Madam Lash reviews

reviewed by Jay Daniel Thompson, Australian Book Review, Sept 2010

Madam Lash is a biography of Australia’s most famous dominatrix. Author Sam Everingham provides an engaging insight into the life of the woman who helped bring sadomasochism to mainstream attention in this country.

… The text is well-researched and much less sensationalistic than its title might suggest. Everingham captures the shifting attitudes towards sex and sexuality in Australia since the 1950s. He never judges or condemns his subject. Pinniger is portrayed as philosophical and unpredictable, a woman who has, by her own admission, ‘expanded’ the minds of those around her through her commitment to True Art. As one friend reports, ‘Gretel just adores fantasy’ and has been ‘courageous enough to live out her fantasies’.

… Pinniger’s candid and often amusing recollections about her eventful life make Madam Lash a pleasure to read.

reviewed by Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald 3/07/2010

…You find out everything you wanted to know (and a lot you didn’t care to know) about her sex life, her

childhood and her escapades … because Pinniger was an integral part of the low-bohemian life of Darlinghurst, Paddington and Kings Cross, this is, almost accidentally, an entertaining account of Sin City at a time when Lenny McPherson and Abe Saffron ruled the Cross, Les Girls was flourishing, pornography was sold under the counter, Harry M. Miller was staging Hair and there was a general feeling of liberation and sexual freedom.’

 

Different strokes, different blokes

reviewed by Daphne Guinness Sun Herald 18/07/2010

PALM BEACH’S most eccentric resident pulled the plug on her biography (“It’s lies, all lies!”), so where does that leave author Sam Everingham? Smiling, I hope.

Scandal maketh book sales, not ruineth them. Still, his heart plummeted when she didn’t arrive at the book launch, sending her driver instead to break the news. Later she pulled out of all publicity appearances (which made further excellent publicity). Everingham says he was warned to be careful of a woman whose eccentricities would drive him mad. Author David Marr attempted a biography and, three months later, gave up “nonplussed”, while I wrote a six-page profile in Clyde Packer’s Forum, which I thought a lark. Was that an error!

Ploughing through the first 84 pages of outrageous schoolgirl reminiscences, which Pinniger read with “total nausea”, I realized I hadn’t scratched the surface. She should’ve read on. It gets better, or worse, depending on one’s curiosity about what is loosely described as “alternative sex”. Told in three acts, the author opens with a stunning scene one.

Lunching with the late Clyde Packer, conversation turns to what luxuries excite Pinniger most. An adorable three-quarter white mink coat in a store window, she tells him. “Would you like to come upstairs and earn it?” Clyde asks, showing her first a bathroom plastered with nun’s images, “to pick an outfit she liked”.

Thence to a bed where, amid a plethora of whips, chains, spankers, cats-o’ nine-tails and playing the TV game The Great Temptation, she earned dollars for each stroke received, learning “what it was like to be on the bottom of an S&M scene”. She won her mink coat, a return ticket to Los Angeles, spending money and, later, Packer set her up in a Darlinghurst terrace house.

That’s the first scene; 21 more to come. And I should warn readers they need the stamina of an ox to digest the catalogue of adventures, disasters, misunderstandings and flog-ups that befall what the blurb describes as “Gretel Pinniger, dominatrix, fetishist, artist and courtesan to the rich and famous who wanted to be a nun and instead throws her leather- clad body into a world of sex, drugs and riotous parties”. I couldn’t have put it better myself, except that it whitewashes the narrative.

Review Marie Claire (Magazine) July 2010

Madam Lash, aka Gretel Pinniger. is the Svdney bondage and discipline queen famous for her use of whips and chains. Her surprisingly dry biography kicks off by showing her as an introverted school girl, before slowly revealing her tendencies towards shocking sexually based performance art in the ‘70s and 80s. Ultimately, it reveals a lonely soul searching for meaning through art, and for her father’s love.

Madam Lash makes for fantastic reading

Jennifer Bennett Wentworth Courier, 7/09/2010

Madam Lash is a character so much larger than life that sometimes people don’t realise she is (or was) real. Certainly the story of her – or rather, Gretel Pinniger’s – life, makes for fantastic reading.

“A lot of people have heard about Madam Lash and they didn’t even realise it was a real person,” said Sam Everingham, the biographer of Australia’s most famous dominatrix. “And I realised it was a great story, all the amazing things this woman had done.”

Ms Pinniger was born Ann Gretel Pinniger in 1945. She was a “quiet, introspective” schoolgirl, and went to Methodist Ladies College. By the time she was 27, she was the mistress of Clyde Packer, Kerry’s wild brother (and the founder of the Wentworth Courier), who set her up in a terrace in Darlinghurst. She threw outrageous parties at the Kirk, a deconsecrated church in Surry Hills, spent time with Sydney’s underworld in Kings Cross, outraged Fred Nile, ran for parliament, and entered the Archibald Prize.

So how real was the Madam Lash (the name was taken from a racy comic strip in the back of the Kings Cross Whisper) persona?

“I think she’s not a dominatrix at all,” said Mr Everingham. “She didn’t ever enjoy whipping fellows, for her that was a just a performance piece, it was just a person she put on. She’s a really introvert and that was always extraordinary for me to understand.”

“She was thrown into the Madam Lash persona, she had a great creative style to her and she was great at making amazing garments and paintings, and that creatively allowed her to create a persona that men loved. She wanted to be loved, she always craved the attention of men.”

He said it was hard to pick a favourite story that had come up in the writing of the book, for which he spoke to dozens of friends, family members, old lovers and business partners.

“There’s so many of them… she was a very adventurous girl. She had a boyfriend once who liked to tie her up and she loved that. He had a place in the Blue Mountains and he took her up there one weekend and he had this dungeon, he put her in it.. and then he left. She was left in this dark room for two days with nothing but a few carrots to eat. She was in hysterics by the tame he came back.”

There has been much speculation over the years as to the identity of Ms Pinniger’s patron. He was a billionaire, lived in Europe, flew her around the world, and left her a regular allowance when he died. Mr Everingham declined to spill the beans to the Courier.

“I suppose I was surprised (when I found out who she was), this was a billionaire who’d fallen for her in a way, a happily married establishment fellow who was otherwise highly thought of the country he lived in,” he said. “A lot of people who are conservative establishment figures in their public lives can have a private life that’s quite different.”

These days Ms Pinniger spends up to 12 hours a day working on her “4D” paintings – dark swirls of pigment mixed together on the canvas, often over earlier portraits, much to the concern of her friends.

“It’s been a very controversial part of her life, a lot of her friends have thrown up their hands in despair,” he said. “She does these holographic images, she’ll spend ten or 12 hours a day on them and she swears she can see images under the paint but no one else can see those images.”

The switch from portraiture to 4D came on the weekend of her 51st birthday in 1996, after she reportedly took four drops of LSD in liquid form.

“She just seems to feel that life’s one big risk I suppose,” said Mr Everingham. “She’s a very trusting person. People have ripped her, so that’s been hard for her, she’s not very good at knowing which people are true friends, and which people are there to rip her off or lock her in a dungeon.”

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