There's only one story in the naked city, writes Neil Mercer: can the Kings Cross of legend survive?
The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Lucy Turnbull, Osama Bin Laden and Sydney property developers make an unlikely alliance.
But when it comes to changing the face of the country's best known red-light district, Kings Cross, all three are having an impact. Throw in some aggressive policing and it appears the Cross is heading for a shakedown that will alter its character forever.
Frank Amante, the owner of Porky's strip club, has seen it all in his 34 years in the Cross - the Vietnam era boom, the drugs, the girls, the drunks, the fights and the corrupt cops who, until the Wood royal commission, took money from a lot of the clubs to turn a blind eye to what was going on.
"I actually opened Porky's, before that I had SPs (illegal bookmakers) up here.
"I've done everything illegal up here," he jokes, "that's how I became rich. Now I'm becoming a pauper."
He says business at Porky's, which opened in the late 1980s, has dropped by 50 per cent, and he blames the wide impact of the September 11 attacks. "On Friday night I used to get 600 through the doors. Now on a Friday night it's down to 300 to 350." The tourists, he says, just aren't coming anymore.
"It's hard, we have lost 50 per cent of our business. Everything is very quiet."
Other strip club owners agree, although they blame the downturn on a variety of factors, from the publicity surrounding the opening of the legal injecting room in Darlinghurst Road to aggressive police raids using sniffer dogs.
And while they welcome Lucy Turnbull's "clean up" of the area, they are wary of Sydney City Council's decision, announced this week, to discourage "the continuation of the area as a red-light district".
But the fact is, change is already under way, driven by economics.
Last month, the famed Pink Pussycat closed its doors. A decade after it opened, Dancers, in Bayswater Road, is temporarily closing on Monday and Tuesday nights. "We were getting 15-20 customers," says Milton Politis, the chief executive officer of Dancers and two Pitt Street clubs, Men's Gallery and Pure Platinum.
He says the tourist buses, once a familiar sight, just aren't arriving. He also points to the injecting room as being a catalyst for the drop in business, although Frank Amante disagrees. "It's got nothing to do with the injecting room. Nobody even knows it's there."
Also driving change is the emergence of more upmarket "table dancing" clubs, such as those managed by Mr Politis, in Pitt Street.
Owned by the family of Balmain knockabout Bruce Hardin, for some they have made the late night trip up William Street unnecessary.
Mr Amante also points to the closure of hotels such as the Sebel, apartment developments, and an influx of new residents.
Further change is imminent. The Herald has been told that the Bourbon and Beefsteak, a Kings Cross institution which is closed for renovation, is considering changing its name and catering to a crowd more interested in good food than a dozen palate-cleansing schooners.
The local area commander, Superintendent Dave Darcy, says he will continue cracking down on the clubs, but he does not want to see the area lose its character.
"I don't want to see Kings Cross as a grey, stale, clinical place. I'm not into that."
Neither is Frank Amante.
"We will survive," he says. "People will still come here."