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The Cockettes (Documentary)

When I started watching this, I had no idea what I was getting into. To be honest, I did not even know that I was going to watch a documentary. So, to be honest, at. the beginning, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue watching it but I am glad I did. After my initial apprehensions, the documentary did peak my interest and there was so much I got to learn and understand about San Francisco in late 60s and 70s when celebration of hippie culture, diversity, sexuality was at its peak. The documentary talks about the gender-bending San Francisco performance group who became a pop culture phenomenon in the early 1970s.

The documentary starts with snippets of interviews with some of the members of the Cockettes group that was an eclectic mix of gay and straight, black and white, men and women.. Story is centered around a NY based actor George Harris, a bearded man, who moves to SF, rarely seen without lavish glitter makeup, facial hair dye and resplendent thrift-shop couture. He moves to commune, gathers bunch of people, adopts the name Hibiscus and starts performing a series of sexual, spiritual, non-rehearsed musicals for audiences. The started to get popular locally and soon were performing for free at the famous Palace Theatre in SF. The were free, liberated and more often than not also nude. Over a period of time, commercialization sets in and Hibiscus decides to leave the group. Based on the high profile attention that they get from press, they are invited to perform in NY. Over confident about their act, their first show is a disaster. It eventually picks up, but they soon realize that they calling belongs in San Francisco. The documentary ends with remembering of the few members who were lost either to drugs or later to AIDS.

The film started off as a little sluggish for me, but very soon I was totally enjoying their world. How a group of 'misfits' in the society rose to fame with their over the top musical numbers and performances, not looking to make money was very interesting. I got to virtually experience a very different side of SF in 70s. The groups rise, fall , their fears, group love etc. are very well captures. It was the time when the first gay rights demonstrations were taking place, hippies were dropping acid on Haight Street and a revolution seemed just around the corner. You meet these people who are now greyer, in sportcoats and settled and what a crazy fun life they have lived. Stories that you only hear of and wish a life that you had lived free of any worries. Its like one of the members say, "We never worried about food or drugs. They both just somehow showed up".

“The Cockettes” is an befitting tribute to the popular hippie acid freak drag queens, who were immensely popular. A real look at people who were allowed to be who they were. (6/10)


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