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On New Year's Eve, 1969, a flamboyant ragtag troupe of genderbending hippies took the stage of San Francisco's Palace Theater and The Cockettes were born. For the next 2 1/2 years, these outrageous drag performers created 20 shows with titles like "A Crab on Uranus Means You're Loved" and "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma," and were featured in four underground films. But when the Cockettes flew to New York City to appear Off Broadway - well, you'll just have to see what happened when New Yorkers took a look at them. Documentarians Weissman and Weber have crafted a record of a wondrous time and a wild group in The Cockettes. Written by
Perhaps I was expecting more from the documentary. Don't get me wrong, it captures the era and the craziness of the time, but sometimes it goes flat. A little more gay wit should have helped here. The directors have captured the idea behind the Cockettes in their heyday in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, behind the happy facade of the parties, the theatre performances, we never get to really know most of the people who created the scene.
The main character, and the "mother" of the Cockettes, Hibiscus, is an enigma. He's obviously so high on LSD and other drugs of the period to make any sense at all. Hisbiscus did have a vision, but carrying it to the stage was another story. Most of the skits kind of fall flat. I guess that in order to have appreciated the group at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco in its prime would have required tons of acid to view what went onstage as probably Hibiscus conceived it.
The people that survived the Cockettes talk to the camara and tells us what it was like. It's great seeing the survivors as they look now and they looked then. Director John Waters is very effective in telling us his part of the story. The fabulous Devine, who only appears briefly in the film is a welcome distraction since she was the queen of all queens!
The Cockettes were way ahead of their time. When you see today's drag queens, they pale in comparison to that group which were probably the idea for most of the ones around today.
Go see it and enjoy a bygone time that will never be able to capture again.
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