of Paradise: Life with the The Cockettes
San Francisco 1969-1972
Photographs by Fayette Hauser
event is co-sponsored by the California LBGT Arts Alliance
A Screening of Rare Cockettes Films (One Night Only)
Saturday June 18, 7pm
Palace: Les Ghouls (1970)
Trisha’s Wedding (1971)
Elevator Girls in Bondage (1970)
Cockettes were symptomatic of an entire generation flipping out
from a lifetime of popular culture. A gut-wrenching angst combined,
in this case, with a budding gay sensibility. Conceived on the
back seat of a 1953 pink Cadillac parked at the intersection of
Hollywood Boulevard and Madison Avenue, weaned on the junky excrement
of television, they saw American culture in full circle. And,
recognizing themselves, they let out a cry of chaos and rage.”
Mark Thompson from Children of Paradise: A Brief
History of Queens
can describe The Cockettes only as a nocturnal happening comprising
equal parts of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, Harold Prince's FOLLIES
and movie musicals, the United Fruit Company, Kabuki, and the
Yale Variety Show, with a lot of angel dust thrown in to keep
the audience good and stoned."
Rex Reed-Chicago Tribune 1971
was complete sexual anarchy. You couldn't tell the men from the
women. It was really new at the time, and it still would be new."
John Waters-San Francisco Chronicle 2002
the psychedelic San Francisco of the 1960s began evolving into
the pansexual San Francisco of the 1970s, The Cockettes, a flamboyant
ensemble of hippies -- gay, straight, and undecided -- 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.
The Cockettes were born on stage, New
Year’s Eve, 1969. The collective passion was to take every
fantasy, desire, idol and dream and in the most joyously flamboyant
way possible, put it onto the stage.
Founded by Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) the troupe
performed outrageous parodies of show tunes (or original tunes
in the same vein) and gained an underground cult following that
eventually led to mainstream exposure. With titles like Gone
With the Showboat to Oklahoma, Hell's Harlots and Pearls
over Shanghai, these all singing, all dancing extravaganzas
featured elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality, and exuberant
The Cockettes were soon heralded as the cutting edge of Freak
Theatre appearing in Rolling Stone, Paris Match and even
Playboy magazines. They attracted admiration from Diana
Vreeland, John Lennon and Marlene Dietrich, among others.
Truman Capote and Rex Reed attended a San Francisco performance
of Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, and Reed wrote a glowing
review calling it "a landmark in the history of new,
For a time "The Cockettes [were] where it’s at,"
as Truman Capote put it on the Tonight Show. But all that ended
with their catastrophic 1971 New York début, when the Anderson
Theater’s large stage overwhelmed their cardboard sets and
their flower child anti-professionalism seemed merely unprofessional.
Gore Vidal delivered the kiss of death by remarking as he left
mid-performance, "A lack of talent is not enough,"
Apparently, what had seemed so fabulous in San Francisco did not
translate well in New York City.
Cockettes returned to San Francisco to put on some of their most
successful shows, Journey to the Center of Uranus, Les Etoiles
de Paris and Hot Greeks. They gave their last performance
in the autumn of 1972.
The group broke many social, cultural and sexual boundaries foraging
a hot path straight through the 70’s to present day where
their influence is felt in fashion, theatre and film and inspired
the glitter rock era of David Bowie, Elton John, and The New York
Dolls, and the campy extravaganzas of Bette Midler and The
Rocky Horror Picture Show to Lady Gaga.
Fayette Hauser performed with the group
and contributed to the look and structure of many of the shows,
and photographed them as well until its demise in the spring of
1972. Fayette went on to perform with Tomata Du Plenty and his
Whiz Kidz in Seattle and then, with Tomata, in New York at CBGB’S,
Café Cino, La Mama and the Bouwerie Lane Theatre.
Born in Troy, New York, Fayette grew up in the honky-tonk town
of Asbury Park, New Jersey. She received her first camera, a Brownie
Holiday Flash, at age nine and began photographing her favorite
place, the Fun House Arcade on the boardwalk, home of Asbury’s
best and brightest freaks.
As a teen-ager, Fayette made frequent trips into Manhattan to
check out the underground scene, meeting filmmakers Jack Smith
and Andy Warhol and was in the Warhol film The Life Story
of Juanita Castro, scripted by Ronald Tavel.
After graduating with a BFA from Boston University, College
of Fine Arts, Fayette moved to Greenwich Village for a year
before migrating to the West Coast. Moving to Los Angeles in 1975,
Fayette received an Assoc. Degree in Photography at LATTC
and has gone on to work as a Photographer, a Costume Designer
for Film and Theatre and a Stylist for performers such as Bette
Midler, and The Manhattan Transfer.