Rumi Missabu was born in Hollywood, took a bus to San Francisco, got lost and was too stubborn to ask for directions. The first place he lived in the Bay Area was in a water tower with a lesbian poet. He was an original member of the 1970s San Francisco hippie 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 troupe after a year and a half, moved to New York and then returned to San Francisco. For 35 years, Rumi never had a government ID, work record and social security number. The closest form of identification he had was a San Francisco library card that said "Rumi." He was convinced the hippie days would never end. Everything had to be done on his own terms.
"Let's go to 1970. Halloween weekend, 1970, when the Cockettes were performing Les Ghouls, the Halloween show where I played Mick Jagger. The setup is I couldn't live in the Cockette commune because you had to receive an ATD check, which stood for Aid to the Totally Disabled. It wasn't easy to get. You have to see a psychiatrist. You had to convince the psychiatrist you were nuts. I lived underground and had no ID. I couldn’t start the process. Since I couldn’t live with the Cockettes, I decided to live with Cockette Aaron. We lived here. We lived there. Finally, in mid-October, Aaron got an apartment for us—how he did, he was a minor, he was only seventeen years old, I don’t know—he got an apartment for us at Carl and Cole in Haight Ashbury. Aaron mentioned the first few days we were there that he thought junkies lived in the basement. One-night, Cockette Johnny and I were at a meeting at the Cockette commune and then went home. We were out in front of the house—it was dark—and I noticed someone in the bushes, and I just thought that was weird. Someone was in the bush, what’s that about? We were high and didn’t overthink it. So, we went inside and woke Aaron up. He got up, we took off our clothes, and sat around the kitchen table half-naked. All of a sudden, there was a bop bop bop, a big knock on the door, and I said, 'Who the hell is that?' Am I expecting anybody? No, no, no, no. Who is that? Oh, I don't know. I got up, I opened the door, and there was a girl there. She was sweating—her hair was stringy because she was sweating—and she said, 'Billy Moorer’s outside, Billy Moorer’s outside.' I looked behind her to the lobby of the building, and there was no one there. She kept saying, 'Billy Moorer’s outside, Billy Moorer’s outside, Billy Moorer’s outside.' I'm like, what are you talking about? She then asks if we had a back door. I said, 'Yeah, there is a back door off of the little screened-in patio. The stairs go down to the back of the building.' She asked, 'Can I go through the back,' like she was being chased. I said, yeah, fine, just go do your thing.
I went back to the table, sat down, picked up the joint, took another couple of hits, and passed it around to Aaron and Johnny. All of a sudden, here she comes to the back door where I let her out of. She screams, 'Billy Moorer’s outside, and he's coming in.' Following her are nine narcotics officers chasing her through my house with two minors practically naked smoking marijuana. Aaron grabbed the bag of marijuana and started to run across the room. One narcotics officer tackled him to the floor, held the bag of marijuana up in the air, put his pistol to the marijuana, and said, 'Ah-ha!' He was going to shoot the pot, right? Now, they're all over my house. Then, this big, fat, matron cop starts to handcuff us and went through everything looking for more stuff. I said, 'You're wasting your time. There's nothing else here.' She’s going through my headdress in my closet, my high heels, disco platform boots, everything. She's tearing my house apart in front of us. Finally, they took the three of us and brought us downstairs to the basement where there were six junkies who had already been busted. Then they call for a paddy wagon. They took us to Park Station in Golden Gate Park. Johnny and Aaron were both minors. I thought they're just going to release Johnny to his mother, who lived in the Sunset District. Her name was Jerry, she took LSD, and was cool. She came and got Johnny. I told Aaron to lie and say, you're not a minor; otherwise, they will call your parents. We don't want to bring them into it. His parents were up in Fairfield. They were pigs, bigoted pigs. We sat there until they transferred us to the Bryant Street jail. When we got there, there were like 50 men going into a giant cell block. They were entering the cell one by one. The sergeant came down the line and told Aaron and me to go to the end of the line. He didn't explain why.
When they let all the men in, the sergeant came up to me and said, 'Pardon me, we're just wondering, are you two homos?' I slapped Aaron and said, 'What do you mean, homo? When I get out of here, I'm gonna get me some pussy. Pussy, man, pussy juice, pussy juice!' The alternative to going where the men were was the Queen Tank, which was directly across. I am pretty sure the reason why they called attention to me being gay was because I was wearing a woman's coolant and a little halter top with a frilly bottom. While I was with the men, they said, 'We were just wondering why are you wearing women's clothing?' I said, 'You know what, these are my wife’s. The narcs didn’t even give me a chance to put on my own clothes, and I had to put on something of my wife’s. This is ridiculous, they didn’t even let me change!—pussy juice, pussy juice, god damn it!' The men believed me, but then the men started picking on poor Aaron. They were calling him Hot Whips Margaret, and they were saying, when the lights go out tonight, we're going to bust your butt, we're going to bust your butt. He was terrified. He was crying, saying, 'Oh Rumi, I don't know what to do.' I said, 'Oh, they're just jiving, just jive back with them. Say you are going to bust their butt first.' I wouldn't let them scare me. I just shot it right back at them. I saw the queens just across from us, and they were like hard-bitten whores and trannies. They would perform for us. They would make drag out of their little jail uniforms and tie them in knots and do little shows, which were really, really amusing. I told Aaron to lie and jive back. We were there all day, and eventually, the lights did go out. I had a show to do that night as Mick Jagger in Les Ghouls. I thought I was going to have to cancel. About 20 minutes after the lights went out, we heard someone yell, 'Missabu and Robinson' We were bailed out by the director of Elevator Girls in Bondage, Michael Kalmen and, the Cockette, hippie, doctor, Leonce Evans. I ran to the theater and did the show that night.