If you are old enough to remember these posters for the Nocturnal Dream Shows at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco, it will be a happy (if maybe dizzy from drugs) walk down camp memory lane. If this is your first view of these historic pieces, they are a great record of the most delirious days of post-Stonewall San Francisco nightlife. San Francisco's Magnet presents, Todd Trexler: A Solo Exhibition of His Legendary Posters, this month (with an opening night party June 6), and it's an incredible opportunity to see a range of the queer artist's iconic work.
The artist Todd Trexler (who passed away in February of this year) is best remembered for his iconic posters and handbills for the Cockettes and Nocturnal Dream Shows at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco in the early '70s. Now the famed posters, some of which were recently featured in Jeffrey Schwartz's I Am Divine, will be on display for the first time in 40 years reproductions are also available for sale. This poster exhibition, curated by Irwin Swirnoff, features rising new stars of the time--including Randy Newman, Tower of Power, the Famed Cockettes, Sylvester, and Lady Divine. Divine later trimmed her stage name after her live performances with the Cockettes.
WATCH a video interview with Trexler:
The concerts and the Nocturnal Dream Shows were famed as much for their audiences -- queers, beatniks, intellectuals -- as for the performers, and Drexler's posters could be found on the kitchen walls of hippies, freaks, and gay men all over the city. As time passed and the success of the shows increased, the posters evolved from single color pen-and-ink drawings on inexpensive white paper to multicolored and color-separated images using mixed media and photography.
"I absolutely adored working with Glenn [Milstead, Divine's given name] on the few occasions that I did," Trexler, who worked with Divine on the Vice Palace poster and photo shoot, said before his unexpected death. "The day that we planned to take photos for the Vice Palace poster I'll never forget. Glenn and I sat in the backseat of a car with [business partner] Sebastian in the front. We drove around San Francisco looking for a place to use as a backdrop. We ended up at the Palace of Fine Arts and decided it was perfect. Glenn was in makeup, bib overalls with the sides split to make them large enough. He had tossed a couple of '50s net prom dresses in the trunk of the car. He slipped into a pair of open-toed backless mules and wrapped the prom dresses around himself and instantly became Divine. I took the photo, and that poster is an all-time favorite of my poster career!"
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