This summer in downtown Los Angeles there’s a photography show at the drkrm/gallery that explores the history of the acid-gobbling, show-stopping star-children of the infamous Cockettes drag troupe. From Frontiers:
For those who neglected to Netfix their eponymous 2002 documentary, here’s the skinny on the Cockettes—they debuted on New Year’s Eve 1969, as part of a midnight showcase in San Fran’s Palace Theatre. Combining Broadway parody, cross-dressing and LSD-fueled choreography, their performances soon gained high profile media attention in Rolling Stone and the Village Voice. In the Chicago Tribune, critic Rex Reed described the show as “a nocturnal happening comprising equal parts of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, Harold Prince’s Follies and movie musicals, the United Fruit Company, Kabuki and the Yale Variety Show, with a lot of angel dust thrown in to keep the audience good and stoned.” Kitsch aficionado John Waters recounted, “It was complete sexual anarchy. You couldn’t tell the men from the women. It was really new at the time, and it still would be new.” On the Tonight Show, novelist and professional dandy fop Truman Capote simply stated “The Cockettes are where it’s at.”
Cashing in on this unexpected fame, the Cockettes moved their show to New York. Unfortunately, the troupe’s free-spirited hippie aesthetic was perceived by elite Manhattanites as unprofessional and sloppy. John Lennon, Liza Minelli and Angela Lansbury were some of the many celebrities to walk out on the opening night performance. Gore Vidal hammered the final nail in their patchouli-scented coffin when he infamously proclaimed, “Having no talent isn’t enough.” The group returned to the West Coast and disbanded in 1972.
The photographs in Children were shot before the East Coast snafu. Consisting solely of black and white portraiture by longtime Cockettes member Fayette Hauser, the exhibit depicts her various castmates flower-powering around ‘Frisco—bearded men in boas and evening gowns performing on ramshackle stages; women with theatrical beat smeared across their face lounging in antiquated Haight-Ashbury houses; fierce tranny geishas frolicking through Golden Gate Park. Each picture is a crystalized moment from an artistically and culturally groundbreaking epoch.
Children of Paradise: Life With The Cockettes. Photographs by Fayette Hauser, drkrm/gallery, 727 S. Spring St., Downtown L.A. June 4-July 2
Below, the trailer from the excellent 2002 documentary, The Cockettes,
Via World of Wonder