Fanny’s site has thousand tales to tell

PRINCE: As heard on Fanny’s dance floor in 1984. REPUTATION: Newcastle’s infamous Argyle House has stood the test of time.

STICKY carpet, a secret show by Chisel, romances blooming and dying, pumping local and global dance acts, dance-floor pashes, biffs inside and out, at least one glassing, and the ocean yacht Windward Passage II parked high and dry next door.

There’s not much that Fanny’s nightclub hasn’t witnessed since it opened for business in 1984.

That year the man still known as Prince had a global No.1 hit with When Doves Cry and Fanny’s was primed to build a reputation as the riverside spot to be on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.

For a venue that was set to shake the foundations of Newcastle’s social set for better and worse, it’s probably lucky it chose a rock-solid site.

The now heritage-listed Argyle House, an amalgamation of a group of historic buildings, was the headquarters of the Australian Agricultural Company from 1857 until 1965.

It was the nerve centre of the huge land company that quickly forged a coal monopoly in Newcastle. And since the company moved on, Argyle House has been used as offices, a restaurant and nightclubs run by several owners.

Australian Hotels Association Newcastle president and hotelier Rolly de With said he learnt the tricks of his trade when he got a job there in 1984, then rose to be its manager and owner.

‘‘It was my introduction into the entertainment scene in Newcastle, and about the time I started the Bay City Rollers played – I’ll never forget the queue out the front of people dressed in tartan skirts and bobby socks,’’ he said.

Mr de With noted that love had bloomed and fizzled within the nightclub’s four walls.

Member for Charlestown Andrew Cornwell first visited Fanny’s after finishing his final HSC exam in 1987, and seven years later he was there when he met his future wife, Samantha.

‘‘Back then the crowd was an unusual mix of rowdy 18-year-olds and slightly more staid 40-year-olds and we were caught somewhere in the middle,’’ he laughed.

Mr Cornwell said Fanny’s had had its ups and downs, gone broke and bounced back and yet somehow always survived despite its ‘‘awkward’’ location on the corner of Wharf Road, Argyle Street and Centenary Road.

‘‘It’s only in recent years, with the development of Honeysuckle, that its location became a strength and not a weakness,’’ he said.

Mr Cornwell also believes Fanny’s needs another facelift.


Top 100 Billboard

1. When Doves Cry, Prince and The Revolution

2. What’s Love Got to Do With It, Tina Turner

3. Say Say Say, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

4. Footloose, Kenny Loggins

5. Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now), Phil Collins

6. Jump, Van Halen

7. Hello, Lionel Richie

8. Owner of a Lonely Heart, Yes

9. Ghostbusters, Ray Parker Jr.

10. Karma Chameleon, Culture Club