Tuesday, June 14, 2005

DVD Watch: The Cockettes + The Nomi Song

These two DVDs have been floating around the Internet and I thought I should start helping spread the news. Both are documentaries about gender-bending artists who also bent genres. The Cockettes (dir: David Weissman/Bill Weber) is a documentary about the San Francisco ensemble of gay men, women and even babies who put on a series of legendary musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach with titles like Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma and Pearls over Shangai. The Cockettes were key players in the San Francisco mutation from psychedelic haven to gay paradise with their dancing extravaganzas, elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality and carnivalesque chaos. Truman Capote was a fan, but president Nixon may not have been very amused when The Cockettes made a film called Tricia’s Wedding to coincide with Tricia Nixon’s wedding, which featured a transvestite Tricia, a drunken Mamie Eisenhower, a party crashing Lady Bird and a drag Eartha Kitt spiking the punch with LSD.

Fast forward to the late 70s/early 80s New York and you’ll find a German opera singer making a splash in the burgeoning New Wave scene with his outlandish costumes and hyper-camp electro tunes. Sadly, Klaus Nomi’s legacy is also linked with Aids since he was the first celebrity to die of the disease in the early days of 'the plague'. Director Andrew Horn’s The Nomi Song is an amazing collection of rare footage of the legend and you get the impression that you have seen every moving image of Nomi ever made. This is a heart-felt homage to a great singer and fully-fledged performer whose life was nothing short of operatic.

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