Draft Excerpts From
Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette
by Pam Tent
The big night was October 31st and it was a mob scene; you couldn't have shoe-horned another soul into the place. As Marshal later put it "There were so many people they were going up the walls." Everybody in the audience was in show drag and Halloween spirits. This was the party that Castro Street later turned into. The film finished at 10:30 pm and the audience was getting noisy, shrieking, laughing and blowing noise-makers. Backstage the cast preened and gossiped. In light of the holiday we were served up an additional treat in addition to the usual marijuana backstage, and no one was in any hurry. Methylenedioxyamphetamine, better known as MDA made the rounds of the usual psychedelic drug takers in the cast and even got so far as into the hands of Goldie Glitters, an unusual, non-psychedelic drug taker. Similar to its modern day cousin Ecstasy, MDA was a recreational drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It was all we needed.
The talent phase was unrehearsed and a total free-for-all. Pristine came out as Barbara Parkins, in a yellow plaid taffeta, and sang "Downtown" then Martin Worman recited Hamlet and was rudely, pushed off the stage in the middle of his recitation. Mink Stole imitated her pet gold fish, and Goldie Glitters prepared Russian Baked Chicken on the back of a muscle boy in a leather jock strap, who did the whole bit on all fours. For this final show, friends of the Cockettes who had been invited to participate took the show to new levels of bad taste, entering realms even the Cockettes had yet to venture. As each contestant tried to top the other, Janis Sukitas as Miss Siah, dressed in a nun's habit proclaimed, "I cannot sing or dance but I can give my only child to humanity," just before she gave birth onstage. But the crowd had seen nothing yet. Lady Divine, done up by Van Smith, the ugly expert himself, was just about to take her final stroll as last year's winner.
"There was a bit of Cockette lore which hinted that many a show was conceived around a fabulous costume…and one can always wonder which came first. Although Pearls Over Shanghai had long been germinating in the fertile mind of Link Martin, it struck everyone as extremely fortuitous when the real Peking Opera played the same stage at the Palace Theatre. At the time, much was made over a missing trunk of sequined kimonos and props that seemed to vanish, however, the items were not lost and did reappear, some months later, spawning Shangahi #2, #3 & #4...."
The press was legion that night and clogged the already over-crowded aisles. Starting in the street with Carol disembarking from her black limo, they pushed and ogled, snapping photos and turning the normal Palace freak show into a gaudy sleaze fest. Of course Pete Marino was there due to his association with Davey Rosenburg and his natural affinity for the tasteless. The crowd ran the gambit from drag queens in furs to "weenie-waggers" in rumpled raincoats, with yet another contingent choosing to appear in suits and ties. Not everyone left feeling satisfied, however, Carol delivered-- even if the film didn't.
The Stud closed at 2:00 AM and many nights after the show, we were too keyed up to go home. Sometimes we'd go over to Mukluk Manor, as they were notorious for great parties. Our whole crowd dressed up and by the end of the evening our makeup was running and our drag was about as crisp as a saggy mattress--but no matter. Always crowded, and with the booze running low, we'd arrived someplace en masse and spread out to mingle with the wall-to-wall hot numbers who were only too eager to go home with a Cockette. Well, a male Cockette anyway. The guys had a field day, making out with several different hunks before selecting tonight's Mr. Right. There was always a ton of grass and after everybody got stoned, sometimes they weren't as particular. Through a veil of marijuana smoke, a foppish parlor snake leaned against the doorframe as I passed and asked me, "Do you want to see my monster?"
The clinic on Belcher Street had long been known as the local outlet for a drug known to pharmacists as Rohrer 747. Known on the streets as Quaaludes, they had been making the rounds after being dispensed by an elderly physician known as Dr. E. It was a hypnotic of sorts, meant to induce sleep and Doctor E. was happily passing out the samples to her clinic drop-ins. "You boys have so many problems," she would say sweetly, as she handed out prescriptions like Halloween candy. Of course no one went home and went to sleep--just the opposite. After a couple of drinks and a couple of Quaaludes, they went dancing or in this case, to the Palace Theatre, to perform in a show.