a brief history. . .(pg 1 of 2)


As the psychedelic San Francisco of the '60's began evolving into the gay San Francisco of the '70's, The Cockettes, a flamboyant ensemble of hippies (women, gay men, and babies) decked themselves out in gender-bending drag and tons of glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach. With titles like "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" and "Pearls over Shanghai", these all singing, all dancing extravaganzas featured elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality, and exuberant chaos.

  The Cockettes were founded by "Hibiscus", a member of a commune called KaliFlower that was dedicated to distributing free food and to creating free art and theater. They first performed as an informal group of friends in wild costumes doing a chorus line dance to "Honky Tonk Woman" at The Nocturnal Dream Shows, a weekly midnight eclectic film series at The Palace.

  The chorus line quickly evolved into bigger, wilder, and more lavish productions, and the Cockettes' shows fast became not-to-be-missed events for the hippest of San Francisco's free spirits. The audiences were often as wild as the shows, generating tremendous energy. New shows were created every few weeks - "Paste on Paste", "Gone with the Showboat to Oklahoma", and "Tropical Heatwave/Hot Voodoo", were some of the early titles. The early shows were mostly non-narrative revues, with everybody making their own costumes, and creative spontaneity reigning supreme. But with "Pearls Over Shanghai" the Cockettes produced their first show with all original script, music and lyrics. Combining grand spectacle with the endearing awkwardness of a high school operetta production, The Cockettes thrilled the audiences as much with their unpredictability as with their triumphs.

  In anticipation of the televised wedding of President Nixon's daughter Tricia, The Cockettes made a film called TRICIA'S WEDDING, featuring a transvestite Tricia, a drunken Mamie Eisenhower, a party crashing Lady Bird Johnson, and a drag Eartha Kitt spiking the punch with LSD, resulting in a mad orgy. The Cockettes also appeared in the films ELEVATOR GIRLS IN BONDAGE, and LUMINOUS PROCURESS.

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contact the filmmakers: cockettes@grandelusion.com