Tomata du Plenty

1948 - 2000

Tomata DuPlenty, 52, Punker and Painter
Whose Career Spanned Several Eras
Tomata du Plenty, 52, a prolific stage performer and artist whose 33-year career stretched from the Summer of Love to the New Orleans art scene, died of cancer August 21 in San Francisco.
Best known as the lead singer of the late ’70s Los Angeles punk band The Screamers, Tomata seemed perpetually ahead of his times. He was in the forefront of the late 60s glitter scene as a member of San Francisco’s gender-bending drag troupe, The Cockettes, and was later a founding member of Seattle’s Ze Whiz Kidz, another performance troupe. He stopped performing in the early 1980s to become a painter, turning out hundreds of vivid portraits that he exhibited in storefront galleries across the country.
Tomata du Plenty was born David Xavier Harrigan in Queens, New York, of Irish immigrant parents. His family migrated to Montebello, Calif., when he was 9, and Tomata ran away to Hollywood at the age of 16.
He moved to San Francisco in 1967 where he joined the Cockettes, the hippie-glitter theater troupe that staged legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach. The company’s freewheeling shows and rhinestone-studded costumes anticipated and inspired the glam rock scene of David Bowie and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Their shows were attended by Diana Vreeland, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal; their then-scandalous film, “Tricia’s Wedding,” recast the marriage ceremony of first daughter Tricia Nixon as a psychedelic drag show. John Waters once described the Cockettes as “ the first hip drag queens…on stage and off..”
In the early ’70s Tomata wrote, acted, sang and danced with Ze Whiz Kids, a Seattle troupe that blended counterculture comedy with drag theater. The group staged nearly a hundred mini-musical revues with a cast that featured performers like Satin Sheets, Co Co Ritz, Daily Flo, Benny Whiplash, Michael Hautepants (costume designer Michael Murphy), Leah Vigeah and real females Louise Lovely (Di Linge) and Cha Cha Samoa (Cha Davis, now a painter). The group was widely credited with sparking a local renaissances in modern dance, performance art, punk and the gay underground in Seattle.
In 1972, Tomata joined friends Gorilla Rose and Fayette Hauser to bring guerrilla comedy to CBGB’s and other East Village clubs, working with then-unknown bands like the Stilettos (later Blondie) and the Ramones. “I used to do Pat Suzuki between their sets,” he said.
In 1972 -73 Tomata and company staged two Palm Casino Revues at the Bowery Lane Theater. In between shows, he found time to write an advice column for a pornographic newspaper and operate a thrift store.
Returning to Seattle, Tomata formed a drag-rock band called The Tupperwares with Melba Toast (later Tommy Gear). The band re-formed in Los Angeles in 1977, picking up drummer K.K. Barrett and keyboardist David Brown, and a new name, The Screamers. Brown was later replaced by Paul Roessler.
As much theater as rock band, The Screamers eschewed guitars and featured two keyboards, one drummer and assaultive lyrics mostly written and sung by Tomata. Their sound and anticipated the techno rock of the early ’80s. Their look–foot-high hair and ripped clothes–was achieved with the help of hair sprays, gels and a full-time stylist (Chloe Pappas).
From 1977-81 the band played consecutive sold-out performances at L.A.’s top music venues, including the Whisky, the Starwood and the Roxy, but despite several offers never signed a record deal.
The band’s last performance, without keyboardist Gear, was at the Whisky-A-Go Go in 1981. Two years before MTV, it incorporated music video with live performances by Tomata, K.K., Shari Penquin and the Fabulous Sheela. Much of the film was later used in a full-length feature, “Population: One,” produced and directed by Dutch filmmaker Rene Daalder and featuring a cast of L.A. musicians and scene-makers, including a preschool Beck Hansen.
Tomata was a prolific writer, scenarist and lyricist who wrote scores of songs, plays, sketches, and musicales. His stage presence was magnetic, his voice loudly unconventional. He was fond of quoting an old review by Rex Reed, “No talent is not enough,” but hundreds of avid fans disagreed.
Tomata returned to the stage several times in the early ’80s with Gorilla Rose and other friends at the Anti-Club and L.A.C.E. for the Weird Live Show. He produced “A Shakespeare Travesty” in 1985, blending the work of the real Bard with camp comedy.
In 1987 he moved to Miami’s South Beach, where he continued the painting career he had started three years earlier. His exhibits–in bars, restaurants and small galleries–were often arranged around a single theme, saluting his favorite poets, TV stars, country Western singers and boxers.
Tomata once said he would rather sell 100 pictures for $25 than one picture for $2,500.
In the early 1990s he directed a series of short films with Los Angeles filmmaker Kevin Kierer, including “Mr. Baby” featuring Styles Caldwell, and “Pick Up on Olvera Street” featuring Juan Garza. He coaxed ’50s TV horror-movie hostess Vampira out of retirement, and featured her in several performances and films.
Last July, he returned to Los Angeles for an exhibit at Beyond Baroque in Venice. His opening reception included readings and performances by an eclectic assortment of longtime friends, including the Oh! Sisters, the Groovy Rednecks, Pleasant Gehman and Vampira.
Tomata’s last major show, “Black Leather Kerouac,” featured watercolors of the beat generation and was held at Cafe Vesuvio in San Francisco’s North Beach. Fellow punk veterans Jello Biafra and Penelope Houston performed at his opening.
At the time of his death Tomata was researching opera singers for a planned exhibit at the Glendale Art Library.



  1. 6 years

    Am I obsessed with you, TDP? Maybe I am. We planned and joked for so long about growing old together and you deserted me. I’d grow old with Satz and Fayette but they refuse to admit to getting older. So I’ll continue to lose touch with reality as the years go by and eventually I’ll believe we’re growing old together even tho I’ll be by myself. Maybe that’s who all those people are talking to that we see walking around seemingly talking to themselves. It won’t be long before I’ll be joining them. Only I won’t even know you’re not there winking and nudging me along. At least maybe my delusions will bring me comfort. I miss you. And I was right, growing old without you is lonely.

    Chuck E

  2. Anniversary

    Tomata, as I was riding the train from San Jose to SF on friday, I was overwhelmed with so many thoughts of you. For one thing, it was exactly 5 years ago to the day that I last saw you alive. It was Satz’s b’day and we were celebrating by getting him a DVD player. I was now on my way to celebrate his birthday once again. It’s so hard to comprehend that you have been gone for 5 years now. I suppose it’s because I’ve thought of you everyday since you’ve left. Also, just the fact that I was riding a train made me think of you. Trains were always our favorite mode of transportation. The first year of our lives together revolved around the train. Every friday evening I would go to the Portland AMTRAK station and you would go to the one in Seattle. If there was a Whiz show that weekend, you would be meeting my incoming train and we would stroll over to the show in the Sub Room in the beautiful historic Smith Tower – once the tallest building outside of NYC. If there was no Whiz show that weekend I’d meet your incoming train and we’d stroll to my apartment in the Stelwynn just down the street from the outrageously racist Sambo’s Restaurant. Our first year together was like something from an old movie. We both found the train trips to be incredibly romantic. I still had one year left of my 2-year obligation of serving the good old USA as a Conscientious Objector. So even if we wanted to live together in the same city, we were unable to do so.
    And for the next 30 years, trains continued to bring us together or pull us apart. Until I get to be re-united with you – if such things truly happen – I will continue to travel on trains, listening to tapes of Bix Beiderbeck or Cab Calloway and make believe you’re riding along side of me or waiting for me at the final stop.
    I miss the hell out of you, Tomata!
    Love-Chuck E

    Chuck E


    Dear TDP-The next time I see you you’re getting a knuckle sandwich for letting me get OLDER than you! Until that day I will continue to miss the hell out of you!

    $5 Buck E

  4. I miss you

    Tomata, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of you and miss the hell out of you!

    Doll Face

  5. Tomata, as a Screamer, was one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen. Thanks to those who put together these video remebrances of him… it appears that his greatness wasn’t limited to the stage.


  6. Missing you

    Tomata, the passage of time hasn’t made it any easier to live without you.

    Chuck Fulton

  7. Tomata was a real one of a kind guy. I heard the Screamers and fell in love. He’ll be missed by many.


  8. Tomata Forever

    I’ve only been a fan for about 2 years, and I’m sorry to see you are on another plane. I sent you an email wanting to comission a picture and I wondered what the !@#$ was taking you so long to reply!! Guess I’ll have to wait, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it. Best to you my friend I never met, your memory continues to last. Love New Wave Nolan….

    New Wave Nolan

  9. Wish you were here...

    I wish he was here, and I couldv’e been there with all you cronies to say “so long”..I loved Tonata deeply and he gave me an inner-strength that I may never find in another soul.He was an individual that I was lucky to have known and I thank him for that.Get in touch with me..before I’m gone,eh? Email me. love & kisses, Cherie Penguin

    Cherie the Penquin

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