The Legendary Cockettes to Appear One Night Only in San Francisco

Born as George Edgerly Harris, III, he would later emerge as "Hibiscus" the founder of 'The Psychedelic Gay Liberation Theater, which then gave birth to "The Cockettes." image from poster by DLH Productions, based upon painting of Hibiscus by Jim Jeske.

For many, it is hard to fathom that the 1960’s are now half of a century ago. So much happened in that turbulent and yet transformative decade like few others before it. And, maybe some historians might argue none since that time. But one thing is for sure, entertainment, arts and culture was never the same after the emergence of a legendary troupe of performers known as “The Cockettes.”

Those remaining/surviving of the original cast members will be appearing in a show called, “COCKETTES ARE GOLDEN!”  – celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the forming of The Cockettes. This special show will be for one night only at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District on Saturday, January 4, 2020 at 8:00 pm. What is described as an “Opulent Extravaganza,” The Cockettes will be presenting a recreating of original numbers and stage performances that set them apart from all others of that era.

Some of the most well-known musical numbers from their legendary shows will be presented on Jan. 4. And, commentary will be provided by the surviving original Cockettes – while a presentation-performance will take place live on stage.

To say that The Cockettes just performed drag shows is an understatement. Their unique midnight review live shows were locally made with an unmatched energy. It was part of the counter-cultural happenings that was the 1960’s and early ‘70s.

Five years before, shows like Beach Blanket Babylon emerged, the live-shows at the Pagoda Palace Theater in North Beach (which was torn down in 2013) became an experience that attracted people like no other. The SF shows became so popular, that The Cockettes were summoned to perform in New York City.

As noted in the World – an online source of information, “the counterculture movement of the 1960’s and ‘70s had a significant, lasting influence on the music, fashion, literature, and art of the Western World.”

With cabaret and live shows at venues like the Hungry i, the Purple Onion, The Black Cat, and the Condor Club where Carol Doda did a live striptease act, San Francisco’s North Beach district became an epicenter of cultural tremors that sent shock waves of change throughout the country.

The Cockette’s Midnight Review was a precursor to the gender-bending phenomenon of  “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” As World explained. “The Counter-Cultural movement addressed some taboo topics such as homophobia, xenophobia, and racism. As a result, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community gained greater acceptance, and same-sex relationships were eventually legalized in most states of the United States (albeit several decades later).”

Clockwise from upper left:
Billy Orchid, Divine,
Scrumbly Koldewyn,
Pristine Condition,
Pam Tent, Mink Stole,
David Baker, Jr.
in Vice Palace, 1972,
Palace Theater in SF
Photo by Clay Gerdes

Even though the zany review lasted only for two years, The Cockettes where challenging the status quo every night the show was performed and having a wild time. While most of what The Cockettes had been is now a memory, two celebrities turned cultural icons emerged from their time spent with the troupe. Specifically singer Sylvester and the off-beat movie star of director John Water’s underground films, Divine.

Both Divine and Sylvester would later achieve a level of main-stream success unexpected by their association with The Cockettes.

Sylvester with The Cockettes in 1972, just before his mainstream success as a chart-topping singer. photo by Roger Anderson

From the 2002 award-winning documentary about The Cockettes by David Weissman and Bill Weber a whole new generation of fans became aware for the troupe and new fans were born. The Cockettes shows represented a reflection and a shift of change amid the social-political climate of the times. Just as the anti-war protests were galvanizing, before the Watergate scandal and a decade before the AIDS crisis, The Midnight Reviews by the Cockettes at the Pagoda Palace Theater expressed satire and irreverent humor that even if inadvertently, called into question the social mores, norms and values.

“COCKETTES ARE GOLDEN!” will be presented and celebrated on Sat., Jan. 4, 2020 – One Night Only! at 8:00 pm, at the Victoria Theatre, located at 2961 16th Street, San Francisco, (near the Mission Street BART station). Musical direction by original Cockette, Scrumbly Koldewyn and emceed by the Thrillpeddlers founder, Russell Blackwood. Directed and choreographed by Noah Haydon.  Tickets are $30 – $50. General admission Orchestra, Mezzanine and Balcony. Tickets are available online at the Brown Paper Tickets web site.

For more information call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006  or DJD Production at 415-350-3295 during business hours.

Courtesy of DLH Printing and Jim Jeske