As psychedelic and homoerotic trends and patterns kept surfacing in late 1960s San Francisco, a swashbuckling troupe of extravagant gender benders was founded within the Palace Theater in North Beach. Starting off as a light-hearted group of ragtag friends, The Cockettes began performing unique midnight musicals for an ecstatic audience and soon became famous for their exuberant, unparalleled exhibitions.
The group came about due to Hibiscus – a member of the ensemble of like-minded hippies, Kaliflower – and his love for free art. Focusing on the outlandish lives of Larry Brinkin, Dusty Dawn, Anton Dunnigan and John Flowers, the movie compiles a raw, comprehensive chronicle of drag performers and their fierce, uncensored spirits. Hibiscus created one lush, brazen production after another and the theater group’s eclectic midnight program quickly caught onto the public. Although several of the troupe’s members fell prey to heroin, the film manages to convey an uncut account of the charisma, spontaneity and nonchalance of the 1970s pop culture phenomenon. The film also has archive footage of renowned artists such as Peggy Cass, Allen Ginsberg, Divine, Pristine Condition, Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis, touching upon sexual politics, libertinism and the dissolute glam of drag queen culture.
“A fascinatingly detailed snapshot of the flamboyant outer reaches of countercultural San Francisco in the hippie years and an emotional celebration of diversity, liberation, sexual anarchy and fabulousness, The Cockettes joyously re-creates the brief but resplendent reign of the legendary freakadelic drag troupe.”
— David Rooney, Variety
“Drawing on a remarkable archive of photos and film footage amassed by the late group member Martin Worman, The Cockettes is a sweet-natured reconsideration of one of San Francisco’s most vital, if least widely recognized, creative fountainheads.”
— James Sullivan, SFGATE
Did You Know?
The Cockettes includes interview scenes with some of the surviving Cockettes. The film’s director, David Weissman stated that finding the former drag queens was one of the “easiest parts of the research”. Both Weissman and Weber were inspired to create the documentary after watching the trademark Cockette comedy Tricia’s Wedding. Review our Gay Themed Films Here
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Roger Arvid Anderson