Why did Princess Diana refuse to use the private bathroom at the Melbourne Arts Centre?

Deep underground in Melbourne’s Arts Center is a toilet off limits to the public.

Tiled in royal blue from floor to ceiling, and featuring two huge mirrors adorned with lights, this bathroom was built for royalty.

And it was anticipated that the first person to wear it would be Princess Diana.

But she refused.

There was anticipation that Princess Diana would use the Truscott Lounge bathroom.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

The bathroom was built as part of the new Melbourne Concert Hall, a landmark venue that opened in 1984 and is now known as Hamer Hall.

Before the official opening of the building, a concert was held in 1983 for Princess Diana and Prince Charles, who were touring Australia at the time.

A photo of a mirror with blue tiles and lights around the mirror.
The first Truscott Lounge bathroom mirror.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

The Royal Gala was hosted by Bert Newton and featured performances by Marcia Hynes, John Farnham and Peter Allen.

Claudia Funder, who now works at the Arts Center Melbourne as a research coordinator, performed at that concert and recalls the “air of excitement”.

A photo of a toilet cubicle in an opulent bathroom
The Truscott Lounge toilet.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

“I was in the Melbourne Youth Choir and we were singing with Marcia Hynes,” he said.

“It was a place that Melbourne had never had before in the tradition of Broadway and the West End.”

Charging

A bathroom made for Diana to enjoy

When they weren’t watching the performance, Princess Diana and Prince Charles would spend time in the private Truscott Lounge.

Designed by festival director and theater designer John Truscott, the hall’s walls are covered in luxurious green velvet, topped with a gold ceiling.

“The space is the exact shape of Hamer Hall if you were looking down, a strange egg shape,” said Melbourne Arts Center tour guide Emma Whitby.

“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 to go to the bar.”

A photo of a room with white sofas and green velvet on the walls with a gold ceiling
The Truscott Lounge is an exclusive private space in the Arts Centre.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

And through a door to the side of this room is a bathroom.

“The bath was made specifically for Princess Diana to enjoy,” Whitby said.

“It was filled with flowers and toiletries exclusively for her.”

A photo of Princess Diana with her head down in a pink dress and surrounded by people
Princess Diana at the Melbourne Concert Hall.(Supplied: Melbourne Arts Center)

Ms Whitby said the story goes that Princess Diana was enjoying drinks with everyone in the function room but was embarrassed to use the toilet.

“She was told that the flowers and toiletries had been chosen especially for her,” Whitby said.

Princess Diana then spoke to security, telling them she wanted to use another bathroom.

“They took her back to the public lobbies to use the public restroom and cleared the audience there,” he said.

“I find it strange that we know this, but how many times he went to the toilet was noted; it is recorded that he went to the toilet twice and each time they had to empty it for safety reasons.”

Light brown double doors in the lobby of a show room
The Truscott Lounge is hidden behind a locked door on level 3 of Hamer Hall.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

Mrs Whitby said the toilet Princess Diana used in 1983 no longer existed.

“We used to have 35 bathrooms on that floor, we increased it to 67 but then we just threw out the existing bathrooms,” he said.

Toilet represents Melbourne becoming a cultural capital

For Ms Funder, the story of Princess Diana and the bathroom “symbolizes much more” than just the bathroom business.

A middle aged woman with brown hair sitting in an opulent green room smiling at the camera
Claudia Funder performed in a choir at the Royal Gala in 1983 for Princess Diana.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta)

It was about Melbourne having a place and bathroom fit for royalty, something the city did not previously have.

“Where were the concerts previously? Melbourne City Hall. And have you seen those toilets?”

A shot of Melbourne's arts precinct at night lit up in blue and purple light
Hamer Hall and the spire of the Center for the Arts in Melbourne.(Facebook: Melbourne Arts Center)

Ms. Whitby said that the story was a favorite of those who toured the Arts Center.

Although the space is not freely accessible, it is a stop on the Arts Center tour for both school groups and the public.

“All the tour guides know it and talk about it,” he said.

“Public touring hasn’t returned yet post-COVID, but hopefully it will be back soon.”

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