Midnight At The Palace
The Cockettes and the Angels of Light
San Francisco is the magic place where millions of creative people spill dreams from their heads. It’s the thinking person’s Mecca of self-creation as opposed to the more facade-centered Hollywood. San Francisco demands that you have depth, substance, and intelligence.
When I first got to the city I was taken to a very special place.
It was a beautiful old Victorian house in the Lower Haight. My friend Patti Ramelli took me there. The night had just cuddled up around the city and it was clear that Patti had great reverance for what went on in this place and for the people who lived within it’s walls.
“The Angels of Light live here,” she said.
The lights were low. There was nobody home. It was as if we had entered an alterna-space church between masses. We breathed in the quiet atmosphere of the big front room and I tried to imagine what the magical inhabitants did there.
A few years ago I was able to get a really good glimpse of who these brave souls were thanks to Pam Tent’s book “Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette.”
Patti knew the Angels of Light the group that had sort of split off from the Cockette collective.
On the first page of her memoir Pam Tent, know as Sweet Pam, describes the Cockettes as “a flamboyant group of radical hippies .”
Here, in opening paragraphs, Pam sets the stage:
“Rex Reed and Truman Capote missed Beverly Sills at her oepning night post-opera ball. By the time they and their dates — Mrs. Johnny Carson and Mrs. Sam Spiegel — had squeezed their tuxedo jackets and opera gowns into the crowded lobby of the Palace Theatre, it was writhing-room only. Revelers in the undulating throng angled to get close enough to touch the famous foursome anid the hoots and whistles of party animals who could no longer control their drug-induced joie de vivre.
Inside the theatre, word of their arrival spread faster than a brushfire. Theater critic Reed and entourage were embraced like visiting royalty, then surrounded and pushed into the auditorium by gushing admirers. Voices from the packed house called out “Yoo Hoo!” and some shouted, “Truman Baby we love you!” A cascade of joints rained down from the balcony.
People sat everywhere, packing the aisles and virtually climbing the walls. The air was electric. Rex Reed would later write: “It was a Friday night at midnight, and in the street, bewildered police tried to control 2,000 screaming, romping, bumping, grinding, flaunting, swishing, and staggering fans in front of a Chinese temple that looked like Kubla Khan’s opium den.”
The Cockettes, a flamboyant group of radical hippies, were all cranked up and ready to go. In a dazzlingly varied display of sexuality, they took to the stage in shimmering concoctions of feathers and sequins and blasted convention with glittered beards and thrift store drag. They loved the freedom of flying without a net and regularly performed “live” on drugs (ed. note: pot and LSD) as did their fans.”
Robert Altman’s breath-taking black and white photographs of Cockettes. Check them out”:
“Breakfast at the Bush Street house.”
Sweet Pam’s Website.
Get the Cockettes DVD. Treat yourself.
I’m making a T-shirt today from the book cover image. Don’t be jealous.
I loved it when Miss Understood uttered these words on Project Runway a few weeks back:
“I’m Miss Understood and I eat glitter for breakfast!”
I think she’s supposed to frighten the designers, right? She’s the amazon hitwoman who brings down the hammer each time she utters the dreaded words “You’re Out!”
Ewwww! I’m getting the creeps just thinking about it.
The New York fashion world looks mean-spirited and elitist to the maxx.
I just can’t think about it! It’s definitely the binary opposition of the goodwill, democratic inclusion and openess of the West Coast S.F. Sparkle Troupes.
What modern day magical wonder do I love? It’s Steven LeMay!!
What a beauty! And it’s not just on the outside. I fell madly in love with LeMay’s aura, sweet personality and zest the minute I laid eyes on this boy.
LeMay is possessed by the magnanimous spirit of good taste. You all know it’s true!
Check out Chez LeMay and if you live in town go to LeMay’s shop Retro Fit at 910 Valencia St. in S.F. and buy me something! Hint, hint, Miss J.
This entry was posted on September 2, 2008 at 11:33 am and is filed under Art, dreams, esoterica, socialization with tags Bust Street, Cockettes, LeMay, Retro Fit, Rex Reed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.