Dear Scrumbly | Native Funk and Flash
Somewhere in stacks at the Wausau West High School library is a copy of Native Funk and Flash. And if you look at the check-out card in back cover of the book, you will see that a certain Mike Cepress had signed his name to borrow the book at least a dozen times in the 4 year window he was a student there. I distinctly recall being the only person to want to look at the book since 1974. I can only hope that I was not the only one to look at it since.
This briliant document of American history shows piles of beautiful images capturing the spirited, home-spun and inspired efforts of counter culture folks invested in making clothes and objects for themselves and their homes that stood as a clear expression of how they felt, what they wanted to feel, and what they loved. Colorful embroidered vests, decorated denim, draped leather scraps and furs are all there.
The pages I studied most intently were those that featured Scumbly and Pristine Condition of the Cockettes, along with others from a similar scene: Billy Bowers, Lizzie, and my very favorite Snappy.
At 16, I knew there was something special about these folks....something that set them apart from the others in the book. The sexuality equation was pretty lost on me at the time, and remarkably, even the printed name "Cockettes" meant nothing. I made no effort to learn more about who they were or what they did.
I have since come to learn that what the Cockettes represented and what they gave their audiences was the sort of aesthetic, social, political and sexual freedom that I believe we're all entitled to; the sort of thing we should be spending our days fighting for. Seeing footage of the dancing, glittered and bearded founding Cockette named Hibiscus has completely changed my life.
I have also since come to recognize the printed face on Snappy's shirt as belonging to Athletic Model Guild favorite David Mineric...a discovery I was thrilled to pinpoint! Here's David from the pages of vintage issue of Physique Pictorial.
Also on the list of beauties are Alex and Lee, partners and jewelry designers who ended up decorating Cher and showing their wares at I. Magnin, Saks and other notable retailers of the time. Alex's kind eyes are hypnotising, and the charm of the duo with their bold look and seemingly gentle, thoughtful approach to design makes me want to time travel. Their statement in the book reads:
"Within the meditation of Love and Peace lies our inspiration for creation. We view ourselves as instuments through which a psychic language of affirmation materializes. We seek reflections which carry one to visions where contrast is harmony. We view our jewelry as devotional talismans to adorn the temple of the body. The moment of all possibilities is the time-space of our perspective. Our process of collaboration leads us to the mystical union of at-one-ment."
When placed next to the caring gazes of their portraits, a statement otherwise sounding like hippie fluff somehow becomes much more meaningful and relevant.
I have tracked down Scrumbly and he will be getting a letter from me soon. I want him to know how much all of this means to me.
And while you're at it, add the documentary The Cockettes to your Netflix lists. You'll thank me.