Movie Review: The Cockettes

By Purple
Movie Magazine International
Anyone who's ever dressed up in fishnets on a Saturday night to throw rice at the screen during Rocky Horror or spent a week on the playa at Burning Man is directly benefiting from the glittery doors opened by "The Cockettes".

"The Cockettes" is a labor of love documentary by David Weissman and Bill Weber about the legendary performance troupe from the early seventies. The Cockettes experience was a cross-dressing, LSD driven, Broadway show tune extravaganza that flourished in freak friendly San Francisco.

From its humble beginnings as one of the many hippie communes in SF, "The Cockettes" emerged into the American mainstream when Truman Capote and Rex Reed reviewed their production of "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma". The coverage catapulted "The Cockettes" gender-bending chaos into the New Yorker hipster scene, making them national media darlings.

More than drag queens singing show tunes, beyond hippies taking drugs, "The Cockettes" were prolific - in 2 1/2 years - they created 20 shows and were featured in four films including the cult classic "Tricia's Wedding" which mocked and was premiered on the same day that President Nixon's daughter Tricia was married.

"Gay, bi, straight whatever, it was anarchy" says John Waters who is interviewed in the film about his experience with "The Cockettes". Waters premiered his early films starring Divine as part of "The Cockettes" weekly show at the midnight movies shown in North Beach's Palace theatre.

The documentary is held together with silent movie like narration cards, as a library of old film and news footage recount "The Cockettes" glorious rise and fall. Recent Interviews with surviving Cockettes members and their audience help provide a framework on the impact of their movement started thirty years ago.

Watching the documentary affords you a great view into the early days of the SF counter culture scene. And it is encouraging to see San Francisco still supporting "The Cockettes" kind of exuberant behavior with the Midnight Mass movies hosted by Peaches Christ where sometimes transsexual rock bands like the Mutilated Corpses jam before a popcorn throwing showing of cult horror flicks...

So If you live an alternative lifestyle, or are just curious, "The Cockettes" documentary is a compelling look at a group that helped get it all going for the rest of us. For Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
More Information:
The Cockettes
USA - 2002