"It 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
It can be said that we San Franciscans inherited our gender-bending theatricality from The Cockettes, the flamboyant ensemble of late-'60's SF hippies -- gay, straight, and undecided -- who performed in glittery drag of all sorts in a series of legendary, over-the-top midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach. Founded by Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) in 1969, the troupe enacted their own outrageous counter-culture parodies of show tunes (and some originals) 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 extravaganzas featured elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality, and exuberant chaos. They were soon pinned as the cutting edge of Freak Theatre and appeared in Rolling Stone, Paris Match, and Playboy. The group disbanded in 1972, after attempting a tour to New York.