The Witness who went wild
When Trish Karr was 40 years old she had an epiphany: she’d been living a lie. Born and raised in the very suppressive Jehovah’s Witness religion, Karr had to subvert her curiosity and affable nature and prepare each day for doom.
“I’d believed my whole life that Armageddon was coming,” says Karr. “ As a kid growing up I’d run home from school thinking that Armageddon would come and I wouldn’t see my family…So I lived in fear.”
Karr was effectively walled off from the rest of the world. Every Saturday and Sunday was spent knocking on doors, proselytising. She never celebrated Christmas or birthdays, and could not socialise with anyone who was not a Jehovah’s Witness.
“We were told not to look on the internet…you can’t look up anything about the religion or look at apostate materials because that would poison your mind,” says Karr.
As such, at 40, she was, as she admits, very naive.
“I really didn’t know what a gay person looked like - not that they look like anything but I’m just saying, I never met a gay person in my life ’til after I was 40! How crazy is that?”
Karr’s inquisitive impulse eventually got the better of her. She managed to sneakily search the internet where she discovered that none of the prophecies her religion had foretold had come true. Not only that, but there was a whole world of wonders that had been kept from her.
“I just felt like I was being controlled so much and I got to the stage where I just thought: I’ve got to break free and see what else is out there.”
She quite the church and separated from her husband, whom she had been with since she was 16 and with whom she had four children.
From there it was a crusade into the unknown. She signed up to a dating sight, met new people and tried new things.
“It was just like a kid in a candy store, to be honest, not knowing what to have next or what to do next.”
It was a trip she took to Ibiza that really opened her eyes to possibilities.
“We stayed there 3 weeks, nearly came back in a box…we had fun, we partied, we had a great time for 3 weeks. And I saw how they partied over there and I thought: You know what? We need that kind of style over here.”
That was how the famous - or infamous - Hot Kandi parties began. Karr held the first one in July 2009 at Slide on Oxford Street and it was a phenomenal success. From then on they were held once every three months.
“I just knew I found my calling in life. I found my passion where I can bring people together for good times, and that’s when I discovered that, hey, I’m made for more than just staying at home and knocking on doors,” says Karr.
That calling has persisted. On May 21 this year, Karr opened a new cocktail bar in Woolloomooloo.
“Kandi Luxe is something that’s been on my mind for a long time, since I created the parties,” explains Karr. “I wanted to start a new chapter…I think I’ve just got to put my name to a venue where I can still do what I love and bring people together.”
It took a while to find the right place. Along the way Karr had a sour business venture with a man who ultimately swindled her out of $30k. She decided she was better off going it alone. When she found the bar in Woolloomooloo it was love at first sight.
“I just knew it was the right one, you know. It’s not huge, it’s boutique, on the smallish side, but I just know it’s the right one for me to start in.”
Karr’s side hustle is interior design and her exquisite taste is reflected in the French Provincial finishings, crimson velvet seating, gold-framed mirrors, and shimmering chandeliers inside Kandi Luxe.
The bar serves extraordinary bespoke cocktails and Karr has hired a 5-star chef previously from Hubert’s French restaurant to curate the menu.
Imbuing the new venue with elements from the Hot Kandi parties, Karr hires live burlesque performers (fire eaters, Brazilian dancers, aerialists, etc) and prestige DJs.
“I want to give people the ‘wow factor’. I want to give people an experience that no other place would give them, you know. Sure there’s other places but they don’t get the vibe like I get.”
Karr puts a lot of effort into making Kandi Luxe just so, and she’d like her guests to make a little effort too. No sloppy-joes or joggers please.
“I want classy, sexy. I want exotic…Because I’m a bit extra - just a bit - I like people to feel like that too; just to feel a bit special and come out for a nice night,” she says. “Just look and feel good about yourself and I’ll welcome you with open arms.”
120 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo