexuality. We’ve never been taught to enjoy, respect and love sex. We’ve always been taught it’s a rude and dirty thing."

"When I first started out I made it a point to always present my body as an object of beauty, not just a sex symbol. I felt that as long as I was going to remove my clothes, I was going to do it with as much aesthetic appeal as possible." (Liz Burton quoted in New Nation, 16 July 1976)

At Kings Cross striptease became very much a tourism industry, with predominantly male patrons. However in the 1970s at clubs like the Pink Panther, men were sometimes accompanied by women. Burton appreciated the applause of female spectators, stating "I really feel thrilled when the women clap. I think their reaction is more important to me." (Liz Burton quoted in New Nation, 16 July 1976.

Burton found the work enjoyable and financially rewarding. "Life can be very exciting and financially rewarding for a top stripper, providing she’s prepared to travel. If you’re good you can make quite big money." (Burton quoted in Australasian Post, 7 Oct 1976).

Striptease dancing exemplifies and challenges generally understood notions of male-female relationships. At one level the female is predatory, the male submissive. The female is active, the male is passive. However these roles are acted out within a wider social context that restricts well paid employment opportunities to young, unqualified women. As the ritual of striptease is deconstructed, simple explanations of ‘dominant male-subordinate female’ or ‘dominant female-submissive male’ become inadequate.

Event Details


Everyone has a story about Kings Cross.

Celebrated playwright, author and screenwriter Louis Nowra describs 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. 

Hear from a cast of frascinating characters who came, who saw and who still live to tell the tale.

Host: Louis Nowra
Guests: Elizabeth Burton and guests as featured in Kings Cross - An Autobiography

For more details visit

This session is part of a curated season of raw and riveting 'in conversation' events featuring Kings Cross luminaries. Rub shoulders with artists, idealists and opportunists and hear fascinating stories about 'ungentrified' Sydney — the heady days of rock 'n' roll, free love, corruption, opportunity, sex and politics during the twentieth century. Presented over three weekends, Kings Bloody Cross will engage audiences with thrilling insight into the dirty half mile's people, bohemia and place. 

Curated by Olivia Ansell. 

Presented by Live Ideas and Working Management.

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