Doris Fish

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Doris Fish
Born 11 August 1952
Sydney
Died 22 June 1991
San Francisco, California
Other names Philip Mills
Occupation Artist, actor, writer, performer
Years active 1972–91

Doris Fish was the stage name for Sydney-born and Sydney and San Francisco-based drag queen, artist, actor and writer Philip Mills. Mills wrote and starred in cult movie classic Vegas in Space as Doris Fish.

Art and performance[edit]

Sydney[edit]

Mills began performing as Doris Fish in Sydney in 1972[1] as one of the three core performers of the political drag group Sylvia and the Synthetics (1972–1974), along with Miss Abood (Danny Abood, Daniel Archer) and Jacqueline Hyde.[2] In 1975 Mills visited San Francisco for the first time on holidays,[1] before moving there permanently the following year.

Doris regularly returned to Sydney, Australia in the late 1970s, comparing shows for Cabaret Conspiracy[3] or performing at venues such as Garibaldi's along with the Doreen's. During 1978–1979 Mills as Doris was also the American West-Coast Correspondent for Campaign, a national gay and lesbian newspaper in Australia. With the development of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras Workshop by Peter Tully in 1983, Mills would return annually to volunteer in the Workshop building community floats and creating costumes for Doris' individual and group floats. Doris also continued to host events, including the first Mardi Gras Awards at Kinselas in 1987.

San Francisco[edit]

In c.1976 at an audition for the rock group, The Tubes, he met fellow drag queen, Tippi, and they became roommates. In 1977 San Francisco gay leaders urged no drag on Gay Freedom Day. Doris and many other drags turned out in force. At a come-as-your-favorite-Fellini-character party in 1979 Mills met Miss X who wasn't yet serious about doing drag, but by the end of the year Doris Fish, Tippi and Miss X were performing as Sluts-A-Go-Go.

Throughout the 1980s Doris Fish was one of the most prominent drag queens in San Francisco. On stage, Doris Fish performed for over ten years in San Francisco with Miss X and Tippi as Sluts A-Go-Go. Sluts A-Go-Go performed in venues like Club 181 with shows such as Nightclub of the Living Dead, along with other performers such as Sandelle Hebert and Tommy Pace.[1] In 1986, Doris and Tippi did a weekly cable news show about the gay community, although some viewers complained that Doris was a negative stereotype.

As a visual artist Mills painted hyper-realistic canvases depicting of drag queens, although Mills' favorite subject was himself as Doris Fish. Doris Fish was Mills' greatest work, her face and body receptacles for the paint and powder he used to create himself as a "Fucking Goddess". As he once said, "If I could, I would paint my eyeballs."[4]

Mills' major legacy is the cult camp classic film Vegas In Space, which he co-wrote and starred in with Phillip Ford.

Mills died from complications from AIDS in San Francisco in 1991.[5]

Recognition[edit]

The life of Philip Mills as Doris featured in the one-act play "Simply Stunning: The Doris Fish Story", which was performed at the Theater Rhinoceros Studio in September 2002. The script was adapted by Phillip R. Ford from biographical remarks Fish made in stage shows and in the column Fish wrote for the gay newspaper the Sentinel in the late '80s. Ford (who also directed Mills' movie 'Vegas in Space') directs the play, which stars Arturo Galster[6]

In 2002, artworks by Doris were included in the Dead Gay Artists, Tin Sheds, University of Sydney, New South Wales, 1–20 February. The exhibition also included the works of fellow artists Doug Erskine, Eddy Hackenberg, Jasper Havoc, Brad Levido, David McDiarmid, and Peter Tully.

References[edit]

External links[edit]