aka Michael Joseph Collins
1958 - 1995
Like Mary Poppins or the Wizard of Oz, Diet Popstitute was too exciting and fun to be a real person. Except he was. If he seemed fantastic it was because his ability to free people from the confines of the conventional bordered on magic. When you were in his presence doors to cages you never knew you were in flung themselves open and the laws of nature voluntarily suspended themselves.
Born to an Irish-Catholic, working class family in Pittsfield, Massachussets, Diet came to San Francisco in the late '70s to reinvent himself and was so successful he ended up reinventing San Francisco as well. He began by giving impromptu recitals of his poetry in front of the old Stud. Soon he was manifesting his playful, queer, campy, and militantly avant garde sensibility through The Popstitutes (his performance art/musical group), Klusbstitute (his queer cabaret/night club), and Playstitute (his theater production company).
Diet was a tireless champion of political engagement, sexual liberation, and self-expression. He will be remembered for his love of Dino the dinosaur, pornography, Punk & New Wave, Asian food, and basketball, as well as his generosity, idealism, intelligence, sharp wit (and tongue), and amazing fashion sense. He is greatly loved and missed by all who knew him.
a more complete Bio:
Diet's entertainment obsession began in childhood, a period he spent hiding from bullies and coercing the neighborhood kids into appearing in his self-written & directed plays. A teenage Bowie freak he read After Dark magazines, and dreamed of escape, and after one miserable year of college at U. MASS, hopped a bus to San Francisco.
Well, almost. First there was a year in mellow Marin, land of hot tubs, marijuana, and healthy naturalistic outdoorsy life-styles. Diet could have become a well-adjusted member of society, but a voice inside told him he was destined for more. Much more. Inspired by the poems of Patti Smith and Jim Carroll's "Basketball Diaries", he moved to San Francisco to experience the stimulating cultural vitality, the magic of urban decay, and hopefully... meet some boys. It had become apparent to even himself (the cruel jocks in school had known all along) that he was an invert, a creature of the night, a homosexual. Rather than moving to the gay ghetto though, he lived in a series of sleazy residence hotels, he became a regular on the burgeoning local Punk scene, befriending such luminaries as Jennifer Blowdryer, Don Vinyl, Bambi Lake, Nyna Napalm, Ginger Coyote, and his incredibly loyal sidekick Alvin ¿ Go Go (aka Alvin Orloff, if you haven't already guessed).
In 1980 Diet moved to New York City and became a proto-club kid, but tiring of the filth and poverty, soon returned to S.F. to take his place at the center of the art fag social whirlwind. He began writing poems, often performed impromptu in front of the old Stud just after closing, much to the shock and delight of the intoxicated barflies. In 1986, he, Alvin, and their friend Brad resolved, in drunken fit of passion to start a musical/performance-art group dedicated to jolting their fellow homos out of their status crazed, Dynasty-watching, conformist stupor. The music consisted of backing tapes Diet created using a sampler & 4 track while Bad played piano and saxophone. Diet sang, using his poems for lyrics with Alvin on back up. The resulting sound was years ahead of it's time.
Calling themselves "The Popstitutes" (meant to suggest Pop Prostitutes) they developed a stage show featuring costume changes for every song, and action dramatizing the lyric's themes (queer bashing, narcissistic media addiction, what have you). Well over 20 people of all genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations (with an admitted preponderance of sexy young boys) were recruited into the shows. Like his hero Andy Warhol, Diet put the talents of everyone around him to good use. From Fruit Fly he commissioned costumes, from Tyler Bob Ingenue, large elaborate props. He had Zeon choreograph dances, and Alvin write amusing theater programs. The group performed at all the local night clubs, creating a stir with their homoerotic imagery & high camp antics. Impossible to pigeonhole musically, they opened for groups as diverse as The Del Rubio Triplets and Gwar, and also performed at ACT UP and QUEER NATION protests, a Hagen Daaz ice cream parlor, a Pagan acid orgy, U.C. Riverside, and a Tupperware party. The last performance was in 1994 at a "Smutfest" in London, England.
Always eager to hear new voices, in 1989 Diet began "Inner Chaos", an open mike for spoken word and poetry at Chaos, a Mission district dance club. It grew in popularity to the point where it required it's own night. KLUBSTITUTE opened on February 13th, 1990 as a one night a week cabaret-style club with Diet as madcap MC and booker, Alvin as DJ, Brad as barback/decorator, Tyler Bob as doorman/decorator, and Fruit Fly as hostess.
Klubstitute featured a bewildering variety of talent: Punk and Riot Grrrl bands, spoken word artists, drag extravaganzas, protest marches, theme nights, art exhibits, and full-scale theatrical productons. It quickly became a favorite of queer politicos, literati, glitterati, differently-gendered persons, as well as all manner of unaffiliated oddballs. Diet used his personal charisma to help put across the most unlikely acts to the diverse and demanding crowd and relentlessly encouraged audience members to develop their own talents and join the fun. Moving from venue to venue the club picked up many new devotees and continues to this day as the Klubstitute Kollective.
Never content to rest on his laurels, in 1992 he and friend Andrew Wood formed PLAYSTITUTE, a queer oriented theatrical production agency which brought to life "Carrie, The Play" by The Sick & Twisted Players and "Beach Party On The Black Lagoon" by the Modacrylic Players, and "Phillip R. Ford's Dolls."
Diet always kept a stunningly high profile. Ever fashion forward, he was often seen around town with his hair dyed some unnatural hue and his name spelled out on the back of his head in yet another color. A true club creature, he rarely spent a night at home, and was never happier than when entertaining or being entertained. After being diagnosed with HIV in 1989 he became active in promoting alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, chinese herbs, and clean living. He died in 1995 at the age of 37 after a violent struggle with a number of hateful complications from HIV, but continues to live in the memories of countless people who's lives he touched and changed.
By Richard Lorange
Smashing through the roofbeams, the
imperious Popstitute doth rise:
his hair tiaras in the sky,
his smile unwinds, his mimsy eyes
glitter in the neon night,
Accessoried and manicured,
impeccably attired he
inspects the city sprawled below:
he sees the frenzied mammals in
the streets, he smells the sweetening sweat
of discotheques, he hears the cries
of passion in the living room.
His smile flares into a laugh,
a roar, a mesmerizing and
subaural boom that penetrates walls,
throbs through groins and genetic codes,
and passes in a pulsing hum,
an aria of echoes that
divorce the future from its course.
He lifts his favorite finger and
a thousand lovers come at once.
What city quakes before the grinning
rake? What army mambos to
his sirened song? What chaos blurts
his vision through the urgent murk
of day? What new species stalks
the tender light of cabaret?
Crashing through the roofbeams, the
intrepid sonofabitch doth rise.
He stops, and looks around the room.
The party rages on. He blows
a kiss, and with a bow (no doubt),
he takes his leave, and shuts the door
behind. Thrice a nightbird screams.
Every dancer in the world stands still.
A long silence, a dripping sink,
a paper rustling at the door.
Somewhere unutterably far,
a lone star cracks in the night.
Then someone howls, and everyone howls,
and everyone stands on tables and howls,
and all the radios turn on at once,
every music plays at once,
every song is sung at once,
every hear beats at the same
hits a million-mirrored moon
and the lights are UP, the stars careen
around the telepathic hive,
every scrap of polyester
comes alive, all the dogs
dance in the streets, all the flowers
bloom in cacophony,
billions of pigeons become balloons
and drift into the light, and for
a moment, everyone can fly.
by Diet Popstitute
a rusty ole lamp
emits a barely useful glow
thru its artfully
tattered and torn shade
so i light an equally
listening to more Morrissey
singing of yet another sad loss
with anger towards the wretched boss
as i finish for the 12th time
Brideshead and then turn to Nausea
with words i know too well
in layers of blankets i dwell
smelling the sweet and sorrow
living the hell of details
the eternity of each (damned) hour
designing a glamorously doomed tomb
choosing pictures, patterns, images
for each wall of my pathetic room
feel sorry for me as the wind
might on a rainy night
that says to pity oneself
is the last desperate delight
crying tears for failing health
pride in shame the poverty of wealth
satire the wine of sour grapes
plotting for doomed escapes
enjoy, enjoy, the ghastly play
gloomy decor and disarray
symbols meant to seal the coffin
reapers visit here so often
dark clothing worn upon these days
let shaddows rest amongst the haze
empty spirits not yet distilled
flee from the rising sun unwilled
for fatherland and kingdom come
the stench of flowers in decay
a life of sadness
dying in beautific poses