Deep underground in Melbourne’s Arts Center is a bathroom that is not open to the public.
Tiled in royal blue from floor to ceiling, and with two huge mirrors laced with lighting, this bathroom was built for royalty.
And it was expected that the first person to use it would be Princess Diana.
But she refused.
The bathroom was built as part of the new Melbourne Concert Hall, a historic venue that opened in 1984 and is now known as Hamer Hall.
Prior to the building’s official opening, a concert was held in 1983 for Princess Diana and Prince Charles who were touring Australia at the time.
The Royal Gala was hosted by Bert Newton and featured performances by Marcia Hynes, John Farnham and Peter Allen.
Claudia Funder, who now works as a research coordinator at Arts Center Melbourne, performed at that concert and recalls the “air of excitement”.
“I was in the Melbourne Youth Choir and we sang with Marcia Hynes,” she said.
“It was a venue Melbourne had never had before in the Broadway and West End tradition.”
A bathroom made for Diana to enjoy
When not watching the performance, Princess Diana and Prince Charles spent time in the private room, the Truscott Lounge.
Designed by festival director and theater designer John Truscott, the room’s walls are draped in luxurious green velvet, topped with a gold ceiling.
“The space has the exact shape of Hamer Hall when you look down on it – a weird egg shape,” said Emma Whitby, Arts Center Melbourne tour guide.
“If you come to a private function before or after the show, you can have a drink and watch everyone go into the stalls or line up for the bar.”
And through a door at the side of this room is a bathroom.
“The toilet was made especially for Princess Diana to enjoy,” said Ms Whitby.
“It was filled with flowers and toiletries exclusively for her.”
Ms Whitby said the story goes that Princess Diana enjoyed a drink with everyone in the banquet hall but was embarrassed to go to the toilet.
“They told her the flowers and toiletries were picked especially for her,” said Ms Whitby.
Princess Diana then spoke to security and told them she wanted to use a different bathroom.
“They took her back to the public foyers to use the public restroom, and cleaned up the public there,” she said.
“I think it’s weird that we know this, but it was recorded how many times she went to the toilet – it was recorded that she went to the toilet twice, and each time they had to clean it up for safety reasons.”
Ms Whitby said the toilet Princess Diana used in 1983 no longer existed.
“We used to have 35 toilets on that floor, increased it to 67, but then the existing toilets ripped out,” she said.
Toilet represents Melbourne becoming a cultural capital
For Ms. Funder, the story of Princess Diana and the bathroom symbolizes “so much more” than just bathroom matters.
It was about Melbourne with a location – and a bathroom – fit for royalty, something the city didn’t have before.
‘Where were the concerts before? Melbourne City Hall. And have you seen those toilets?’
Ms Whitby said the story was a favorite with those taking the tour of the Arts Centre.
Although the space is not freely accessible, it is a stop on the Arts Center tour for both school groups and the public.
“All tour guides know this and talk about it,” she said.
“Public tours aren’t back after COVID yet, but hopefully they’ll be back soon.”
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