FROM THE CRITICS
The radical politics, sexual rebellion, and theatrical extravagance
of a spontaneously combusting, gender-bending San Francisco troupe,
remembered here by one of its founding members.
The Cockettes high-stepped themselves into history with a flamboyant
dance routine in drag and glitter on New Year's Eve 1970 at the
Palace Theater in North Beach, California. They were lavish and excessive,
part of an era that commingled the serious and the puckish.
The Cockettes had a thing or two to say about gender politics
and the sexual orientation of society, but they specialized in high camp;
their capricious autonomy and jubilant celebration of life were unfettered by,
well, almost anything. Tent taps the collective memories of those from the troupe
who remain alive and willing to talk, weaving it all together with impressive thoroughness.
Into a period of merely 30 months, she packs in an amazing number of people, drugs,
happenings, and relationships. Sharp and still very much her own person,
the author will draw on a little astrology to explain someone's behavior,
happily defend the players' antics, and just as happily berate the morons and deadbeats
who travestied the creative, subversive energy of the time.
She carefully describes the Cockettes' free-style theater, its parodies of
romance and success, the fun and absurdity of its political incorrectness.
She also sensitively explores the nuances of group dynamics and the company's break-up:
one faction wanted the routines to get more polished and artful; another,
led by the force-of-nature Hibiscus, "wanted nothing more than to live as a family,
staging shows simply to amuse each other."
Tent wound up in the Detroit General Hospital
psychiatricward, but lived to tell this strange tale.
She is now an accountant in the Bay Area.
Tent's vivid, total-recall memoir gives a touch
of permanency to a band that played hard, got dirty,
lived fast, and died at two-and-a-half.
(16 pp. photos)Agent: Eric Myers/Spieler Agency.
Publishers Weekly -
Oct. 25, 2004
In 2002, David Weissman's and Bill Weber's documentary The Cockettes
brought the eponymous 1970s San Francisco glitter-rock drag theatrical
troupe back into the spotlight. In this colorful account, Tent, one of the
ensemble's few "real women," relives the glory days.
Fleeing Detroit for San Francisco in 1969, Tent found some kindred
souls, most of them drug-addled drag queens and all of them young
and ambitious. The Cockettes were born soon after and performed in midnight musical
extravaganzas at the Palace, a seedy Chinatown movie theater.
Tent locates the Cockettes' origins in show biz and the avant-garde; one
pioneer- ing Cockette, Hibiscus (né George Harris Jr.), came from a
family with deep roots in New York theater; another, Link Martin,
had been a protégé of poet Helen Adam and the lover of Samuel R. Delany.
In the background lurk the East Coast shadows of Andy Warhol's Factory
and Charles Ludlam's Theater of the Ridiculous. In their prime, the Cockettes
brought a masculinist energy to drag theater (they speckled their beards with glitter)
and produced two dozen vaudeville pageants and several films, but drugs,
internal rivalry and a New York performance debacle ended the Cockettes'
reign in the fall of 1972. With earthy humor, Tent deftly juggles a huge cast
of characters while providing a nostalgic trip through San Francisco's gender- bending heyday. (Dec.)
PRESS RELEASE: MIDNIGHT AT THE PALACE: MY LIFE AS A FABULOUS COCKETTE BY PAM TENT 11/03/2004 (10:39 PM)
GET OUT THE GLITTER AND RHINESTONES-THE COCKETTES ARE BACK! "A big, beautiful show-biz acid flashback!"-John Waters
"Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll delivered with glitter and heart."-Maureen Orth
"A nostalgic trip through San Francisco's gender-bending heyday."-Publishers Weekly
"Tent's vivid, total-recall memoir gives a touch of permanency to a band that played hard, got dirty, lived fast, and died at two-and-a-half."-Kirkus Reviews
MIDNIGHT AT THE PALACE: MY LIFE AS A FABULOUS COCKETTE BY PAM TENT
Los Angeles, CA--Founding member Pam Tent (Sweet Pam) brings the flamboyant ensemble of countercultural radicals who decked out in drag and glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at San Francisco's Palace Theater back to screaming, swishing, bumping, grinding, fighting, screwing, fabulous life in her new memoir, "Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette." (Alyson Books, December 2004)
They gave their last performance in fall 1972, but their influence on everything from club culture, to glam rock, to fashion is still felt and acknowledged today. David Weissman and Bill Weber's 2002 documentary, "The Cockettes," wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival and shined a bright new light on the Cockettes. An August 2003 New York Times Magazine article quotes John Galliano for Dior as saying the Cockettes were his primary influence for his winter line. In January 2004 Elle magazine reported that Marc Jacobs made his entire design staff watch Weber and Weismann's film before beginning his Spring/Summer 2004 line.
Based on her own writings from the time, as well as taped interviews with the Cockettes conducted by member Martin Worman, Pam Tent's "Midnight at the Palace" is an anecdote-rich, blow-by-blow narrative of the Cockettes complete with love affairs, cat fights, communal living, recreations of the most outrageous shows, including the original songs and dialogue, and 16 pages of dazzling photographs.
With eye-witness immediacy "Midnight at the Palace" lets you:
**Witness the backstage scuffle and slap fest after Cockettes founder Hibiscus upstaged diva (and soon to be disco queen) Sylvester.
**Be there as Divine hurls raw meat and sausages into the shocked crowd.
**Watch aghast with a roomful of San Francisco's elite as socialite Tullah Hanley and Hibiscus strip dance atop a table in the de Young museum.
**Dance on the seats and rush the stage on Halloween with hundreds of audience members for a 4:30 A.M. kick line to "The Monster Mash."
**Attend Pam's 1971 shotgun wedding to gay Cockette Scrumbly.
**Duck aside as "the love bed" that hung from the ceiling on chains at New York's Americana Hotel, plunges to the floor loaded with 20 Cockettes and their writhing admirers.
**Join Hibiscus as he commemorates his 1971 departure from The Cockettes by dragging a huge cross to Lands End beach and crucifying himself.
"Midnight at the Palace" contains delicious reminisces by original members, friends and lovers:
**Fayette Hauser on living with a houseful of gay men: "I met this guy in the balcony of the Palace Theater. He had red hair and I was high on God knows what. We had sex in the balcony and I brought him home. I was naïve. It was like 'Night of the Living Dead.' They swooped down on that guy and I didn't even see him again. They just ripped him off me. I thought to myself, that's going to happen once, and never again. It wasn't hip to have sexual boundaries and they completely capitalized on it."
**John Waters on dining with The Cockettes: "We would buy crab meat and have huge dinner parties over at David's house, and the housewives would almost beat us up in the supermarket when they would see us buy crab meat with emergency food vouchers-not even food stamps."
**John Rothermel on why the Cockette's were not drag queens: "That's not a wig, that's my hair! I'm a man and I have a man's body, and I have a pretty nice looking man's body. Isn't it sexy to see a man's body in something clingy that may be construed as a dress?"
**Allen Ginsberg on being lovers with Hibiscus "It was difficult to sleep on the sheets because there was this sort of like difficult glitter stuff there. And it was always on our lips and in our buttholes. You knew it was always around. You couldn't quite get it out."
The Cockettes' infamous New York tour is hilariously detailed, from the preparation where Pam recalls "No one had ever asked us, can you sing or dance?" to the opening night which Pam details as "dragging along in slow motion while the interest of the audience dropped like a stone into the Marianas Trench," (John Rothermel concurs by saying "It limped along like a dying dog for quite awhile.") The frayed nerves of The Cockettes come to the fore as broke and hungry Pam physically attacks another performer after he stumbled into the hotel room and woke her up, and troupe member Goldie Glitter shrieks at Candy Darling "I'll pull your blond hair out by its black roots."
"I started out as a quiet little bookworm. I never broke a toy of even stepped on a bug. Until I decided to get into show business, I wanted to be a nun," Pam recalls.
It didn't quite work out that way!
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR MIDNIGHT AT THE PALACE:
"Reading 'Midnight at the Palace' gave me a big, beautiful show-biz acid flashback."--John Waters, filmmaker
"No one who ever saw her live can ever forget Sweet Pam eight months pregnant singing and dancing her heart out in a delirious, gender bending Cockettes chorus line. How amazing and wonderful that she has actually lived to tell the tale so vividly! This book is the epitome of San Francisco counter-culture: sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll delivered with glitter and heart."-Maureen Orth, special correspondent for 'Vanity Fair' and author of 'The Importance of Being Famous'
"With earthy humor, Tent deftly juggles a huge cast of characters while providing a nostalgic trip through San Francisco's gender-bending heyday."--Publishers Weekly
"Into a period of merely 30 months, she packs in an amazing number of people, drugs, happenings and relationships. Tent's vivid, total-recall memoir gives a touch of permanency to a band that played hard, got dirty, lived fast, and died at two-and-a-half."--Kirkus Reviews
"In deliciously dishy detail, Sweet Pam captures the magic moment when San Francisco's hippie counterculture gave birth to a sexual revolution in the form of the Cockettes. 'Midnight at the Palace' is a hilarious, provocative, and ultimately moving memoir of one of the most flamboyant episodes of youthful rebellion in human history."--David Weissman, producer and co-director (with Bill Weber) of the documentary 'The Cockettes'
"'Midnight at the Palace' comes closer than nearly anything I've read to recreating the creative frenzy, the fun, the sex, and the intermittent tragedies of the edgiest aspects of the counter-culture in the 1960's. I knew these folks and swam in the same pool sometimes. Hibiscus, Harlow, and the rest of the Cockettes came to stay at the Olema commune where I lived and were so far out they made the rest of us feel square by comparison. The were imagination incarnate, and remembering these exploits, and learning much I did not already know, caused a nearly continuous smile to make my face ache. Gay, straight, or in-between, you should read this book to see what life on the far-side of normal was once like."--Peter Coyote, actor, author, 'Sleeping Where I Fall'
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After leaving the Cockettes, Pam Tent continued performing with two other ex-Cockettes, Scrumbly and Pristine Condition, before moving to New York City for a brief stint as a blues singer. Then it was back to the West Coast for a new career in film distribution and finally her current livelihood as an accountant. She still lives in the Bay Area, sharing her house with a small menagerie of animals.