Category Archives: Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets

For All You Theater Lovers – A Holiday Promo Code

For All You Theater Lovers – A Holiday Promo Code

caravan

Click on the link below to use promo code MMB95WZN in the Create Space Store. Enter it upon check out to save 30 % on a copy of “Caravan to Oz”. It’s a great book for theater lovers. Good until the end of January 2016.  Happy Holidays from Eldorado USA Books.

Create Space Store

 

 

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They Made New York

They Made New York

On July 14, 2015, T magazine assembled some of the artists, writers, performers, musicians and intellectuals who defined New York’s inimitable and electrifying cultural scene of the late 1970s and early ’80s.  Happy to say we were a seminal part of that scene among many, many other influential creative people living and no longer with us who do not appear in this photograph or article. Click on the link above the picture to read about the remarkable times.

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Bring Holly Woodlawn Home

Bring Holly Woodlawn Home

lldanceteriaGIII

May 1982 – A nice piece in Michael’s Thing written for George Harris III aka Hibiscus’ fundraiser for medical expenses at Danceteria. Pictured are the Screaming Violets with their band. The top left picture features the cast of Tinseltown Tirades, George’s last show at Theater for the New City. Holly Woodlawn (center) star of that show is now in dire need of funding due to a life threatening illness. Our friend Penny Arcade has set up a GoFundMe page. Please consider donating to Bring Holly Home.

 

 

 

 

 

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A smash hit in Albuquerque – “ANGELS OF LIGHT – The Practically True Story of The Cockettes”

A smash hit in Albuquerque – “ANGELS OF LIGHT – The Practically True Story of The Cockettes”

Only three more performances remaining – hurry, hurry to Albuquerque before they sell out! Our cousin Dale Rose and her family caught the show this weekend and were quite moved by it. Here’s a local review:

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill's photo.

TALKIN’ BROADWAY
Albuquerque
Regional Reviews
ANGELS OF LIGHT REVIEW BY DEAN YANNIAS

Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes
The Dolls at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill

If you were lucky enough to have been at the opening weekend of Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes, you would have had the privilege of hearing Rumi Missabu, one of the few surviving members of The Cockettes, sing “Stranger in Paradise” from Kismet half in the voice of Alfalfa and half in the voice of Marlene Dietrich, in drag. It’s this kind of absurdist creativity (genius, in a way) that was the hallmark of The Cockettes.

The Cockettes flourished for only a few years, 1969 to 1972, and were sui generis. They are usually called a psychedelic drag troupe, but their fantastic costumes and glittery makeup owe more to Mardi Gras parades than to traditional drag, and there were a few women in the group. They lived communally in San Francisco and performed almost exclusively there, except for a less than successful stint in New York. They were too hot not to cool down, and after a couple years the group broke up for good.

Just by chance, after seeing this show, I saw a Susan Sontag reader sitting among the dozens of unread books at my bedside, and found her famous “Notes on Camp” essay. She says: “The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric—something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” She was in essence defining The Cockettes.

Kenneth Ansloan, who is without doubt one of the most creative people in Albuquerque, has turned the history of The Cockettes into a partly fictional stage play, another world premiere for our town. He not only wrote it but, along with Jessica Osbourne, directs it as well. His way into the story is through an elderly Cockette, Juju (played by Ansloan), reminiscing to a young student (Bryan Andrew Lambe) who is doing research on the group. The student then takes on the role of the young Juju, and we’re transported back to San Francisco in 1970. He soon meets Hibiscus (Garrick Milo), the leader of the Cockettes, otherwise known as George Harris III, who was immortalized in the famous 1967 “Flower Power” photograph as the young man putting a flower into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle. After passing the blow job test, Juju is invited into the commune and becomes a Cockette member. We then follow the group to the climax of their fame, and the deflation that follows.

In all of Ken’s shows, amid the flamboyance and hilarity and raunch (there’s always a dildo somewhere), there are moments of poignancy and pensiveness. Here, they originate from the love story between Juju and Hibiscus, and that’s one of the problems with the script. That love story hardly exists, so when young Juju breaks down in tears or old Juju finds some evidence that Hibiscus really did love him and can finally be at peace, it’s easy to question why this wasn’t demonstrated to us other than by an offhand whisper of “I love you” by Hibiscus as he was flouncing around. There’s dramatic potential here that wasn’t quite realized.

My only other suggestion is to trim the first act a little, since it drags a bit. There is a “Cheech and Chong” stoner dialogue between two minor characters that goes on too long, and a monologue by Candy Darling (A.J. Carian) that could be shortened. Sometimes too much of a good thing is really too much. And for some reason, old Juju sounds British but young Juju, except for a couple lines, sounds totally American.

But these few shortcomings are easily outweighed by the really good things about the show. The story itself is interesting, the spectacle is always entertaining, and the actors are all very good. I’m grateful for the fact that they didn’t lip-sync. There are some excellent performers here, in drag or not, and I would have loved to have heard more singing from Jaime Pardo (who plays Sylvester, the only Cockette to have a well-known solo career) and Jessica Osbourne and Garrick Milo. It’s a pretty big cast that includes Hasani Olujimi, Joshua Ball, Brian Fejer, and Joel Miller.

As in all Dolls shows, the costumes and makeup and wigs are fabulous. Credit goes to Off Broadway, House of Dolls, Korlee Robinson, and Nikolas Hoover. The amazing set, which transforms in seconds from a New York City apartment to a San Francisco commune or a theater dressing room, was built by Tom Epley, Ray Cawley, Ray Francia, Garrick Milo, Heather Epley, and Lauren Epley. The set is beautifully dressed by Dean Squibb and Nina Dorrance, who also did the props (she’s everywhere). Lighting and sound, by John Kupjack and Tom Epley, are excellent.

Whether The Cockettes were a seminal group, or just a one-off, history will judge. But they should not be forgotten, and we can thank Ken Ansloan and all of the Dolls for reminding us that once upon a time, for one brief shining moment …

Angels of Light: The Practically True Story of The Cockettes, written and directed by Kenneth Ansloan, is being presented at the Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill in Albuquerque. On Monte Vista just north of Central.
Through May 31, 2015. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets $20. Info at www.auxdog.com or 505-254-7716. Unfortunately, Rumi Missabu was here only for the first weekend.

–Dean Yannias

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If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly Beyond The Rainbow, So Can The Harris Family! – Andrew Martin

If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly Beyond The Rainbow, So Can The Harris Family! – Andrew Martin

caravan

The review below was written by our talented friend performer, writer, radio personality Andrew Martin:

Anyone who has ever availed themselves of the Off-Off-Broadway experience in New York City, whether as a performer, a crew member or simply “one of those little people out there in the dark,” will truly sink their literary teeth into Caravan to Oz, a splendid history of one family’s journey into a most exciting period in the American theater in the Big Apple. Anyone who hasn’t ever availed themselves of the Off-Off-Broadway experience in New York City, whether as a performer, a crew member or simply “one of those little people out there in the dark,” will truly sink their literary teeth into the book all the same. And in any case, this two-hundred-and-seventy page tome laden with stunning photography, emerges as a wondrous history lesson even to those not necessarily theater-oriented. To be succinct, it’s nearly impossible to put down once begun reading. The book bears vague similarities to Edie, the smash recounting of Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick, except that in this case the story is actually told by the subjects in question, along with additional input by such legends of the Off-Off-Broadway scene and the cultural world at large as Tim Robbins, Bob Heide, Robert Patrick, Crystal Field, Mike Figgis, Mark Lancaster, Ritsaert ten Cate, and the late Ellen Stewart.

The caravan begins its initial drive down life’s highway in the Westchester, New York enclave of Bronxville, where actor-writers George Edgerly Harris II (hereafter referred to as George Sr) and his wife Ann launched a family of six eventual children, namely and in order George Edgerly Harris III (hereafter referred to as G3), Walter Michael Harris, Frederic Joseph Harris, Jayne Ann Harris (today Harris-Kelley), Eloise Alice Harris (today Harris-Damone) and Mary Lucille Harris, hereafter referred to as Mary Lou. After the family relocated to Belleaire, a suburb of Clearwater in Florida, and spent several years there in which all six of the children proved themselves extremely adept at both performance and self-producing various extravaganzas, the family once again headed north and took up residence on the Lower East Side, slowly assimilating themselves into the world of Off-Off-Broadway which had already begun coming into its own ten or more years earlier with the advent of LaMaMa Experimental Theater Company, the Living Theater, and the Caffe Cino. By the late 1960s, Walter Michael (not merely an actor-singer but a very impressive and self-taught musician) had established himself as the youngest original cast member of the hit musical Hair on Broadway, while George Sr took a role in The Great White Hope and subsequently took the show on the road, and mother Ann assumed a featured part in the classic horror film The Honeymoon Killers, alongside Shirley Stoler and Tony LoBianco. G3, meanwhile, trotted off to San Francisco to find his own path and, aside from being reportedly the first person to stick flowers into the gun barrels of the police during the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury while living on a commune, also began exploring drag artistry under the name Hibiscus as a founding member of the pioneering troupe The Cockettes. Upon his self-imposed termination in Hair, Walter Michael also ventured to Northern California to join his big brother but opted for a more spiritual path, ultimately becoming a monk of the Holy Order of MANS (although he did eventually return to the theatrical fold after a fashion). Once reborn as the theater company The Angels of Light, the girls of the family along with their mother settled into a happy existence as literally the First Family of Off-Off-Broadway besides appearances on a triumphant tour of several European countries.

The story also has some disturbing twists and turns. Hibiscus ended up as one of the earliest-known victims to succumb to the AIDS crisis. It’s also notable that brother Fred offers no input to the book whatsoever, leaving a reader wondering exactly what his side to the story might be. The Harris Sisters, however, continued to find fame as a trio within the cabaret club spectrum during the 1980s and 1990s (occasionally making appearances with the renowned downtown actor-singer Bobby Reed), and the entire book is interlaced with lyrics written by mother Ann for such shows as The Sheep and the CheapskateThere Is Method In Their Madness, and Sky High. It’s almost a little too much to take in upon just one reading, to realize exactly how incredible this superb family of eight managed to accomplish in one lifetime together. But by the last page, one can’t help but feel a sense of peace, as well as the hope that anything in life is truly possible given the right brand of dedication and talent.

Caravan to Oz is available by ordering here. Do yourselves a favor and grab a copy.

 

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What people are saying about Caravan to Oz – D.S. Ripley

What people are saying about Caravan to Oz – D.S. Ripley
By D. S. Ripley on August 31, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

“Caravan to Oz” is the collective story of an irrepressible family with dazzling energy, unbreakable optimism, and unflagging creative spirit. But it isn’t just that: it’s a history of the decades through which the family has lived, persevered and grown, and even helped to shape events, in theatre and in the broader American culture. It can almost be challenging to believe that so many stories – some of which will be familiar to you, some that you will hear for the first time – could come from the experience of a single family. It’s as though George, Sr., Ann, George III, Walter Michael, Fred, Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou were the love children of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum, midwifed by J. M. Barrie. However, that’s not quite it – there are certainly fabulous and fantastical elements to the story, but they have all worked very hard, all their lives, to turn their magical vision into reality.
And it’s all, or mostly, there, told with humor, love, grace and honesty. From the early “Let’s put on a show!” days in Florida, to the risky transplanting of the whole tribe to New York, to the beginnings of the Theatre for the New City, the family-written and produced shows at La MaMa ETC, the groundbreaking and culture-changing phenomenon of “Hair”, to the founding of the Cockettes in San Francisco, the journeys through Europe, a monastery, and Bay Area communes, to the shattering new reality of the AIDS epidemic and the maturity and mellowing of seasoned performers with an amazing range of talents and accomplishments. They renewed themselves with each success, setback, and new inspiration, began new families and, through it all, retained their devotion to each other. The Harrises were, and are, in and of their times in a way that very few, if any, other families could have been. It’s a remarkable ride through a time that must have looked very different on the inside of the magic mirror, as they were. I found this ride to be enriching as I looked back over the years they describe, and saw those times from a fresh and exhilarating perspective.
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The Wherehouse

The Wherehouse

the wherehouse poster

 

 

Our friend Daniel Brown and his wife Michelle own The Wherehouse at 119 Liberty Street in Newburgh New York. Good food, Good Music and Great Company!!!  We are honored to be on their wall in the restaurant with our “Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets” poster designed by the legendary comic book artist Dave Simons.

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The Harris Sisters – Had an all-access pass to the greatest music scene on earth!

The Harris Sisters – Had an all-access pass to the greatest music scene on earth!

the harris sisters rock and roll

By Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris and Mary Lou Harris

Photo by Dan Jansen

(L-R Jayne Anne Harris, Eloise Harris and Mary Lou Harris)

 Off-Off Broadway theater was our first home. For two decades, The Harris Sisters (Jayne Anne, Eloise and Mary Lou) and the rest of our family performed in original drama and musicals at New York City’s La Mama ETC., Caffe Cino, Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, Theater for the New City, Judson Poets Theater and more. They travelled across Europe with their brother Hibiscus and his Angels of Light Theater troupe. 
Inspired by the beat of the New York punk and rock scene of the late 1970’s, The Harris Sisters and Trouble (our band), led by brother Fred, included bassist Ray Ploutz, guitarists Bill Davis and Josh Callow and drummers Mike Pedulla and Mike Kimmel, played at CBGB, SNAFU, Great Gildersleeves, The Mudd Club, RT Firefly, Peppermint Lounge and other rock venues of the day.

At the height of the disco era, The Harris Sisters were unable to resist our charismatic brother Hibiscus’ charms in wooing us to form the bejeweled rock and roll group, Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets. We embarked on a new tour of New York City disco clubs such as Studio 54, Xenon, The Ice Palace, Bonds, Danceteria and The Red Parrot. We performed on the same circuit with Madonna, The Weather Girls, Blondie, Nona Hendryx, Grace Jones, Michael Musto and The Must, Billy Idol and Cyndi Lauper. It seemed that we had an all access pass to the greatest musical scene on earth…. Stay tuned for more blogs from The Harris Family…
Read The Harris Sisters’ full story in their new memoir, Caravan to Oz: a family reinvents itself off-off Broadway

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What people are saying about Caravan to Oz – Timothy Bellavia

What people are saying about Caravan to Oz – Timothy Bellavia
bookcover2A must read for theater enthusiasts, academics and emerging performance artists!,August 29, 2014
By Timothy Bellavia
This review is from: Caravan to Oz: A family reinvents itself off-off-Broadway (Paperback)
Caravan to Oz is a chronicle of one of the most unique families of the off off Broadway stage and screen. The saga begins with Ann and George Harris, Sr. (Superman, 1978), where life and art converged in a small D.I.Y. garage theater in Florida. Just like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films Anne and George Sr. took themselves and their six “babes in arms” to acclaim to stages throughout New York City and Europe. The cast of this family memoir ranges from La Mama’s Ellen Stewart to Oscar winning actor / director Tim Robbins.
The candid pictures and narrations from the Harris siblings is a “how to survive guide” for any hopeful thespian or artist in this new depression era. The memoir answers every question, challenge, and tells it like it is … behind every TV, IMDB film credit or theater credit there is the day job or in the case of The Screaming Violets: Jayne, Eloise, and Mary Lou – a night job at the coat check at Studio 54.
Besides the nail-biting, high risk-taking for the sake of art making there is tragedy ranging from losing Hibiscus to HIV/ AIDS causes (the renowned performance artist and founder of the psychedelic theater troupe The Cockettes) to 9/11 and its effect on the Harris family and their own survival and need for further reinvention.
Caravan to Oz shares the highs and the “do or die” of the artist’s way (… and then some). What is refreshing is that book is full of living and not replete with backstabbing or name dropping of most memoirs. The names that are dropped however throughout the picture packed pages just happen to have graced the lives of Anne, George, Sr. Hibiscus, Walter-Michael, Frederic, Jayne, Eloise, and Mary Lou Harris. A must read for theater enthusiasts, academics or emerging D.I.Y. performers.
Timothy Bellavia is an Educator, Author,  and Owner/Founder at “We Are All The Same Inside”.
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