THE PSYCHEDELIC LOVE-IN OF THE FABULOUS COCKETTES
San Francisco’s original underground glitter troupe
by KOD Staff
Under the mirrored ball of the dilapidated Palace Theatre of San Francisco, the fabulous Cockettes would dance through the night. Fuelled by the sexual revolution and high on the psychedelic haze of the 1970s; they were the all-singing, all-dancing theatre troupe, infamous for hosting gender-fuck parties and putting on debauched musicals. Dressed in an array of glittered finery and exquisite plumage; the group symbolised a rare bird of paradise, a unique movement in LGBT history.
The Rose Garden with B Orchid, Prissy, S. Pam & Scrumbly
The Cockettes were an original hippy commune that resided in Haight-Ashbury, who held plays with titles that sounded like obscure B-movie pornos; “Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma” and “pearls over Shanghai”. Echoing the acid-ethos of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, the group lifted a frilled skirt on the cross-dressing culture. Prior to the Cockettes, drag had been largely kept under wraps outside of the gay community. The group sparked sexual anarchy and quickly gained an underground cult status, leading to media hype and a trip across state to New York.
Sylvester, originally a member of The Cockettes went on to have a glittering solo career as the "Queen of Disco"
The opening night was a star-studded extravaganza; Truman Capote raved, “The Cockettes are where it’s at!” and Robert Rauschenberg threw the group a welcome party. The news spread so fast that even John Lennon and poet Gore Vidal made an appearance at the performance. But the haphazard, freewheeling show did not translate well with the ostentatious urbanites of New York’s arts circles and the curtain came down after a tumultuous three-week period.
Covered in glitter, dressed in thrift store costumes, The Cockettes created a paradoxical, funky glamour.
Going back to San Francisco, the group disbanded in the autumn of 1972. Although left out of the history books, the Cockettes made an indelible impression on populist culture. Their artistic legacy would leave a trail of glitter, instantaneously recognisable in the costume theatrics of David Bowie or cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture show. In the words of famed music journalist Lillian Roxton: “Every time you see too much glitter or a rhinestone out-of-place, you know it’s because of the Cockettes.”
The troupe outside their San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury home, 1971
Cockette Reggie called him "Jesus Christ with Lipstick", 'Hibiscus' was the leading founder of the group.
"Divine" and The Cockettes
The iconic Cockette look combined glittering beards, thrift-store gowns, shaven-eyebrows and drag make-up.
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