Publishers Weekly Review

posted in: Midnight at the Palace | 0

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.

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