Midnight at the Palace: My Life As a Fabulous Cockette (memoir), Alyson Books (Los Angeles, CA), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Pam Tent, known as "Sweet Pam," was one of the founders of the Cockettes, a rollicking theatrical troupe that played to San Francisco audiences from 1969 to 1972. Tent was one of the females in the troupe. Other members, including Divine, who went on to enjoy a successful film career, were drag queens bedecked in wigs, feathers, and glitter. Female and male performers, both straight and gay, donned outrageous costumes and displayed a range of talent, coming together from the neighborhoods of "Baghdad by the Bay," to share their hedonism and to entertain audiences made up of kindred souls. In her memoir, Midnight at the Palace: My Life As a Fabulous Cockette, Tent brings the show to readers and describes the 1970s culture of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll and the era that preceded commercialized radical theater and productions like Oh! Calcutta. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Tent "carefully describes the Cockettes' free-style theater, its parodies of romance and success, the fun and absurdity of its political incorrectness."
Tent writes of the gender-bending shows that filled San Francisco's Palace Theater and of the celebrities who came to watch and listen, including Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. Tent, who lived with Dee Dee Ra-mone for a time, notes that as the troupe's reputation spread, the Cockettes were offered the New York engagement that was to be the beginning of their end. New York was not San Francisco, and the antics of the Cockettes caused many audience members, including well-known celebrities, to walk out during performances.
Tent used drugs and was sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. She also lost several friends to AIDS. Both experiences shaped her life. For a time she performed with two other Cockettes and soloed as a blues singer in New York. Eventually, she returned to California and worked in film production before becoming an accountant. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area; the place where she made her mark in theater. Tent maintains an extensive Web site on Cockettes history, including photographs, posters, and reviews.
Kevin Riordan, who reviewed Tent's memoir in the Lambda Book Report, wrote that the "exploits of her ever-changing cast of characters are often amusing, even touching." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded by saying, "Tent deftly juggles a huge cast of characters while providing a nostalgic trip through San Francisco's gender-bending heyday."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Tent, Pam, Midnight at the Palace: My Life As a Fabulous Cockette, Alyson Books (Los Angeles, CA), 2004.
Booklist, November 15, 2004, Mike Tribby, review of Midnight at the Palace, p. 542.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2004, review of Midnight at the Palace, p. 953.
Lambda Book Report, April-May, 2005, Kevin Riordan, "Let the Good Times Roll," review of Midnight at the Palace, p. 27.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Jim Van Buskirk, review of Midnight at the Palace, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, October 25, 2004, review of Midnight at the Palace, p. 35.
Midnight at the Palace Web site, http://www.sweetpam.com (January 23, 2006), history of the Cockettes.