While gender-bending and crossdressing may be getting "good press" in mainstream publications like Vogue and Mirabella, San Francisco has always treated its own "drag" celebrities well. Before Lypsinka, before Lesbian Vampires of Sodom, before the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, there were the Sluts a-Go-Go..
The Sluts were a loose collection of performers that added and lost members over their 10 year history, but the core of the troupe consisted of Doris Fish, Miss X, "Tippi", and later Sandelle Kincaid (GG), and Phillip R. Ford. Sadly, two key members, Doris and "Tippi", died last year.
Doris hailed from Sydney, Australia (drag capital of the world, some say), where in 1972 he joined a group called Sylvia and the Synthetics. Like the Cockettes of San Francisco fame, both groups looked upon drag as "political theatre" -muscles and high heels, lipstick and hairy backs. Over the years Doris's drag toned down, but he was never quite credible as a female, always something gave it away, which for him was also a political stance. Doris ran into "Tippi" shortly after arriving in San Francisco from Australia in 1976 at an audition for the rock band the Tubes. They hit it off immediately and became roommates. "Tippi", originally went under the name of "Miss Leading."
Doris met Miss X at a come-as-your-favorite-Fellini-character party in 1979. At the time, Miss X wasn't all that serious about doing drag, but by the end of the year the three were staging Sluts a-Go-Go here and there. The Sluts gig evolved into the now famous Blonde Sin. Doris played Doris Poisson, a cheap French showgirl, and mother to "Tippi"'s character, Lois Standard. Miss X was the eponymic Miss X, heiress to the Brand X fortune.
In 1983, director Marc Huestis invited the Sluts to join a group of actors he'd assembled for a campy beat-era soap opera titled Naked Brunch. The show became a hit and was the subject of enthusiastic notices in the San Francisco Chronicle and California Magazine.
It was during the run of Naked Brunch that Miss X met Sandelle Kincaid. Everyone had assumed X was gay, but he moved in with Kinkiad and they became an "item." Friends began referring to the pair (behind their backs) as Miss X and Madame X. Obviously, since Sandelle was a genetic female, it was hard to imagine her as a "drag queen," yet she did do drag in the sense of combining camp with glamour and anachronism.
In the 70's gay political activism shifted its emphasis toward "masculinity" in order to win more "straight" support. In 1977, gay political leaders put out the word: No drag on Gay Freedom Day. The queens were outraged and turned out in force for the parade and the Sluts were there too. That negative feeling about drag dies hard. In 1986, "Tippi" and Doris were doing a weekly cable news show about the gay community. An angry viewer wrote, "Having Doris Fish… reporting the news of the gay community is akin to having Aunt Jemima anchor the news for the black community." Doris retorted, "I am not interested in acceptance from the straight community if it means I have to pretend to be something I am not. Freedom and equality are not just for those who present a positive image. They are for all."
So, before the Bill of Gender Rights, before the ICTLEP and GenderPAC, before any of us in the organized TV/TS/TG community had enough balls to stand up for who we really are, the Sluts and other drag artists like them were out there making waves, making statements, and making it better for everyone.
Thanks to Bob Davis for all the photos of the Sluts. Some of the material for this article was taken from a 1986 piece in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday magazine.
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