Hibiscus (real name, George Edgerly Harris III, Jr.) (September 6, 1949 – May 6, 1982) was one of the leaders of the psychedelic gay liberation theatre collective known as the Cockettes in early 1970s San Francisco; in today's theatrical parlance he would be considered to be a "Creative Director".
Harris was born in Bronxville, New York in 1949 to George Sr. and Ann Harris. The family moved to Clearwater Beach, Florida. The Harris parents had theatrical backgrounds, and the son started a children's theatre troupe, the El Dorado Players. In 1964, the family moved to New York, and Harris appeared in commercials, television, and in 1966 in an Off Broadway play titled Peace Creeps by John Wolfson with Al Pacino and James Earl Jones.
Hibiscus (then George Harris) joined the October 21, 1967 anti-war march on the Pentagon (in order to "levitate" it) and appears in the historic photograph of that event, Flower Power; he was the turtleneck sweater-wearing protester photographed putting flowers into the gun barrels of the MPs.
Hibiscus (whose full beard, vintage dresses, make-up and costume jewelry created a defiant look, even by today's standards) embraced drag and drugs as paths to spiritual liberation, and attracted a group of like-minded hippies who loved show-tunes, dressing up, showing off and dropping acid, and became The Cockettes.
The Cockettes decked themselves out in drag outfits and glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in San Francisco's California North Beach neighborhood. They quickly became a "must-see" for San Francisco's gay community, with their outlandishly decadent productions like "Journey to the Center of Uranus," "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma" and "Gone with the Showboat to Oklahoma." Two notable Cockettes were the disco diva darling Sylvester and the "queen of B-movie filth" Divine, who sang "If there's a crab on Uranus you know you've been loved" while dressed as a psychedelic crab queen.
When the Cockettes wanted to start charging for their shows, Hibiscus left, believing all shows should be free, and formed the Angels of Light in San Francisco, which gave many free theatrical performances in the early 1970s in San Francisco and New York. After moving back to New York, he put together a number of off-off Broadway revues, of which Sky High ran the longest. He also appeared in a daytime soap opera under his real name.
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- Poland, Albert (1972). The off, off Broadway book: the plays, people, theatre. Bobbs-Merrill. p. 199.
- Flowers, Guns and an Iconic Snapshot, The Washington Post, retrieved 22 Nov, 2007
- www.cockettes.com History, retrieved 22 Nov 2007
- Waxman, D.J. (1981-06-01), "New Waves or Perennial Blossoms: D.J. Waxman Meets Hibiscus", New York Native
- "Cockettes founder Hibiscus dies in New York; 300 other cases reported; Kaposi research hurt by cutbacks". Body Politic (85) (Toronto). July–August 1982. p. 16.
- "Founder of Cockettes, Hibiscus, Dead of GRID", Advocate (345), June 1982: 12