Sydney brothel-goers lose a Touch of Class

Cheaper rivals force bordello out of business after 40 years of infamy

There is still a welcome mat outside A Touch of Class, and its website promises visitors "sumptuous earthly delights". But gentleman callers will be disappointed. After nearly 40 years of serving the local community, Sydney's most infamous brothel has shut up shop.

Politicians, judges and the late media magnate Kerry Packer were, reportedly, among those who frequented "Toucha", as it was fondly known. Mr Packer, Australia's richest man for nearly two decades, once hired the entire venue, it was rumoured, so that his polo-playing friends could enjoy themselves with "some good, clean girls".

Now the brothel, which operated out of three Victorian terraces in an unassuming residential street, is up for auction. The manager, Peter Lazaris, blamed competition from a rapidly proliferating number of cheaper establishments. He declined to comment on whether a raid by tax investigators had also played a role.

While the fixtures and fittings – including Roman fountains, crushed velvet furnishings and themed rooms complete with silk sheets and ensuite spa baths – are not included in the package, the bricks and mortar come replete with decades of colourful history.

A Touch of Class has been a Sydney landmark since 1972, but enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s, under the watchful eye of its most flamboyant madame, Zara Powell. Mrs Powell, a former convent girl, wrote a book about it, after leaving to found her own establishment, Zazzi's. But to the relief, no doubt, of many a pillar of society, she betrayed few secrets. The brothel prided itself on its discreet image; according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the adjoining terraces were known as the Three Wise Monkeys. For several years, there was a large truck parked permanently outside, ensuring that coming and goings were protected from prying eyes, including people sitting in a popular beer garden directly opposite. Rowdy drinkers, it was said, would heckle patrons on approach.

The truck collected a legendary number of parking tickets, and was replaced in the 1990s by a high wooden fence, which the local council declared illegal. In recent years, a dark green wrought-iron screen has shielded the premises. The brothel, located in a semi-gentrified neighbourhood near the city centre, was one of many local establishments – a search on Google lists 41 others within two miles.

But none had the same cachet, nor the same notoriety, nor the same knack of getting themselves into the papers. When someone was caught behaving badly, or using their company credit card to pay for services, it always seemed to be at "Toucha".

The brothel, which could fetch more than A$6m (£2.3m), also featured in a 2006 Australian film, Candy, starring the late Heath Ledger. The brothel was popular with visiting sailors, but had been open only intermittently of late, and missed out on what other establishments say was one of their busiest periods: World Youth Day in July, when thousands of Catholic pilgrims descended on Sydney for a week-long celebration.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players