Androgyny pioneers still glitter


There are better ways to bring in the New Year than watching balls drop. Depending, of course, on the balls. This Saturday, to inaugurate a series of wild weekend salons and possibly to overthrow the oppressive discipline of resolution-making, the Giorgi Gallery presents the self-described cocktail of glamour and anarchy (glamarchy?) that is the Cockettes Anniversary Gala. It's been 35 years since the troupers first put on their infamous acid-addled, gender-bending, glitter-glam midnight musicals in San Francisco. The shows lasted only a couple of years, but the legacy lives on; you really can't keep a good Cockette down. "We haven't performed as a group since 1972," says Rumi Missabu, an original Cockette who now lives in Oakland, serves as group's archivist, and organized this event. "But even though we're a nonentity now, there's still a lot happening around us." The Giorgi will accordingly be glammed up with photos of the group, original artworks, and other remembrances all afternoon -- not to mention more Cockette events throughout the month. "This is my first gallery show," Rumi says. "I'm ready to do a museum next." Cockette history could warrant it.

"We were so far from the mainstream, we were almost illegal," Sweet Pam observed in the 2002 documentary, The Cockettes. "A lot of people were tone deaf. A lot of people couldn't dance. But when you were on stage, you thought you were the greatest!" Now Sweet Pam, too, has chronicled the gang's heyday in a new book, Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette, which she'll be reading and autographing at 2 p.m. Saturday.

True, anniversary events can tend to get wistful or nostalgic or revisionist. "Everyone sees what happened back then a different way," Rumi says. "And that's fine with me." But in the spirit of welcoming a new year, it's not all about looking back. He adds, with an impish note creeping into his voice, "It's possible that we could make this happen again."

Saturday, 1-4 p.m. at the Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave., Berkeley. For more info: or 510-848-1228. --Jonathan Kiefer


Año Nuevo

Fuera con lo Viejo

These days, your average Latin America travel package will set you back anywhere from $900 to $4,000. A far cheaper tour is La Peña Cultural Center's New Year's Eve Dance with José Roberto Hernández and Friends. For just $20 in advance, $22 at the door, Hernández -- a native of Tabasco, Mexico, who studied ethnomusicology at Mexico City's Instituto Superior de la Musica -- will join forces with Saúl Sierra, Marco Díaz, Julio Pérez, Silvestre Martínez, and others to allow you to taste of the flavors and rhythms of Latin America, in traditional and nuevo fusion form. Doors to the party open at 9:30 p.m., and La Peña is located at 105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. Call 510-849-2568 or visit for advance reservations and other información. -- Stefanie Kalem

Fri 12/31

Partying for Fun and Prophet

Chuck Prophet recently auctioned off signed, handwritten lyrics to his song "No Other Love" (covered recently by none other than those wacky Wilson sisters, Heart), raising $203 for the political awareness nonprofit People for the American Way. But the prolific roots-rock hero and philanthropic cash cow (whose latest release is the full-length Age of Miracles) hasn't forgotten the little people in the East Bay -- Prophet and his band, the Mission Express, have been twanging in the New Year at the Ivy Room (858 San Pablo Ave., Albany) ever since the turning of 2003. This year the party starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs a mere $12. Info: 510-524-9220. -- Stefanie Kalem

Fri 12/31

The Right Stuff

Could there possibly be a more appropriate place to dance to Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers than on the heaving skillet flight deck of the USS Hornet? On New Year's Eve, yet? The Bay Area's own sultry swingster brings her saucy ditties of the '40s and '50s ("I love this band -- they're great," proclaims that old skillet licker Bill Clinton in their publicity kit) to the aircraft-carrier-turned-museum at Pier 3, Alameda Point, in Alameda for a swingin' New Year's Eve party. It'll cost ya: $125 for Admiral's Reserved Seating, $100 for Captain's Reserved, $75 for scurvy (general admission). 8 p.m. For more info: -- Kelly Vance


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