Past the al fresco diners drinking cappucinos under striped umbrellas, up the stairs and above the courtyard with the waterfall fountain, there was the Kings Cross Waxworks. It was on the top level of the Village Centre, the shopping court that was one of the less risque new attractions of 1960s Kings Cross. Amid the neon signs and nightclubs the Village Centre was a safe realm of coffee lounges, restaurants and souvenir shops. It had a neo-Victorian atmosphere, with lights shaped like gas lamps and white, wrought iron chairs at the cafes. In the 1960s Kings Cross was the most cosmopolitan of Sydney locations, and the Village Centre was a good place to people-watch, sitting on the benches under the plane trees in the courtyard.
The Beatles had toured Sydney in 1964, but for those who had missed them or wanted to re-live the thrill, they could visit the Waxworks. Here their wax likenesses, lifted from the Sgt. Peppers album cover in their shiny suits, stood in front of glittering curtains. The figures had come from the famous Tussaud company, along with a disparate collection of historical figures, royals, heads of state, femmes fatales, authors and fictional characters. Where else but the Kings Cross Waxworks could Beethoven, Robert Louise Stevenson, Katherine Mansfield and Brigitte Bardot be found in close company? The souvenir booklet acknowledged the uniqueness of the experience: “We hope the moments you spend with the supreme and honoured people who await you in our Kings Cross Wax Works will always linger in your memory”.
Memories of the waxworks have lingered, moments and scraps from its twenty year history. The waxworks opened in 1968 and was, at the time, one of the go-to school holiday activities in the city. By the 1980s it was in decline and described as deserted, dusty and in bad repair, the exhibits confined behind metal cages. Open daily from 10am to midnight, the waxworks was there for everyone from school excursions to drunken night visits to the Mad Hatters Tea Party diorama.
Those with hands small enough could reach in and reposition the displays, making their own modifications to the exhibits. By this time the original collection of world leaders and film stars had been joined by some more sensational displays: a shark attack scene which showed an undersea view with a set of legs, one bloodied and footless. The “optional” horror section included a ‘body snatchers’ exhumation scene, a hideous torture scene with a wax victim hanging from a butcher’s hook and a Dracula with a bloodied chin. Other unintentionally horrific scenes included the rising and falling chest of Sleeping Beauty and a twenty-something Prince Charles in cravat and sports suit.
The Waxworks closed in 1987 and over the next 20 years the Village Centre became increasingly dilapidated, until it was demolished in 2008. The fate of the wax models is unknown. I like to think Dracula went on to a life somewhere, as did Salome and Prince Charles, Donald Bradman and Brigit Bardot, wherever wax figures go to retire.