Synopses & Reviews
David Weissman and Bill Weber’s 2002 documentary, The Cockettes, wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival and shined a bright new light on the Cockettes. Now one of the founding members of the legendary troupe takes us inside this flamboyant ensemble of countercultural radicals, who decked themselves out in drag and glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Arriving in San Francisco in 1969 from suburban Detroit, Pam Tent met Hibiscus, a New York actor who had dropped out. One night, in burst of LSD-fueled spontaneity, Sweet Pam took to the stage in a cellophane hula skirt, when Hibiscus and a group of friends commandeered the stage of the Palace during The Nocturnal Dream Shows, a weekly midnight eclectic film series, to perform a chorus line dance to “Honky Tonk Woman.” The Cockettes were born! Pam Tent’s account recalls the heyday of the rebellious, gender-bending troupe, the inevitable infighting that accompanied fame, and finally how a Rex Reed column raving about the Cockettes led to a disastrous New York opening where the audience—which included John Lennon, Gore Vidal, Angela Lansbury and Anthony Perkins—walked out in droves. The Cockettes gave their last performance in the autumn of 1972. But despite their short life, the Cockettes’ unique burst of cultural experimentation and artistic outrageousness continues to influence the worlds of theater, music, fashion, gay politics, gay spirituality, and urban club life.
After leaving the Cockettes, Pam Tent moved to New York City for a brief stint as a blues singer. Then it was back to the West Coast for a new career in film distribution and finally her current livelihood as an accountant. She still lives in the Bay Area, sharing her house with a small menagerie of animals.
"In 2002, David Weissman's and Bill Weber's documentary The Cockettes brought the eponymous 1970s San Francisco glitter-rock drag theatrical troupe back into the spotlight. In this colorful account, Tent, one of the ensemble's few 'real women,' relives the glory days. Fleeing Detroit for San Francisco in 1969, Tent found some kindred souls, most of them drug-addled drag queens and all of them young and ambitious. The Cockettes were born soon after and performed in midnight musical extravaganzas at the Palace, a seedy Chinatown movie theater. Tent locates the Cockettes' origins in show biz and the avant-garde; one pioneering Cockette, Hibiscus (n George Harris Jr.), came from a family with deep roots in New York theater; another, Link Martin, had been a protg of poet Helen Adam and the lover of Samuel R. Delany. In the background lurk the East Coast shadows of Andy Warhol's Factory and Charles Ludlam's Theater of the Ridiculous. In their prime, the Cockettes brought a masculinist energy to drag theater (they speckled their beards with glitter) and produced two dozen vaudeville pageants and several films, but drugs, internal rivalry and a New York performance debacle ended the Cockettes' reign in the fall of 1972. With earthy humor, Tent deftly juggles a huge cast of characters while providing a nostalgic trip through San Francisco's gender-bending heyday." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
One of the founding members of the Cockettes recalls the heyday of the rebellious, gender-bending troupe and the inevitable infighting that accompanied fame. Despite their short life, the Cockettes' unique burst of cultural experimentation and artistic outrageousness continues to influence the worlds of theater, music, fashion, gay politics, gay spirituality, and urban club life.
The inside story of the rise and fall of the fabulous Cockettes by one of the founding members.
About the Author
After leaving the Cockettes, Pam Tent continued performing before entering a career in film distribution. She still lives in the Bay Area, sharing her house with a small menagerie of animals.