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Hibiscus photo by Kreemah Ritz

Hibiscus as Madame Butterfly at Sonoma State College circa 1970

Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) (September 6, 1949 – May 6, 1982) was one of the leaders of the psychedelic gay liberation theatre 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".

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 in San Francisco, which gave many free theatrical performances in the early 1970s in San Francisco and New York. After moving back to New York, he put together a number of off-off Broadway revues, of which Sky High ran the longest. He also appeared in a daytime soap opera under his real name.

Hibiscus died of AIDS on May 6, 1982. He was an early AIDS casualty. Even at the time of his death the new illness was still referred to as GRID.

Books with information about Hibiscus Edit

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