The Albury Piano Bar — my second lounge at one time…

Such sad news on the Facebook Group Lost Gay Sydney yesterday: RIP Sylvana Bonacci June 24th, 2021.

So many memories. I was a regular in the late 1980s through the 1990s to the early 2000s at the Albury Piano Bar where Sylvana performed. Indeed, yesterday’s post included some memories of the Albury. including the fact that I met Michael Xu for the first time in that very piano bar in July 1990.

Search this blog for more memories. For example:

YouTube and then (once I have shared) my Facebook page keep taking me back to the years c.1987 — 31 October 2007. That last is a very specific date because that was the day the Albury Hotel closed….

Oh yes, I have blogged before about this place. Remember when it closed? Is it that long ago? 31 Oct 2007 The Empress has sent an edict: Lest We Forget 31 October 2001 Yum Cha this morning was myself, The Empress, Clive, James, and eventually M, absolutely exhausted and needing the food….

As I said in 2012 in Priscillas I have known: “Oh yes: The Albury – where I met M in 1990 and Sirdan and chatted with the former Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan – and The Unicorn, and all that 1980s-early 1990s scene.” There are some vids there. And: Is it that long ago?…

Albury Front Bar — late afternoon

But my favourite was always the Piano Bar. I am indebted to Howie Hughes on Lost Gay Sydney for this photo:

The names there! Aside from Sylvana, I particularly patronised Adrienne Lamb and Hugh La Rue, real name Hugh Patrick O’Keefe, who has written a “tell-all memoir” — Palely Loitering; Growing up Gay in the 60s, 70s, 80s and Beyond. On Lost Gay Sydney in 2010 he wrote an extensive post about The Albury, taken from that memoir.

MY NIGHT WOULD start around eight o’clock with a warm-up of show tunes as background as the crowd drifted in. Then, with a few bods on stools around the piano – and a few white-wine-and-sodas under my belt, I’d take requests, of course, and indulge in some rather camp patter as well in between numbers. I could be a camp bitch at times (would you believe?) and I’d get as good back from some loud mouth in the crowd from time to time, always in good humour. But, as I was fond of pointing out, I had the microphone, so I always had the last word.

Except for one memorable occasion. It was a very busy Saturday night and there was a group of young people talking non-stop and ignoring the show. This was quite acceptable, of course – I didn’t demand any reverent silence – but they were sitting at the table closest to the piano and it was rather off-putting.

I decided to deal with them. “Let’s just stop and have a listen to this lot,” I said, “as they obviously have something important to say.” They were oblivious to my comments. I stopped playing and my listeners gradually fell silent until we could hear that they were discussing recent university exam results.

Very quickly they became aware that they were being targeted. They stopped talking. They assessed the situation. One of their number stood up and addressed me loudly:

“Well, you may think you’re clever and witty – but we’re young!”

With that they all stood up and swept out.

Even with the microphone, I had no answer to that one.

Then there was the lovely Adrienne Lamb, whom I had come to know from 1985 on at Beau’s Britannia Hotel of fond memory in Chippendale. She was an old stager from the best of Sydney jazz and cabaret and had an amazing repertoire. Make a request, no matter how obscure, and she could probably perform it.

Adrienne in the late 1970s.

But back to Sylvana. She can’t have been all that old when she passed. I gather she had been ill. RIP indeed, and thanks for all the wonderful nights — you, and all the others in the old Piano Bar.


2 thoughts on “The Albury Piano Bar — my second lounge at one time…

  1. Sylvana had a powerful voice and a warm and welcoming personality. I was rather new in town and was amazed that one could buy a beer and listen to someone of her quality for free. Thanks Neil, for sharing your memories and throwing in a few other bits from those splendid years.

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