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Free Willies

The Cockettes brings back nostalgia for a gay old time.

The audience loved the opening act: disco legend-to-be Sylvester, already a Cockettes superstar. But the show itself laid the proverbial egg -- multicolored as it was. The Cockettes came home and continued as before, but things were different. Individual troupe members started their own shows. Hibiscus moved to New York to continue his spontaneous acid-fueled performances before passing away in 1982 from what was then called "gay cancer." AIDS has since claimed more group members. But as the film shows, their spirit lives on not only in the lives of survivors, but in generations that followed. While Weissman and Weber don't mention it, it's plain that the Cockettes legacy can be found in the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult, whose watch phrase "Don't dream it -- be it!" is pure Cockettes.

And I, for one, have little doubt that even in 2002, where certain "gay leaders" push the notion that the same-sex-oriented should be the best imitation heterosexuals they can be and vote Republican -- the Cockettes spirit is destined to live on as well. After all, Irving Rosenthal, now in his seventies, is still among us -- running a homeless shelter and free food-distribution service for the poor in San Francisco. Yes, I know it's all "just so '60s" -- but what are you going to do with someone like Irving?

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