Lanie, the Rock’s bawdy drag queen, reigned over her left handed pub for more than 25 years

How Lanie knew the ‘Obby’. The Observer Hotel, George Street, The Rocks, Sydney 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University. Inset: Lanie. Picture: Stephen Carrington.

Observer Hotel, The Rocks, Sydney

ALTHOUGH right-handed, when I drop into the Observer Hotel at Sydney’s Rocks, I like to drink a beer using my left hand. The gesture is in memory of a left-handed drag-queen who performed in the pub’s back-bar for over 25 years.

Every Sunday afternoon from the 1970s through to the early 1990s, Lanie entertained a packed Observer Hotel with her risqué act, which consisted of ‘music hall’ style bawdy tunes, dirty jokes, and crude insults, all from a stool in front of an upright piano.

Lanie, who was rather ‘large’, was in her 60s.

Decked-out in a sequin gown, heavily made-up with bright blue eye shadow, and crowned with a glamorous blonde wig, she swore like a trooper, and had a huge and devoted following. She was accompanied by her faithful and slim piano player, ‘Rambo’.

The foul-mouthed drag-queen, who left many a tourist aghast when they poked their heads in the door of the Observer Hotel, had a left handed policy.

The audience had no choice but to hold their drinks in their left hand. If Lanie spotted a drinker holding a glass in their right hand during her performance, she would immediately bring the show to a stop, and summon that person to the stage.

“Stop the f#@*ing music!”,” she would scream – the pub would fall silent.

Gesturing with seductively with her finger for the right-handed offender to come to her stool, Lanie – in a deep manly voice – would demand: “Come here, and sit on mummy’s lap…”

lani andrew politzer and rambo observer hotel Sydney the rocks 1990
Lanie drags another unsuspecting “victim” to her lap. Andrew Politzer is pictured with Lanie celebrating his 21st birthday at the Observer Hotel in 1989. Picture: Andrew Politzer

The reluctant offender was most of the time forced to ‘scull’ their drink, while sitting on Lanie’s lap. Often the victims were young sailors, and were subject to Lanie’s wandering hands.

The sailors loved Lanie’s show… and the bar was often packed on a Sunday afternoon with men from the nearby Potts Point Naval base.

After her shows, Lanie’s grandson – yes, her grandson, who was about 10 years of age during the late 80s – would help her pack her limited stage props into the back of her waiting car.

Lanie sadly died, I believe in the 1990s, and a small brass plaque (now sadly gone) was placed on the wall of the Observer Hotel dedicated to her memory. At the time of her death, she had been performing at the pub for over 25 years.

Next time you’re at the ‘Obby’ – as the regulars call the pub – take a minute to drink from your left hand in memory of an old drag-queen, who entertained countless punters during the 1970s and 80s.

Dermott Kelly writes that he saw Lanie in the early 1990s: “I walked into the back bar she was playing in and she demanded the music stop. She then pointed at me and asked in a very arched voice ‘DAPTO?’ Confused, I blurted out: ‘no?’ This got a huge laugh from the bar, and Lanie then informed me: ‘That’s alright. We’re waiting on a busload of poofters from Dapto… I thought it had just arrived’. The rest of the afternoon was a whirl of filthy piano songs with audience members being encouraged to come up and perform ‘Music Hall’ jokes and a busload of Japanese tourists being shown around the historic pub, being asked by Lanie one by one if they were the Dapto mob.”

The Observer Hotel, The Rocks Sydney 2018. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection.

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8 replies

  1. I remember Lani we went there every Sunday and she used to sing “there’ll be blue skies over the white “clits” of Dover. Lani was a blast! The Obs certainly pulled them in when she was there.

  2. Used to work in the Ambulance station next door in the early eighties and was a Sunday tradition after shift the jokes about ambos and rubber gloves got me every time

  3. We remember Lani & Wayne,on the piano,in 1978–She was fantastic!–my mate Tony & i used to go every sunday,we used get called a “couple of poofs”–i never laughed so much,you could not beat Sydney in those days for great pubs,You brought back great memories,of The great Lani–R.I.P

  4. Does anyone know,when Lani died?-or where she is buried?-We were going to pay our respects,-What a star,Sydney took a big hit,when Lani the great,passed-R.I.P,fun and laughter!—

  5. 1988 I was lucky to have meet Lanie she was amazing I loved her and she sure did make us laugh. I will never for get her thank you for the write up. I am sorry I haven’t any photos of us together.
    Lillian Chetcuti Riolo

    • We used to go there,78-83-with Wayne on the piano,fantastic entertainment,I am so glad Lani is so remembered,they were great times,with endless laughter!-to this day,I always drink left-handed,-& lillian,i am so glad you have great memories,too!–viva la Lani & Malta-

      • She was a hoot. You took your life in her hands if you went across her dance floor to the toilet. Made that mistake and never made it again. She liked me. Young looking, small, cute. Whenever a girl came in she would say ‘another candidate for the gangbang’. She was vile. But everybody loved her. She was actually a really lovely person. I spoke to her outside the Ob on quite a few occasions. She did a lot of charity stuff.


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