In March 2003 my relationship of 15 years broke up and as a consequence I had a new life whether I liked it or not. I bought a house in Redfern and met a couple of lesbians after I’d moved in.
One night they said to me, Why don’t you come up to the Redfern RSL and watch some karaoke?
I said, I don’t do karaoke, because I’d only been once in my whole life and I don’t sing.
But I thought maybe it was worthwhile to get to know people in the area so we went one night. It closed at 10:30pm and the drill was that everybody went down to the Random Bar in Cleveland Street afterwards.
I don’t do pubs as a rule, but I was quite knocked out by the d?r and the standard of singing at their karaoke night.
I did that over about a month and a half and one night the owner of the Random Bar came up to me and said they wouldn’t be having karaoke any more.
I don’t even know why but I just said straight out, Maybe what you need is a lesbian karaoke night. She said, That’s not a bad idea.
When I got home that night the first thing I did was look up the Yellow Pages to look up other karaoke nights to get some ideas.
I thought, That’s not what I’d want to do. I want to do something serious. It went from there and we had our first night on a Saturday in October 2003.
I wasn’t sure if anyone would come at all, and we got 160 people. At the end of the night we got a standing ovation and the girls went mad. I couldn’t get over it.
I hadn’t really thought whether there’d be another night, but when that happened I thought maybe we should do another one.
We did two shows at the Random Bar and I realised I needed a bigger space with a stage. I wanted a nice venue because the girls have always got the short end of the stick as far as I’m concerned when it comes to a really nice place to go for entertainment.
I’d heard that @Newtown (the Newtown RSL) had had a great refurbishment and we got a spot there on the last Friday night of each month. I couldn’t believe the response to what we were now calling Dikes on Mikes. The first show attracted 360 and it just snowballed.
I think it had a lot to do with timing: it was a form of entertainment that was totally new.
I’ve been out as a lesbian for 30 years. My stance from the beginning was that the boys have everything, everything’s about the boys in the community.
I decided to start a competition called Lesbian Idol. I hadn’t seen Australian Idol but I thought it sounded like a good name.
We had heats and a semi-final and then a grand final in February last year at Fox Studios. There were 1,000 women there and the place went nuts. I still get goosebumps when I think of how proud I felt that night.
But I went off and did the Fox Studios show without ever costing anything and it was a very expensive exercise to do the semi-final and grand final there.
After the grand final, part of the deal was to take the winner Bern Sokol to America, which I did. I actually took six people, which was crazy. We had a great time and all that, but at the end of the day I was just about bankrupt. But you learn from these things.
During the second season of Dikes on Mikes last year, I came home from work one day and I had a letter from Grundy Television, which produces Australian Idol.
I’d been thinking of approaching them to see if they’d be interested in our show and maybe a reality TV-type concept.
The letter basically told me I had to cease using the name Lesbian Idol because they’d trademarked the name of their show. We had to strip everything from the website and from our advertising material.
But I thought, We really should feel quite flattered. At the end of the day they did us a favour because it got a lot of interest. I didn’t really care because I wasn’t prepared to go to court.
We had nearly finished the second season by then, and I was thinking I wouldn’t have another one anyway.
I’ve since changed my mind and the third season starts in July. At the moment we’re holding nights on the last Saturday of the month at Manning Bar at Sydney University.
I’ve decided now to move it more into a variety night, so girls can spotlight themselves in front of a real audience without it being a karaoke night. I’ve also set up a website for the new series, which we’re calling StarD.O.M Live & Online.
When we had our first semi-final at Fox Studios in 2004, Jacqui Walter from lesbian band the bluehouse got up on stage and she said, This is such a fantastic night because in Australia people in the music industry pretty much don’t give a fuck about lesbians. I agree with that.
I never set out to change the whole dynamics of everything, but as it’s developed that’s what it’s turned into.
Interview by Ian Gould