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Lisa Salmon

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Lisa Salmon believes in disco, dyke-drag, S/M and stripping. She also believes in love. Rhoyce Nova looks at the queer career - and philosophies - of the co-creator of Wicked Women.

Amid Sydney's sea of blue-haired, kick-clad, baby-doll urban funksters there is one who stands out. One whose retro '90s Eurotrash attire adorns a strangely ancient visage. For the regal face of Lisa Salmon belongs to another era; her aquiline nose is sphinx-like and her gentle and intelligent eyes appear as studded gems in a crown.

There is a widely held myth that scene queendom necessarily denotes vacuous­ness and that disco bunnies don't have brains. In the case of 29-year-old Lisa Salmon, the anomaly of her image points to an eclecticism and originality of character. Lisa is the kind of girl you see in the social pics of the gay press wearing nothing but glitter stars on her titties and miniature mirror balls hanging from her piercings. But she is also a performer, publisher and prolific writer. In short, Lisa Salmon has a substance and history which has influenced Sydney dykes for 10 years or more, whether they know it or not.

Delving into this history it's clear that Lisa has always used the verbal and visual to make sense of her life. Lisa Salmon is the proud owner of many personas whose influence can be traced by their names - Talisa Tangental, Dick Les Wonder, Lickety Slit and Kinky Galore. Little wonder that Lisa received a degree in 'lifestyle' from the college of Fine Art in Sydney, for her life, not just her work on stage, is pure performance. Performance as expression, catharsis, or just pure fun.

1 Talisa Tangental

Tangental: adj. diverging impetuously from matter in hand or from normal line of thought or conduct.

When Lisa Salmon christened herself Talisa Tangental it marked a departure from the mundanity of her childhood in Ballarat and an acknowledgment of the cosmic aspect of her nature. Talisa, suffering from a normality cringe, replaced the dogma of Catholicism with a unique personal philosophy. She called it Purple Prismism.

"Purple Prismism is based on the tetrahedron, a four~sided triangular pyramid, but in its transparent, prismatic form," explains Salmon. "I chose this form because its endlessly refracting triangles gave me a sense of infinite strength and a multifaceted view of the world. Each day I would fixate on a colour and wear only clothes in that colour. If it was purple, everything I wore would be purple including my knickers. And I would only eat food that was that colour- if it was orange I would eat carrots and cantaloupes."

One day, under a Hills Hoist in inner-city Sydney, this little hippy girl in purple met Francine, a girl with a fetish for uniforms who is now a man called Jasper. Gradually Talisa transformed into a punky, blue-haired leather queen sometimes known as Dick Les Wonder. Talisa channelled the rituals of Purple Prismism into a full-on exploration of the rituals and dynamics of S/M, and together with Jasper gave birth to Wicked Women - the magazine, the parties, the contest.

2 Dick Les Wonder

dick: n. (vulg.) penis.

les: n. (abbrev.) lesbian, homosexual woman.

wonder: n. miracle, prodigy, strange or remarkable specimen or performance.

Both Lisa and Jasper believed it was possible to be a lesbian and be sexy. They had a fascination with the aesthetics and highly complex mating rituals of gay leather men and were green with envy that they didn't exist for women. Their relationship was highly structured. He was sadistic and she was masochistic, yet there were different placements of power between them. S/M provided a way for them to work through their angers, fears, loves and frustrations. Their performances on stage were an extension of their personal dynamic, and a way of sharing this experience with other women.

Wicked Women was not just their magazine, it was their lifestyle. The Wicked Women parties became a forum for women to express their sexual fantasies through perfor­mance and helped to fund the magazine, finally leading to the infamous, nationwide Ms Wicked contest. The emergence of the Wicked Women philosophy came at a time when repressive feminist politics still had a stranglehold on lesbian culture. Women were still wearing overalls, while whips and dildos were seen as instruments of the devil, tools for the heterosexual oppression of women. Providing forums for women to explore their eroticism, to do whatever they wanted with their bodies, these wicked women made a huge difference to dyke culture in Australia.

Lisa poured her heart and soul into the magazine. Though she could be seen on the cover in her leathers and peaked cap there was always an element of playfulness to her confrontationism, as suggested by her writing.

"Being a 'playful' lesbian, I believe everyone should be as free as I am. Letting down my guard allows me to absorb everything around me. No clothing barriers for me! Don't ignore the female body. It's art. Repressed lesbians, I have a message for you: shut up and look at my tits."

Lisa's departure from Jasper and Wicked Women was a time of pain and sadness. She went to Byron Bay and returned, she says, a "clean slate".

3 Lickety Slit

lickety-split: adv. (colloq.) at full speed, headlong.

lick: v. pass tongue over to taste, moisten, clean.

slit: n. long, narrow opening, (vulg.) vagina.

No longer prepared to take on negative projections from lovers and from society, Lisa Salmon transformed from a wicked woman to a wonder woman. She took the name Lickety Slit and adorned herself with mirrored arm bracelets to ward off evil.

"When a girlfriend would try to project her crap onto me, instead of talking I would go into a ritualised Wonder Woman routine and let my mirror bracelets deflect the crap right back where it came from. I've never been a 'workshopping' kind of girl. I feel our bodies feel emotions as much as our minds."

As Lickety Slit she carved out a new existence for herself and further explored her fascination with performance. Lickety Slit answered an ad in the paper for strippers. In Kings Cross she discovered a freakish side to herself which she loved. She loved stripping, she loved the attention. There she met a girl named Puss Puss. Puss Puss and Lickety went to Japan.

"It was Freudian exhibitionism at its best," she recalls. "When you're stripping the gaze of men is very gentle, they are easy to please. They just think you are beautiful and they say it as you pass them. So you get this weird perception of yourself as invincible, you feel the power of the performer. I like being naked, I like lying on my back and flashing my puss at the audience. I also love my queer perfor­mance, but when I'm performing in front of my peers I feel more concerned, more nervous because I feel they are more discerning."

Lickety thought everything would be different in Japan; she even thought the grass might be blue. But instead Lickety discovered her intrinsic self: separating the elements of herself that were influenced by environment and those that seemed there to stay. She realised that performance was a way for her to bring out the ugliness and frustration that lay within her mind and her body and make it beautiful, or not.

As a "lesbian drag queen performer" in the clubs in Japan Lisa rediscovered the joy of nonsense and playfulness. She no longer necessarily needed to always bare her soul on stage. On her return to Australia, Lickety linked up with a group of disco-bunny dyke performers and they called themselves Kinky Galore.

"When I morphed into a disco bunny my Purple Prismism was transferred onto the image of the mirror ball. I considered myself a mirror ball in the disco of life." Kinky Galore performed at Drag Trade once a month with Sydney drag queen Miss 30, who became their fairy godmother. Their message was all daisies and glitter. They did dyke drag. It was playful, but there were obvious links to burlesque and cabaret. The child-like stuff was about expressing the antithesis of that previous psycho­-soul-searching stuff, it was about feeling free.

The passages demarcated by the personas of Lisa Salmon have led her back to her real name. Her explorations in the arenas of ritualised sex, queer performance and stripping have brought her to a place where she feels able to experience again the one thing that, whether we admit it or not, lies at the core of all our personal struggles for recognition and expression - being in love.

5 Lisa Salmon

"I truly believe our love is a superior force to contend with, an entity of unique proportion that devours anything we feed it," says Salmon of her relationship with her lover Jo. ''We acknowledge it, worship it by madly fucking. It is bigger than us, we are merely its vehicle. It will conquer and destroy that which threatens it."

Rather than a renunciation of her previous explorations and exploits, Lisa's relationship with Jo is something that incorporates all of her personas, her fetishes and fears. There are now new rituals and the lovers can be seen performing together in shows that are full of exhibitionism but never devoid of tenderness. To those who would equate stripping with whoring or degradation Lisa says,

"They should try it for themselves! Often I'd walk into work feeling grotty or naff and walk out feeling fantastic because of the attention, the exercise. Stripping is just about revelling in the attention. I don't like everything about being a stripper, but that's how most people feel about their career choice."

Lisa Salmon has never hidden her stripping in the closet; it has cross-fertilised her queer perfor­mance and become part of her identity. As such she has brought aspects of an underworld to light and demystified them, just as gay liberationists and queer exponents have done before her. The complex make up of this urban-trash chick reveals her as not just a stripper and performer, but a philosopher and polemicist who will continue evolving new and multifaceted views of herself in the world.

Lisa writes: "Today a peeping tom paid two bucks to see a woeful wanton woman. A single tear spilled down his planar Asian cheek - he rested his forehead on the glass. My warden's gaze was interrupted by this melancholic display. My captives peer as if into a kaleidoscope. Mirrors duplicate my image to infinity. Although I am imprisoned, my cell expands to universal scope."

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