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Children of Paradise: Life with The Cockettes

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When the World Was Small and Man Knew His Place in It: This Artweek.LA (May 30 – June 5)
by Bill Bush
5/31/2011

Children of Paradise: Life with The CockettesSan Francisco 1969-1972 | Photographer Fayette Hauser’s intimate portrait of the pioneering, gender-bending, 1970s San Francisco theatrical troupe. This collection of photographs documents both the candid behind the scenes life as well as rare performance shots from their short but groundbreaking run.

As the psychedelic San Francisco of the 1960s began evolving into the gay San Francisco of the 1970s, The Cockettes, a flamboyant ensemble of hippies — gay and straight — decked themselves out in gender-bending drag and tons of glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach.

“It was complete sexual anarchy,” says filmmaker John Waters. “You couldn’t tell the men from the women. It was really new at the time, and it still would be new.”

The Cockettes were heralded as cutting edge and they attracted admiration from John Lennon, Truman Capote and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Rex Reed wrote a glowing review about one of their shows, Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, calling it “a landmark in the history of new, liberated theater…” The group broke many social, cultural and sexual boundaries foraging a hot path straight through the era. Today their influence is still felt in fashion, theater and film and inspired the glitter rock era of David Bowie, Elton John, and The New York Dolls, as well as the campy extravaganzas of Bette Midler to Lady Gaga.

Children of Paradise: Life with The Cockettes – San Francisco 1969-1972 opens June 4 at DRKRM Gallery

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