The Cockettes were a drag performance group that briefly coalesced in 1969 around the charismatic figure Hibiscus (ne George Edgarly Harris II), who had moved to California with the beat generation writer Irving Rosenthal in 1969 to live in the Kaliflower commune. The protagonist of the iconic photograph at the pentagram protest (in which he places a flower in the muzzle of a soldier’s rifle), under the influence of groups like the living theatre and film-makers like Jack Smith Hibiscus began pioneering a type of hippy drag performance utilizing elaborate costumes, glitter, and a mix of decadent orientalist phantasy and show tunes.
Trailblazers of drag, performance art, kitsch, midnight movie culture, and their own particular brand of queer hippy psychedelia, the Cockettes performed until 1971 when a schism caused Hibiscus to leave to form another group called The Angels of Light. While without Hibiscus the Cockettes remained tremendously popular in San Francisco, their free-form genius didn't translate well outside that mecca of hippy culture, and on a highly publicized trip to New York their show bombed in front of tastemakers like Warhol, John Lennon, and Truman Capote. While never quite recovered, they've remained cult figured, influencing generations of performers and enthusiasts from the 1970s to the present.
Collected here is a wide range of ephemera, photographs, fliers, publications, publicity, and artwork related to, by, and about The Cockettes and Hibiscus. This rare material, principally circulated among the San Francisco underground is a scarce and important record of one of the great performance collectives of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Official Cockettes Paper Doll Book
By The Cockettes with art by John Flowers and photography by Clay Geerdes
San Francisco: Last Gasp Eco-Funnies, 1971. 4to. Stapled in pictorial wraps. Condition is very good, with some minor rusting to staples. (2 Copies)
Features all your favorite Cockettes (minus those who had split with Hibiscus to form the high anarcho-drag group “Angels of Light), Dusty Dawn, Scrumbly, Sweet Pam, Pristine Condition, even the baby, Ocean Michael Moon! A rare book showcasing the fantastic costumes and people that made up the Cockettes.
By Gilles Karrain
New York: Links, 1973. First Edition. 4to. Softcover. Condition is very good.
Features photographs of the elaborate costumes and outfits of members of the Cockettes, Warhol superstars like Mario Montez and Taylor Mead, as well as lesser known figures such as Carol, who had been a former lover/protégée of Vali Myers, and shared her taste in Maori tattooing.
“We dress for our own pleasure and get off on each other. It’s our own small world; within it we understand and are understood – and we do what we want. When we put on our clothes, we feel free.”
Actuel no. 38, January 1974. (in French)
[Nova Press?], 1974. Staplebound 4to magazine. In very good condition with some edgewear.
Features an article on the “4th sex” and the performances and antics of the Cockettes. With photos of various cockettes, Divine, and a photo of Ginsberg in drag in a Cockette’s film. Magazine also features comics like “Adventures of the fabulous furry Freak Brothers” by Gilbert Sheldon.
Ramparts Dec. 1973
Features a long article by James Nolan on the “i-don’t-care-what-you-call-me, polmorphous perverse, anything-that-feels-good-goes pansexuality” that came of age in the 1960s. With articles on the Cockettes and Angels of Light, featuring a window into communal life and the stories of some the members. With the following epitaph from Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck:
If they ask me about my identity
What can I say but
I am the androgyne
I am the living mind you fail to describe
In your dead language.
Good Times Vol. 4. No. 32/Nov 12-24
San Francisco: Good times, 1971. Folio newspaper. Condition is good, with some edgewear and chipping.
Features an interview and photographs of Hibiscus in which he reflects on gay liberation, dancing, theater, and performing for free. Also includes articles such as critical take-down of Ed Sanders “The Family,” and notices like the following: “there is an fellow with shoulder length hair who sometimes wears a cape and carries a cane who prowls the local dope dealing scene. Beware. This is no ordinary dope smoking freak. No indeed. He has used several names but his real one is Patrick Wolfe, the most successful undercover narcotics agent in the history of the San Francisco Police department.”
Native Funk and Flash: An Emerging Art
By Alexandra Jacopetti
San Francisco: Scrimshaw Press, 1974. First Edition.
Featuring the clothing designs, costuming, and embroidery of Cockettes like Scrumbley, Pristine Condition, Billy Bowers, Lizzie, and Snappy. Mindboggling photographs of 1960s and 70s folk art by unknown luminaries like “Rat Soup” who made intricate ceramic and lost wax cast works. Colorful cloaks, pouches, embroidered jean jackets, and medallions abound.
Folder Containing copies of publicity Material for The Angels of Light + Hibiscus and Angel Jack.
Folder with pasted color reproduction of Angel Jack and Hibiscus to front. Contains 26 sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. Photocopies. Condition: very good.
Photocopies of articles on the Cockettes, Angels of Light, and Hibiscus and Angel Jack in English, German, Italian, and French.
Hibiscus and Angel Jack Present: Femme Fatale
Montgomery Playhouse, 1976. Folded 5.5 x 8.5 program for production of “Femme Fatal.” In very good condition.
Hibiscus and Angel Jack Present: Femme Fatale
Montgomery Playhouse, 1976. 8.5 x 11 Flier for “Femme Fatal.” In very good condition.
Femme Fatale with Hibiscus and Angel Jack.
Montgomery Playhouse, 1976. Flier for “Femme Fatal.” 8.5 x 11 in. In very good condition.
Four Publicity photos of Hibiscus and Angel Jack
[circa 1976 European tour] Sizes Vary by ¼ inch: 8 3/8 x 10 5/8 in.
Photos of Hibiscus and Angel Jack in various situations: making phone calls, on the altar of a church, on the beach with a body builder, and in full regalia with feathered boas. Probably on the occasion of their European tour and shows in 1976
Femme Fatale Poster
Offset Lithograph on paper. 22 x 17 in. 1976. Evidence of having been folded into fourths, otherwise in good condition.
Large offset poster in white on red paper for the Femme Fatale show with Hibiscus and Angel Jack.
Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma Flier
Printed Flier. 8.5 x 11 in. In good condition with evidence of past folding.
Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, performed for one night only at Freeborn Hall, May 29.
The Fabulous Cockettes Host a benefit Soiree
c. 1972, Printed Flier 216 x 140 mm.
Nocturnal Dream Show Presents The Cockettes Pearl over Shanghai.
c. 1971, flier. 8 3/8 x 11 in.
Pearl over shanghai was written by Cockettes Link Martin and Scrumbly. It features two unsuspecting young Americans who travel to Shanghai and are sold as slaves to an evil brothel matron named Ilse. The show was the first (and some say best) production of musical theater by the Cockettes. It was rumored to have been devised after a case full of costumes from a visiting Chinese opera troupe went mysteriously missing from the palace theatre. “Lavishly revised,” the 1971 production, like its predecessors was part of the Nocturnal Dream house Show series, and was performed at midnight at the Palace Theatre.
Signed Photograph of Goldie Love Maegrel
6 1/8 x 9 ¼ in. Photograph. In good condition. Unknown edition.
Poster for Cockettes show, New Years Eve, 1970.
Printed poster. 10 ¼ x 18 in. Has been folded previously, nevertheless in good condition. Some edgewear to the corners.
Poster for The Cockettes’ “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a show done on New Years Eve at the Bimbo’s 365 Supper Club. With letter on the verso from the member of the Cockettes John Rothermel(?) who also affixed some pen notes to the cover of the poster, pointing out photographs of Hibiscus, Daniel, and himself who he calls “barely recognizable.” This show featured a round the world cruise to Brazil and Paris as well as a roller-skating Christmas number.
A Benefit for the Living Theatre
Featuring Allen Ginsberg, Ferlingetti, McClure, di Prima, and the Cockettes
San Francisco: Avian Design, 1971. Poster. 14 x 8.5 in. Dated in pen and mark “KPFA 1030.” Condition: very good.
Poster for a performance on August 19, 1971, in order to benefit the living theatre, several of whose members had been seized in Brazil by the dictatorial Medici regime. Performances featured many key San Francisco beat poets, as well as the Cockettes magic theater. The seizure of members of the Living Theater was reflected on in one of their most famous pieces Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism, which was documented in San Francisco periodical Fag Rag no. 6.