Thursday night’s opening celebration kicks off several months of Cockettes content, in honor of the library’s new exhibit “The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy.”
SF’s celebrated Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence did not originally wear white face paint when they were founded in the 1970s. That custom was inspired by another noteworthy cabal of drag bon vivants from the era, a late 1960s and early 1970s psychedelic performance troupe known as the Cockettes. Founded in a Haight-Ashbury flophouse, the Cockettes also popularized the “glitter beard” look, and at their peak, counted disco star Sylvester as a member, and made a movie with Divine (Journey to the Center of Uranus). We still see their legacy today, in the 2002 documentary The Cockettes (trailer below), their lyricist Scrumbly Koldewyn still does productions and Cockettes revivals with the Thrillpeddlers, and once-Cockette Bambi Lake was much eulogized upon her passing in November 2020.
The Cockettes will be honored with a six-month exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library’s James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center called The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy, whose opening celebration is tonight (March 17) from 6-7:30 p.m. That event kicks off several months of Cockettes content and Cockette-related live events.
“People should have listened to the way we lived,” author and original Cockette Fayette Hauser said in an interview with the Examiner. “We were happy. It didn’t require a lot of money. Creativity, new ideas. Look what we did! A whole vernacular of fashion and wearable art.”
Hauser, who literally wrote the book on the Cockettes, will speak and show memorabilia at Thursday night’s opening reception, along with co-curator Jim Van Buskirk. Hauser will also speak in a Thursday, March 31 author conversation, also at the Hormel Center.
The events keep coming, when the venue hosts Cockettes on Film April 28, with screenings of their films Palace, Tricia’s Wedding and Elevator Girls in Bondage. Hauser will join the Vau de Vire Society for a spoken word event there on Thursday, May 26. A musical performance called Cockette Cabaret with Scrumbly & Co. is also scheduled for Thursday, June 23.
Outside of the SF Public Library’s events, a screening of highlights the film The Cockettes Are Golden will play at the Tenderloin Museum next Thursday, March 24, in a 6 p.m. show with live performances by Scrumbly Koldwyn, Birdie Bob Watt, and Kitten on the Keys.
The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy remains on display through August 11 in the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street. Admission is free.
Image: SFPL.org via Mary Ellen Mark