In 2002, David Weissman’s and Bill Weber’s documentary The Cockettes brought the eponymous 1970s San Francisco 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 1968, Tent found some kindred souls, most of them drug-addled drag queens and all of them young and ambitions. 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 (nee George Harris, Jr.), came from a family with deep roots in New York theater; another, Link Martin, had been a protege 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 sevderal 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.
During the tumultuous sixties, college dropout and LSD enthusiast Pam Tent (a.k.a. Sweet Pam) linked up with a group of flamboyant sexual renegades called the Cockettes. “In her well-researched account of the era, Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette, she brings to life the joyful madness and radical politics that accompanied their wild jaunt through the gender-bending heyday.”
The San Francisco Chronicle: “Tent provides a window into pre-Starbucks San Francisco and the rise not only of the hippie movement and the gay rights movement but also the Castro itself. She adds earthy humor to her recollections, at times resembling a counterculture version of Erma Bombeck.”
After the Cockettes disbanded, Sweet Pam (as Paula Pucker) linked up with Pristine Condition and Scrumbly Koldewyn to sing 4-part harmony (and tap dance). They continued to perform at the Palace Theatre in musical productions with John Waters’ film stars, Lady Divine and Mink Stole.
Shortly after, Pam moved to New York city for a stint as a blues singer at the Palm Casino Revue where she joined up with former Cockettes as well as Warhol luminaries. The show was reviewed by the Soho News: “In the debauched tradition of cabaret taken to its cheapest, most outlandish and altogether titillating repulsive extreme, this new revue is bound to scar sensitive viewers and torture weak-kneed observers.”
Pam also performed at CBGBs where the electrifying punk rock scene was just about to explode. Here she met up and joined Dee Dee Ramone for an unparalled walk on the wild side.
Recently Pam joined the Thrillpeddlers who are mounting new productions of Cockette musicals of yore where she sings and tap dances. She is currently writing a new musical with Scrumbly Koldewyn.