Monday, August 29, 2011

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Art and Culture: Antiques on Kellett: Last Days of the New York Restaurant, by Michael Gormly

New York Restaurant, by Michael Gormly, 2010

Man about town Michael Gormly has been photographing and writing about Kings Cross and the surrounding areas for years and this THURSDAY, September 1, a new exhibition of his work opens in the neighbourhood.
Last Days of the New York Restaurant is a collection of photographs of this Kings Cross dining institution, which closed last October after more than 50 years in the area. 
The restaurant, run by John Kakeris and Paul Varvaressos, was a dinner table away from home for hundreds of people and was forced out of its shop at 18 Kellett Street in Kings Cross due to an unaffordable rent increase. So it was a sad day when it closed.
The space remained vacant until a couple of months ago when an antique business, Antique on Kellett, moved in - and in a nice little bit of synchronicity or some-such, Gormly's exhibition will be held in the shop.
''The project celebrates the 50-plus years the New York fed all comers with classic Australian food at budget prices, and builds a symbolic bridge between the past and present uses of the premises,'' the exhibition flier says.
The opening night will feature ''chilled 60s underground'' music by DJ Mick Normal, as well as gourmet finger food inspired by the New York menu, of which there will be souvenir copies available. Booze is by gold coin donation.
The THURSDAY exhibition, from 6.30pm, is also a good chance to meet the new owner, Stella, and to browse her collection of antique and retro treasures.
I also like the symbolism of the exhibition opening on the first day of Spring and I will definitely be there to celebrate the show, the new season and the birth of a Kings Cross business. 

New York Restaurant, by Michael Gormly, 2010

Last Days of the New York Restaurant
A Photo Exhibition by Michael Gormly
September 1-8, 2011
Antiques on Kellett
18 Kellett Street

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Food: Strawberry Cream: Making Croissants

I popped into one of my favourite Darlinghurst cafes, Strawberry Cream, this week and was beckoned into the kitchen by master baker Geoffrey Reid who wanted to tell me about a celebrity visitor who had come into his shop that morning.
No, it was not US actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is presently in Sydney to film an adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, which is being made by Darlinghurst residents Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin
The ''celebrity'' was the Governor-General Quentin Bryce who had stopped in for a coffee. It was a great little story but I was more interested in the croissants that Mr Reid was making. 
I've eaten plenty of croissants in my time but have never seen them being made. It was quite fascinating, especially watching Mr Reid's nimble hands at work preparing the little crescents of pastry. 

He started off with layers and layers of pastry, which were cut into these triangles (above) with semi-splits down the middle. Each layer of triangle would make two croissants, which were expertly rolled into these little shapes (below): 

Within five minutes there was a tray of about 30 croissants. It was like magic. 
Unfortunately I did not have time to stay around and wait for them to cook, but I did make sure to buy a pre-prepared one on my way out. 

Strawberry Cream
336 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9356 3122

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Across the Border: Potts Point: Retailers: Shop Local!

Stop. Don't spend any more money (if you have any) and save it for this weekend when Potts Point celebrates the City of Sydney's and the Potts Point Partnership's new campaign, Shop Local! This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 50 of the best Potts Point retailers and small businesses will be swinging open their doors to offer special discounts for local residents as well as the occasional glass of complimentary bubbly. 

I found the Shop Local! campaign's chic little flier (above) in my mailbox this week and I have to say that despite the fact that I already purchase most of my clothes, books, gifts and food from the local area, this weekend sounds like a lot of fun. And they have dubbed the area, ''The Point'', which is kind of funny. So on Friday night you can tell your friends you're going down to The Point and they will think it's some new small bar or something.

The celebrations begin on Friday night at 6pm when ''Champagne corks start to pop'' in a number of retailers who will be offering late night trading, special discounts and ''Taste a Plate'' specials. Top of my list is clothing store Becker Minty (above), on Manning Street who promise ''refreshments and special offers for locals''. Special offers sounds good, because the last time I went to their store in the old Post Office building (since relocated) I dropped about $700 on a frock. And no, I didn't regret it; I just didn't eat for a few weeks.

Other shops staying open late include the excellent Potts Point Bookshop (above), local institution Macleay Bookshop (until 9pm), excellent gift and homewares shops, Macleay on Manning and pocket-sized Plum Interiors, as well as women's shoe shop, Booty, clothing store, Mon Petit Chou, and new kid on the block, Pour Tous by Davidson and Beaumont down on Elizabeth Bay Road. There are others listed on the flier, which you can download from the Potts Point Partnership website.

After all that shopping, pop into Llankelly Place's KL Kitchen (above) or Tomatillo Mexican Grill on the strip for a Taste a Plate special. The cute little flier doesn't quite explain what exactly that Taste a Plate is, and neither does the website but I imagine it means a discount or special of some sort. 

Saturday is Meet the Owner day at dozens of shops in the area including my big fat favourite Greek cafe, Ithaka Kafenion (above). Black Bull Butchery is running an all day Know Your Meat class, which is always a good thing, while new Llankelly Place gallery space, The Cross Art Projects, is hosting a talk by environmental activist Jack Mundey, who is the present chairman of the Historic Houses Trust, from 2pm. Sounds interesting. 
Bounce Walking Tours are also offering a special Art Walk of Potts Point, which promises to take in the area's ''past, present and future''. It runs from 11am to 1pm, costs $20 and includes admission to the historic Elizabeth Bay House (below). 

If you can't make the Bounce tour on Saturday, don't fret, Elizabeth Bay House is also open on Sunday from 10am to 4pm and costs just $4 to have a snoop around inside. 
Before visiting the house you could pop into the James Dorahy Project Space, hidden in the Minerva building on Macleay Street, for a glass of bubbly and an exhibition viewing from 11am to 1pm. 
There's also a guided tour happening in Woollomooloo, the Green Bans Art Walk, which begins at 2.30pm. But when I went to the Performance Space website it appears that it has already been booked out. 
Oh, well, there's always the Cafe Dov garden party from 3pm to 4pm, a $15 Brunch at the Librarie from 10am to 2pm or jazz at the Becker Minty owned Velluto Champagne and Wine Bar from 7pm.

I'm sure I recognise that deer (above), which was featured in the Shop Local! flier as coming from artist Gary McEwan's excellent gift shop, Bang! And yet there is no mention of him in the campaign. So I will mention him here. McEwan and his shop (below) on the corner of Macleay and Orwell streets are definitely worth visiting. 

There are also dozens more shops involved in the campaign that I couldn't mention here. Visit the Potts Point Partnership website for more details.

Shop Local!
Appreciate The Point
August 26-28, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Underbelly Razor Premiere

For someone who watches television about once a month I was surprisingly excited about the new series of Underbelly, which is based on Larry Writer's excellent 2001 book, Razor. And while there were way too many advertisements, including a bizarre promo for Nine News's upcoming ''Razor Riches'' story on property prices in Darlinghurst (''It's criminal!''), I was captivated by the premiere episode last night. Screentime have done an excellent job in recreating 1920s and 30s Darlinghurst and judging by the number of hits this blog received last night (about four times the daily number in the space of two hours) by people googling Kate Leigh, Tilly Devine et al, the show has sparked new interest in this colourful time of Sydney's history. 

Last night's premiere, which began at 8.30pm, featured many of the typical Underbelly traits: narration by Caroline Craig, sex, nudity and violence, but perhaps because the characters were in period costume it didn't seem to be as offensive or gratuitous as in past series. If you haven't seen it yet and are reluctant to watch it based on the previous Underbellies, I would have to say that if you were to ignore the Craig narration it is essentially an historical television series - with dazzling sets and costumes - based on Writer's book.

Anna McGahan's naughty North Shore school-girl Nellie Cameron was a joy to watch and Chelsie Preston Crayford's comic portrayal of Tilly Devine was fun, but it was Danielle Cormack's Kate Leigh that I found the most convincing of the three female leads. That could also be because Leigh, or Queen Kate as she was dubbed in Underbelly, came across as the more serious and wiser of the trio. I also liked her king consort, Wally Tomlinson, played with a big heart by John Batchelor.

The male cast (above) too was excellent, especially because there were so many big, strong, rugged looking actors who looked great in period hats and suits.

Jeremy Lindsay Taylor as Norman Bruhn (above) was a master casting stroke as he looked so much like the real razor-ganger. Lindsay Taylor's performance was impeccable too; I couldn't fault it. It was so compelling he could have stolen the show from the three women leads, so for their sake, it's a good thing he will be killed off soon as the narrator foreshadowed last night. Although, it will be a damn shame for viewers if they kill him off too early. What a great face he had; I couldn't take my eyes off it. 

The show focuses on the intense rivalry between Devine and Leigh, but there are also the coppers who fought to control the crime that was flourishing on Darlinghurst's streets. Lucy Wigmore, who plays Australia's first policewoman, Lillian May Armfield, lends a strong moral presence and I look forward to seeing her character develop. Wigmore also had one of the best lines of the night when she encountered Nellie Cameron, still in her school uniform, during a raid at Devine's brothel. ''Is this some kind of costume?'' she asked, perplexed.

It wasn't just the actors and storyline that had me transfixed for two hours (a rare feat) but the sets, location, extras and costumes. It was a treat for the eyes. Nellie Cameron's 1920s Darlinghurst apartment was a dream and would probably rent for about $400 a week these days. Cameron also seems to have the best wardrobe of silk underwear, stockings, low-waisted flapper dresses, big, long necklaces and pretty cloches. There was a memorable scene of her dancing around her apartment in her big silk knickers, old fashioned bra and embroidered shawl.

The set-designers and script-writers have really captured the small details of the era. There are hand-painted wall signs, fruit-sellers's carts, rabbit-sellers, ice-men, dunny-men and plenty of dunny-lanes, which prove a perfect location for fight-scenes. Redfern's The Block (which is about to be demolished and developed) also worked brilliantly as a stand-in for Darlinghurst's Palmer Street, with its row of Victorian-era terraces. 
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, mid-build, is a nice touch, as is the Sydney skyline, which is shown as clumps of industrial chimneys pumping out smoke. When I met Larry Writer on Saturday he was telling me that back in the Razor days there were no garbage collectors so residents would simply build a little fire in their yards and burn all their waste. As a result Sydney was a haze of smoke, which also became the scent of the city. This knowledge proved quite valuable to the makers of Underbelly who were able to simply add some digital smoke in post-production to mask the sight of Sydney's tallest building, Centrepoint Tower, which was built long after the Razor-gang days.

I'd be really keen to know what you, occasional readers of my blog, thought of last night's show! And will you be tuning in next week?

Underbelly: Razor
13 Episodes
Airs 8.30pm Sundays
Nine Network

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Across the Border: Potts Point: Retailers: The Potts Point Bookshop

A promising blue sky appeared above the neighbourhood yesterday, so I ditched my usual Saturday morning house-cleaning ritual and set off outside to enjoy the day. I'm glad I didn't waste time inside because it was one of those days that remind me yet again of why I love this neighbourhood so much. I saw flowers in the most amazing colours at the Kings Cross markets, sunlight running like a line of silver around the clouds, a flash mob at Poos on Sticks, a warped looking stretch limo cruising down Macleay Street and I even met a sausage dog called Malcolm. 
Later on, when I zipped into The Potts Point Bookshop in the Pomeroy building on Macleay Street, the brilliance continued. 

The bookshop was celebrating the inaugural National Bookshop Day, an Australian Booksellers Association initiative that coincides with the launch of two new campaigns: the ABA's IndieBound and the City of Sydney's Shop Local, which are aimed at encouraging residents to support their local shopkeepers. I was happy to oblige, but I was also drawn to the shop by the promise of in-store readings by Razor author Larry Writer (below right) and PM Newton (below left), whose debut novel, The Old School was released last year. My friend John Webber also came along and happily agreed to take the pictures for this post.

Newton (first name, Pamela) read the opening chapter of her book, which follows police detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly as she investigates a double murder, and is set in Bankstown, in Sydney's west, Greenwich, north of the city and Goulburn in the NSW Southern Tablelands region.  
Writer then read an edited version of the final chapters of Razor detailing the last rites of Razorhurst and the deaths of brothel madam Tilly Devine and sly-grogger Kate Leigh. Hearing Writer read from the book it struck me how perfect the writing is: laden with colour and detail, based on solid research. Here is Kate Leigh as an octogenarian resting ''her aching bones in the small, dark room upstairs at 212 Devonshire Street where she lived alone with her memories, the bottles and bouncers of her sly-grogging days having long since vanished. Few people bothered to visit her, but she always kept her pantry stocked with biscuits and tea in case someone dropped in for a chat . . . she lived in the past and reminisced a lot.''

After the reading, the pair had a ''conversation'' about their books. I haven't read The Old School but it sounds excellent and is praised in the cover-blurbs by actor-author-critic Graeme Blundell, Underbelly author and journalist Andrew Rule as well as action novelist Matthew Reilly.
One of the interesting things that came out of the conversation was about policewoman Maggie Baker, whose memories of Leigh and Devine are included in Razor. Writer interviewed Baker for the book but she was so afraid of retribution, even in the late 1990s, that she insisted on a pseudonym being used. So Maggie Baker she aint. 

The conversation sadly ended but then a bookshop assistant cracked some Champagne open and things were looking up again. With glass in hand I purchased The Old School and asked Newton (below left with fan) to sign it for me.   

I also cornered Writer (below left with fan), literally, in a corner of the bookshop, so that he could sign the copies of Razor and Bumper that I had brought from home. It was the first time I had met Writer and of him I have to say two things. He is extremely kind and friendly and admits to being shy. Sixty is obviously the new 40. Seriously, I cannot believe he is 61. 

Speaking of numbers, the sparkling wine being drunk amid the books was also to celebrate Anna Low's fourth year as owner of The Potts Point Bookshop. I wish I had known the shop had changed hands earlier, because I purposely stopped going there when the former owners were running the store. Basically, I didn't think they were very friendly. But just look at Anna (below) and you can tell she is a lovely woman, especially when she passes around glasses of deliciously cold sparkling wine to her customers. 

So I will definitely being going back to the shop, especially because I have my eye on an excellent pop-up book, which shows you how to cut paper to make your own pop-ups. It's designed for children but who cares. The shop also stocks the nice little colourful Moleskine notebooks that I like to use and has an excellent range of locally-made birthday and blank cards. The children's section is also impressive with a range of book-related toys such as a Hungry Caterpillar wheeled, wooden pull-along. If I had a spare few hundred dollars I could have easily dropped it on some of the recipe and gardening books too. And I wouldn't mind snuggling with a book on the bench with this long-legged floral animal:

The Potts Point Bookshop
14 Macleay Street
Potts Point NSW 2011
02 9331 6642

Across the Border: Kings Cross: Animal Life: Malcolm the Sausage Dog

Meet Malcolm. He is a smart little sausage. I met him yesterday at the Kings Cross Markets while he was trotting about the flower stall. I have seen Malcolm at the markets a few times but this was the first time we had officially met. He was in a bit of a mood because he had gone past Paws Point Pet Deli and Boutique, one of his favourite shops on Macleay Street, and it was closed. He could only skulk outside and imagine the treasures within.
Malcolm is also fond of the One Dollar Shop in the Kingsgate Shopping Centre. Apparently whenever he is taken to the centre, he trots off ahead and makes a beeline straight for the One Dollar Shop where he goes directly to the toy aisle to check out the latest products. See, I told you: smart dog. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Detritus: Underbelly: Razor

There is Razor-fever on the streets of Sydney ahead of Sunday night's premiere of Underbelly: Razor on the Nine Network. The advertising is everywhere: across billboards, taxis, bus shelters and phone booths and it's making me very excited to soon see all the characters and streets of 1920s and 30s Darlinghurst brought to life. I may even dress up in period garb for the occasion and mix myself a few Sidecars or Mint Juleps
I also have some very good news to share: Larry Writer, the excellent author of Razor, will be reading from the book in Potts Point tomorrow. Writer will also be joined by former policewoman turned author PM Newton to discuss the fine craft of crime writing. The special event is being held to coincide with the very first National Bookshop Day and starts at 4pm at the Potts Point Bookshop
It's a good opportunity to bring along your old, dog-eared copy of Razor for signing by Writer before he becomes too too famous. You can also no doubt purchase Writer's latest book, Bumper, about copper Frank Farrell who patrolled the streets of Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and Surry Hills from the 1930s to the 1960s. Or buy Newton's well-reviewed debut detective novel, The Old School, which was released by Penguin last year.
National Bookshop Day is a new event run by the Australian Booksellers Association to promote books and reading. 
The Oscar and Friends bookshops are also celebrating the day with free gelato and children's storytelling at their Double Bay store, as well as Chaser comedian Dom Knight in their Surry Hills store. 
I really hope it's going to be a blue-sky Saturday. 

LINKS (to get you in the mood for Underbelly:Razor):
MDD Blog Interview with Larry Writer

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Art and Culture: Watters Gallery: Coloured In, by Chris O'Doherty aka Reg Mombassa

If you find yourself down in the Little Italy region of Darlinghurst this week, take five minutes out and pop into the Watters Gallery to check out the latest exhibition by artist Chris O'Doherty aka Reg Mombassa. The show, Coloured In, ran at fortyfivedownstairs gallery in Melbourne from June 28 to July 9 and is only showing in Sydney until Saturday. Unfortunately for us Sydney-siders, those Melbournites also had first dibs on the works so about 99 per cent of the show has already sold out. 

But could you afford them anyway? The most affordable original works I saw started at $800 for a charcoal on paper, while a tiny 4.5x10cm oil on paper miniature, Headland, Maria Island (2010), sold for $1000. That's not to say that Mombassa/Doherty is unworthy of such prices. I love his work and hope to one day own one. The downstairs part of the gallery features the Mambo-style, cheeky and surreal works for which he is widely known, such as this piece, Mr and Mrs Wolfman (2010, charcoal, coloured pencil on paper, $8600): 

There's also a hilarious work, Skeleton Having Sex With a Fence (2010, charcoal, coloured pencil and glitter on paper, $8000), which made me laugh out loud.
But also make sure you visit the upstairs space for the slightly softer, more whimsical landscapes, which are mostly created using oil paints. They are rather more melancholy and serious in mood than the downstairs works.  

If like me you are a big fan of Doherty/Mombassa's works - and have read THE book on this special Sydney artist - you can always take home the $3 program, which features 18 images including a little treasure called Gum, Road and Fenceline (2010, oil on paper, $1600). 
As its title suggests, it is a painting of a gum tree, next to a curved road lined with fence poles, backed by a big, cloudy sky and is one of those pictures that instantly brings to mind carefree memories of road trips in country NSW. I was also mesmerised by this mysterious night scene:

Coloured In
Chris O'Doherty aka Reg Mombasa
Watters Gallery
Until August 20, 2011
109 Riley Street
East Sydney NSW 2010
02 9331 2556
Tuesday, Saturday - 10am to 5pm
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - 10am to 7pm

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Lost and Found: Sea Urchin Ring

"Lost: Silver 'Sea Urchin' Ring. Engraved on band: Xmas 09 Woz. Huge sentimental value. If found please contact very sad owner: 0439 110 740. Reward."

These fliers sprung up overnight on telegraph poles around Darlinghurst. I'm not sure what a sea urchin ring looks like, but if you happen to find one . . .

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Street Art: Little Oxford Street

This very professionally printed and applied poster was mounted perfectly on a doorway on Little Oxford Street, behind Taylor Square. It was so well pasted-up, I thought at first that it was a sticker. Can anyone tell me how to make paste-up glue this good? Mine always has the consistency of lumpy Clag. I also like the beautifully coloured Sprinkler Stop Valve plaque and how the red text neatly matches the Big Con red. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: Lost and Found: Michael the Cockatiel

"Michael, a loved and much missed cockatiel has gone missing in the Darlinghurst area. He is very tame and friendly. Please call 0434 934 870 if you find him.''

I have to say I am rather intrigued by the case of this missing bird. Firstly, how did he become lost? Did he break out of his cage? But more importantly, why is he called Michael? It's such a strange name for a cockatiel. Anyway, if you happen to spot him around the hood, hanging out at the Kings Cross Hotel say, going for a bite at Strawberry Cream, or chewing on a building on Greenknowe Avenue, please call the number above. But if I was a bird in Darlinghurst, I'd probably hang out on the top of St John's.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Darlinghurst Blog: People: Larry Writer

Larry Writer (above) is a Woollahra-based journalist, author and publisher who is set to become a household name when the new Underbelly television series, based on his 2001 book, Razor, begins airing on the Nine Network on August 21.
Filming of the series only wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and as a treat for My Darling Darlinghurst readers, Writer took some time off set to answer some questions and to provide an insight into the creation of the new Underbelly: Razor, as well as to share his favourite Darlinghurst places and secrets. 
If you haven't already read Razor, you better chop-chop and pop off to the library or Ariel and grab yourself a copy because it is the authoritative book on 1920s and 30s Darlinghurst, a period which saw the birth of organised crime in Australia.

Scene from Underbelly:Razor

Writer's most recent book, Bumper: The Life and Legend of Frank 'Bumper' Farrell, published late last year, is also set in Darlinghurst and traces the career of a "rough as bags" cauliflower-eared policeman who patrolled the streets of Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, East Sydney, Woolloomooloo and Surry Hills from 1940 to 1976. 
Bumper Farrell appears in Razor too, which follows the lives of sly-grogger Kate Leigh, brothel madam Tilly Devine and the crooks, crims, cops and prostitutes around them, and brings the mean streets of historical Darlinghurst to life in meticulously researched detail. 
In 2002, Razor was the joint winner, with Mike Richards's The Hanged Man, of the Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime. 
It would be fair to describe Razor as a seminal work and with the impending television series, it is likely to experience increased popularity. Victorian-based authors Andrew Rule and John Silvester watched their Underbelly series of true crime books hit the bestsellers list and surpass the 1.5million sales mark following the first television series about Melbourne's gangland wars. 
I look forward to seeing Razor and Writer enjoy the same successes. 
And now, over to Writer:

Tilly Devine (Chelsie Preston-Crayford) takes her dogs for a stroll.

''After the negotiations were completed for Screentime, makers of Underbelly, to use Razor as the basis for the new series, I was invited to come on board as a consultant. 
"I’d heard horror stories of film-makers turning books into train wrecks, but from the first, I was delighted to find that the producers, scriptwriters, researchers, actors and directors’s respect and affection for the people and places in Razor matched my own. 
"I read all the scripts as they were written and attended conferences, and there and on the phone I was asked all kinds of questions: What were the common expressions used in that era? What did the Tradesman’s Arms look like then? What is 'gingering'? What would a Darlinghurst street look like in 1928? Where did the gangsters access their cocaine? What brand beer, wine and spirits did Kate Leigh sell? What did Snowy Prendergast do before he became a gangster in Darlinghurst? What are the lyrics of Tilly Devine’s favourite song, 'The Marquis of Camberwell Green'? Whatever happened to the survivors of the razor gang wars?"

"The actors wanted to know their character’s back stories, how they spoke, what they wore, any other idiosyncrasies that could help them make their character real. 
"The production designers moved heaven and earth to find authentic period clothing, razors and guns, furniture, props and cars. 
"They also invited me to play a 'wealthy businessman' in a nightclub. I hope I don’t end up on the cutting room floor!"

Two razor-gangers are taken aback when north shore schoolgirl Nellie Cameron (Anna McGahan) proposes a career as a prostitute.

Violet: Are you happy with the finished product?

Writer: ''I’m delighted. It rocks! It’s very Underbelly in that it’s fast and racy and assaults the senses, but the acting, direction and design is wonderful, and it’s true to the spirit of my book, and more importantly to the people and the places of Darlinghurst in the 1920s and 30s.''

Kate (Danielle Cormack) or Tilly? – who is your favourite and why?

"I am very fond of them both, but I think Tilly is a little closer to my heart. 
"They are both brilliant mixes of good and bad, kindness and cruelty, greed and altruism, but I’m intrigued by the way Tilly fought her way up from abject poverty to be so successful, despite her husband Big Jim Devine, her treacherous gang, her own demons. 
"Somehow, and against much of the evidence, she seems more vulnerable. 
"I like too that she was always singing and knew how to party . . . even if those parties often ended in mayhem. I’m very glad that she was never my neighbour."

What would Kate and Tilly think about the television series?

"They’d be sitting on their lounge surrounded by their henchmen and women and loving every moment. Both had a keen sense of self-promotion. I reckon Tilly would be griping though that the actress who plays her, Chelsie Preston Crayford, is not nearly as beautiful as her."

How enjoyable was the writing process of Razor?

"I became obsessed with the people and the era during the three and a half years when I was researching and writing Razor. I enjoyed every moment, and it was such a pleasure. 
"I had a fulltime job so I’d be up at 3am before I went to my day job, and then again till late at night. Most of my weekend was occupied on the project. 
"I was in such a zone I didn’t realise I was working terribly long hours. When I finished I fell in a heap. My family was very glad to have me back from living in the 1920s."

You lived at Hensley Hall for a time. Have you lived at any other houses in the area?

"Hensley Hall was the only place I lived in Darlinghurst, though when I was in my teens and 20s I lived in many share terraces in Paddington and Kings Cross. Now I live in Woollahra with my family. 
"In 1958, when I was eight, I lived with my Aunt Dolly in Hensley Hall. I remember sword fighting my brother with copper sticks from the laundry, and him spitting toothpaste out of our first floor window onto a passerby who banged on the front door. 
"Often, before I set off to Darlinghurst Primary School or to the movies, my aunt told me if I saw them coming I should steer clear of Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh."

What is your favourite thing about Darlinghurst?

"I like the places that figured in Razor that are still there to see and experience: The Strand Hotel (above) where Frankie Green shot Barney Dalton and Wally Tomlinson; the Tradesman’s Arms pub (now the East Village), Charlotte Lane where Norman Bruhn was assassinated, Tilly’s former brothel and home at 191 Palmer St, the little lanes around Palmer St, (Chapel, Berwick, Woods, Palmer) which are beautiful and peaceful today but were once Tilly’s kingdom; even the empty space where 104 Riley Street used to be beguiles me – that’s where Kate Leigh lived and sold sly grog and shot Snowy Prendergast dead."

What's your favourite restaurant in the area?

"It’s just closed down but the Bayswater Brasserie was a great haunt in my younger, single days . .  . Arthur’s night club too. I enjoy the schnitzel at Una’s
"Billy Kwong’s (above) serves superb food but I don’t go often, because I don’t enjoy queuing for a table and then being hustled out the moment I’m finished so the people standing outside in the street in the cold with their noses pressed to the front window eyeing my table can be seated."

What's your favourite pub in the area?

"The Dolphin in Crown Street . . . Yes, I know I’m a dinosaur, but I like it not for what it is today, but for what it was, a wild and crazy Irish sports pub, where Bumper Farrell would go to drink Guinness and sing Irish ballads (very badly but enthusiastically)."

What's your favourite secret in the area?

"I have to say the Razor hangouts. How many times do we go past the East Village pub, or the Chard Building on William Street (above) without even thinking that the Tradesman’s Arms was the most notorious pub in town, and the Chard Building was once the site of the Fifty Fifty Club, Phil “The Jew” Jeff’s temple of cocaine, prostitution, illegal alcohol and gambling, where Tilly and Kate and Nellie Cameron and Guido Calletti and Frank Green and Big Jim Devine and the other gangsters mingled with Premiers, sports stars, business leaders and celebrities."

What's your favourite Darlinghurst building?

"The old Darlinghurst Police Station (above). With its ageless sandstone and pointy round roof it reminds me of a castle in a fairy tale, and in many ways it was. 
"This is where the baddies were locked up, where Bumper Farrell ruled, where those fabulous mug shots that have been published in Peter Doyle’s magnificent books City of Shadows and Crooks Like Us were taken, and where Lance Hoban, an old time cop who I interviewed for Razor, found a cache of Guido Calletti’s razors that had been confiscated when he was arrested."

Inspector William Mackay (Craig Hall) patrols the dangerous streets of Darlinghurst.

''Darlinghurst is my heartland in many ways, and I adore it. It retains the dangerous and gloriously seedy miasma of earlier times, and it continues to resist change and fads better than many Sydney suburbs.
''I hope it never becomes too cool, and I hope they never demolish Hensley Hall.
''Oh . . . and it’s lucky to have a chronicler like you, Violet.''

Underbelly: Razor will premiere on the Nine Network on August 21.
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All Underbelly: Razor photographs courtesy of, and copyright to, the Nine Network.