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Rumi Missabu was born in Hollywood. In 1967, he took a bus to San Francisco, made a wrong turn, got lost, and was too stubborn to ask for directions. The first place he lived after he ran away was in a water tower with a lesbian poet. Shortly after he arrived in the Bay Area and barely twenty years old, he joined the drag performance troupe, the Cockettes. The Cockettes were high-action, out front, out-of-the-closet entertainers, the satiric cutting edge of the first wave of the Gay Liberation.


Rumi left the Cockettes after a year and a half, moved to New York, and then returned to San Francisco. For 35 years, he never had a government ID, work record, or social security number. The closest form of identification he had was an expired San Francisco library card that said "Rumi Missabu."

In his first public speaking appearance in nearly three years, Rumi, in conversation with his 45-year junior biographer August Bernadicou (The LGBTQ History Project), discusses his time off-the-grid living in an alternative world with no plan to resurface.

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