Arts & Entertainment

Naked City: Last of the fleabags (R.I.P)


You may have seen it in the Underbelly TV series, in which this notorious Darlinghurst Road hotel did an admirable job of playing itself. One newspaper reported it as being “a hotbed of drug crime, violence and prostitution”. This week another Kings Cross ‘institution’ looks set to disappear as the Astoria ‘budget’ hotel goes up for sale, destined to never be quite the same again.

Unlike some of the other much-loved, now deceased KC institutions such as the New York Restaurant and Barons, it’s unlikely there will be any tears shed when the last of the Kings Cross fleabags goes up for auction next September. Home to a shady collection of itinerants, drug dealers, addicts and prostitutes, it was recently alleged that the Astoria was also receiving money from the State Government to accommodate transient Housing Commission tenants.

Whilst locals were well aware of its seedy reputation it occasionally snared the unsuspecting tourist, slugged $100 a night for a room that came with its own needle disposal bin. Like many of the fleabag hotels which still survive in the US and often trap the gullible traveller, its foyer was relatively clean and well kept and said nothing of the horrors that awaited within – a kind of venus fly trap for the budget minded.

Peruse the various internet reviews on sites such as Tripadvisor and you’ll soon come up with:

“After check in walking 3 flights of stairs, smells like urine, come to my room, sheets and blanket looked 40 years old, had some poo stains and blood. Bathroom had used soap and razor left from previous guest. TV had just one channel of clear picture. A guy suddenly just walked into my room and said “oh, sorry wrong room” –  it was clear the locks aren’t working. I complained downstairs to the receptionist (Ron), he didn’t care, even made a joke about, at least you didn’t have to bring your own soap and razor, they are supplied by the previous guest, your [sic] kidding right? went to do my laundry and my clothes got stolen and the washing powder, talk about desperate.”

The same writer goes on to say:

“Underneath my bed, that was tilted to one side I found used condoms, tampons, stockings, underwear and dry vomit or something repulsive. This place is not fit for human inhabitation and really the place needs to get their act together. $100 per night is rip off, $10 a night would be more the going rate.”

Yet another comment after a traveller left the relative charm of the reception for the hell within:

“As soon as I walked up the stairs the look and smell of the place changed dramatically. The place was filthy and stinking, it sounded like a cross between a brothel and a crack house from the movies and had plenty of unsavoury characters hanging around the halls which smelled of a mixture of body odour and piss. Once inside the room, things didn’t get any better. It stank just as badly, everything was smashed and the graffiti on the walls spoke of rape, child abuse and police brutality.”

Whilst these kinds of skid row hotels have a certain fascination for crime writers and filmmakers, in reality they do nothing but exploit the vulnerable and rip off the naïve. It’s cockroach capitalism at its very worst and the owners invariably walk away with a tidy profit. Who knows what will happen when the Astoria is finally sold – A backpackers’ maybe or even a complete makeover into groovy apartments? Given the current climate it’s most unlikely to ever become another fleabag, which is bad news for the bed bugs and cockroaches that will soon be checking out.

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