Arts News

Utah bids farewell to Saliva Sister, Kristen Merrill

In true Saliva Sisters fashion, the wake for Kristen Merrill will be held at a bar. Merrill, also known as Byla Saliva to her many adoring fans, passed away peacefully in her home on Monday, Nov. 21. She recovered from a stroke in April, but a second in September was too much. She was 60 when she died of liver disease.

For more than 30 years, Merrill was one of three women who parody Utah life as part of the most well-known local groups. The Saliva Sisters have been a staple at art festivals and Utah Pride celebrations for more than two decades. Opening for the likes of Roseanne Barr and Joan Rivers, the group has brought humor and wit to all their performances.

The Saliva Sisters use their parody powers to gain audiences with a huge array of groups including the National Association of Women, Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, the National Conference of Republican Governors, the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, the United States Army Officers and the Utah Gay Rodeo Association.

Merrill’s memory will live on through the newest addition to the group, Karen Nielsen-Anson as Droolia Saliva. She will be joining Rebecca Heal (Uvula Saliva), and Michelle Lunley (Levator Saliva). The trio has a performance scheduled in Elko, Nev., and there are plans for other upcoming shows.

“We’re going to keep singing Kristen’s songs until they tell us to stop,” Heal told The Salt Lake Tribune.

In lieu of flowers, guests at Merrill’s memorial are requested to make a joke.

As Merrill’s obituary stated: “She was the funniest person in the room. She was the perfect eccentric aunt to her friends’ children. There were chickens in her yard. She should have written a book. She shouldn’t have died so young.”

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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