Housewives on Fire: Let There Be Light, Mardi Gras 2015



Max Inanli, Ms Fahren Heit and Olie Debiais operate their fetish couture business, Housewives on Fire, from a ramshackle three-bedroom Victorian house in Burwood, an outer suburb of Sydney. When I pulled up outside, it was nine PM. Night had fallen and every light at the front of the house was blazing.

The night before Mardi Gras, it looked almost as busy as Sydney airport when I got off the plane. I can never remember how to get there during the daytime, let alone at night, so I caught a cab all the way from the airport.

There were people up and down the halls and all the doors and windows were open with the late summer wind wandering through the house as freely as everybody else.

Ms. Heit was in the studio, Max was working at the dining table and Olie was painting glitter onto wings in the backyard. I recognized some people from the parade the year previous, but there was a good number I hadn’t met before.

After a round of hellos, I sat at the long dining table, which was almost completely covered in electrical minutiae and shown how to crimp sockets onto wires. Given the costumes were supposed to light up, this seemed like a lot of responsibility for someone who can’t work a DVD player. I was assured someone would check my work later.


2015 was the third Mardi Gras parade Housewives on Fire had worked on, and this was to be their biggest; partnered with the Mardi Gras committee itself, their float would be part of the parade finale. The theme was ‘Let There be Light’, which suited the Housewives down to the ground.

Those seated at the dining room table were united in a circuit of silence common to people who have already worked for many hours on a fiddly, mundane task that would keep them awake all night. The only sensible thing to do under that kind of pressure is to focus intently on the task itself.

“How did you get started doing the parade?” I asked Max, opening and closing my fingers. The crimping tool had already made my hand ache.

“Believe it or not, it was in 2010. I was on Qantas flight QN32, from Singapore. That’s the flight that blew an engine over Indonesia and had to go back. I had been in Asia on business, off and on for about five months.

“I booked the flight the night before and I remember thinking, ‘I’m flying so much, it’s a numbers game; one of these days your number is going to come up.’

“The plane was flying on an upward angle, and we heard a couple of bangs. Then, the plane drops: two, three thousand feet. I was lifted off my chair, even with the seatbelt on. People were screaming. I looked out the window, and there was something sticking out the wing. This huge piece of metal. Smoke pouring out the engine.”

“It turned out that one of the blades from the engine tore through the wing and cut off the hydraulics for the brakes. Changi airport in Singapore has four-thousand, five-hundred meters of landing strip; it was the only place that could accommodate that kind of landing. We had to stay up in the air for an hour-and-a-half to dump excess fuel before we could attempt to land. It was terrifying.”

Max bit down on a yellow wire, twisting the insulation between his teeth. He placed the snapped plastic on the table before continuing.


“Finally, we hit the runway and the plane just didn’t stop. Then, when it came to a halt, they wouldn’t let us out of the plane for an hour. Then they turned off the interior power. We were left sitting in the dark. No lights, no air-con and everything reeking of fuel.

“Eventually, they got us off the plane and onto buses. The nose of the plane was about fifty meters from the bush. It literally took the whole length of runway to stop the plane. Worse, I was still in Singapore.

“It occurred to me that in all the time I’d been in Singapore, I’d never had a Singapore Sling. So I caught a cab to that famous hotel, Raffles, and got pissed on Singapore Slings all night.

“I hated what I was doing for work and I realized that everything could be over, any minute. When I came home, I sat down with Fahren and we decided I should go back into my old trade, which was fashion.”

“Fashion, in Australia in 2010, was not what it used to be,” said Max. “To start up in Australia at that time [in terms of costs] was pushing shit uphill. I decided to do something different; corsets and fetish wear.

“We met Trishy and began dressing her for all her parties and events,” said Max. “We put together her outfit for the red carpet premiere of her documentary.”

Trishy’s documentary, Witness My Journey, charting her metamorphosis from Jehovah’s Witness into party queen of Sydney, was an internet sensation. In 2010, she had just begun promoting her party, ‘Hot Kandi.’ Hot Kandi was a dance party marketed to both gay and straight people.

“After that, she said, ‘Let’s do a Mardi Gras.’ I’d never even looked at one, let alone produced costumes for it.”

I myself knew Trishy from Hot Kandi. She called me the night before the 2014 Mardi Gras after one of her marchers had withdrawn with food poisoning with twelve hours to go. She needed a big man to fill a big costume and at that late notice, it didn’t matter that I was straight.


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