Cockettes in the Archives

Sorry I haven't been updating my "weekly" rants -- but then, I haven't been getting a ton of complaints. I guess people have come to expect out of date web pages.

Anyway, the main reason for not updating was that I took a two-week trip to the east coast. I've been back over a week, and still haven't caught up totally, but I really ought to do a bit here.

I'm going to save the trip report for some future special occasion (like an issue of Holy Titclamps.)

And actually, I think the rant concept was getting a little tired. Sure, I might rant a little more in the future, but forcing one out every week was getting just that -- forced.

I'm going to still try to have some new weekly content, but it will probably be more in the form of articles based on stuff like what I'm currently reading or researching.

This weekend, I paid visits to a couple of archives. I went to the University of California at Berkeley library. Anyone can visit, not just students or faculty. You sign in, and they give you a list of rules (such as no pens, only pencils) and a placemat to put on your spot on the table.

I was visiting to look at a couple of items I'd looked up in the University's online catalog, Melvyl. One was a book written by Philip Whalen called "Invention of the Letter." I'd seen it mentioned in Deep Tried Frees. The book is a handdrawn story about Adam and Eve; it's spiral bound at the top and resembles a stenographer's notebook. The cover was stamped with the words "Hors De Commerce," which probably means it's one of the copies given away free as mentioned in Deep Tried Frees. I looked at another copy of the book later at Serendipity Books in Berkeley which didn't have that stamped on the cover.

The other book I looked at in the Berkeley Library was an anthology called "The Great Society" edited by Ira Cohen. The contributors included Alfred Chester, with a chapter from his book "The Exquisite Corpse" (which I found a copy of in Boston at the great Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore.) And it also had a Jack Smith piece which I hadn't seen before, "The White Pig of the Medina." Hopefully this will be included in the Jack Smith anthology to be published by Serpent's Tail/High Risk next Spring.

Sunday I went to the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society in San Francisco. I looked at the "Homo Beats" issue of One Magazine (the publication of the early gay rights group the Matachine Society) from July 1959. I'd seen a copy of it in a display case at the Beat Show, and I wanted to read a copy of it. It was a bit disappointing, mainly being a psychological profile of a couple of anonymous bohemian homosexuals. The issue also had a review of a Gregory Corso and Frank O'Hara poetry reading.

I also looked at the archive's collection of Cockettes-related material. They had a large box containing a collection of posters and flyers for Cockettes related events. The Cockettes put on shows with midnight movies at the Palace Theater in North Beach (more recently called the Pagoda Theater, it is located on Columbus Avenue and showed Chinese movies up until a couple years ago, when it closed.)

Also in the collection was a Cockettes paperdoll book featuring photos of the Cockettes. Surprisingly, it was published (in 1971) by Last Gasp, still active as a comic publisher and distributor. There were also a couple of photographic posters, one with a picture of Sylvester (who was a Cockette), also published by Last Gasp.

And there was a calendar from 1976 featuring photos of one-time Cockette Pristine Condition.

It's unfortunate that there's very little material written about the Cockettes and the later related group the Angels of Light. Bambi Lake's recent book has some information. Martin Worman (whose Cockettes name was Philthee Ritz) was working on a book on the Cockettes when he died, and I haven't heard if it was near completion or whether it might still be published. There is a film with the Cockettes called "Tricia's Wedding" which showed in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival a couple of years ago.

If you've managed to stick we me this far, I do have a point to get across. It's that the above information couldn't be found on the web before I put it here. There's a lot of information out there that's only buried in archives, and you have to go seek it out. So start digging.

For more on the Cockettes see - click on the picture of the roses to get to the main page.

There is a film documentary on the Cockettes - see here for more information.


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