hibiscus by sabrina emami

Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) (1949–1982) was one of the leaders of the psychedelic gay liberation theater collective group known as ‘The Cockettes’ in early 1970s San Francisco; in today’s theatrical parlance he would be considered to be a ‘Creative Director.’ George Harris was the young man in the turtleneck sweater in the famous picture of the anti-war protester putting flowers into the gun barrels of the MPs during the October 21, 1967 march on the Pentagon in order to ‘levitate’ it. Later as Hibiscus (whose full beard, vintage dresses, make-up and costume jewelry created a defiant look, even by today’s standards) embraced drag and drugs as paths to spiritual liberation, and attracted a group of like-minded hippies who loved show-tunes, dressing up, showing off and dropping acid, and became The Cockettes.

The Cockettes decked themselves out in drag outfits and glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in San Francisco’s California North Beach neighborhood. They quickly became a ‘must-see’ for San Francisco’s gay community, with their outlandishly decadent productions like ‘Journey to the Center of Uranus,’ ‘Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma,’ and ‘Gone with the Showboat to Oklahoma.’ Two notable Cockettes were the disco diva darling Sylvester and the ‘queen of B-movie filth’ Divine, who sang ‘If there’s a crab on Uranus you know you’ve been loved’ while dressed as a psychedelic crab queen. When the Cockettes wanted to start charging for their shows, Hibiscus left, believing all shows should be free, and formed the ‘Angels of Light.’ Hibiscus died of AIDS in 1982.

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