Doris Fish as Captain Tracy Daniels in "Vegas In Space". Photo by Robin Clark.

Born Philip Clargo Mills in Sydney, Australia August 11, 1952. Died June 22, 1991 in San Francisco, California.

Note: The Craig Seligman biography quite fairly uses the male pronoun to describe Doris, as Doris/Philip did indeed identify as a cis man. This website, however, uses the female pronoun for Doris, as that is how Doris has most often been referred to by friends and fans alike. Even when presenting as Philip, close friends usually called him Doris and she/her.


The middle child of a Catholic family of six, raised in the Sydney suburb Manly Vale, Philip was encouraged from a young age as an artist, performer, decorator, and playful cross-dresser by tolerant and loving parents who supported him when he came out as gay at age 18. He was enthralled with the glamourous and vibrant Sydney drag scene in the late 1960s and began participating as a performer in November of 1972 when he and his best friend Peter McMahon (later known as Jasper Havoc) joined the newly formed drag collective Sylvia and the Synthetics. The group performed “anti-drag” drag, a chaotic, anarchic, and confrontational brand of drag that had little to do with classic, glamorous female impersonation. Philip’s early drag was inexpert and sometimes dowdy, wearing frumpy hats, glasses and house dresses, more like his mother than the mo0vie star he would become. But he loved the extreme, riotous nature of Synthetics shows.

“The Synthetics,” Doris told me, “offered an outlet where you could be theatrical and really draggy in any way you wanted, because it was satire. You could be hideous if you wanted to be, or you could just throw yourself around onstage without having an act. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, drag to be feminine. The look was just to get a look. Just—‘Look!’”

Excerpt From
Who Does That Bitch Think She Is?
Craig Seligman

A collage of Sylvia and the Synthetics photos and graphics from the Australian memorial book printed in 1991.

Through the Synthetics, he met Danny Abood (Miss Abood) a tall, Lebanese queen who brought the threat of violence to his performances, the beautiful Jaqueline (Jackie) Hyde, and a young Carmel Strelein. All became important, lifelong friends.

Around this time, Philip adopted the drag name “Doris Fish”, allegedly inspired by actress Doris Day and a cat named Lilian Fish. At the time, he claimed ignorance of the use of “fish” as gay slang for women.

The Synthetics performed increasingly notorious and sometimes pornographic shows though 1974. Members came and went over time, and by the last show on December 31, 1974 the troupe consisted of Doris, Miss Abood, and Jasper Havoc.

This period was documented by Australian photographer William Yang and photos of the the trio appear in photographer Barry Kay’s book The Other Women.

Doris spent half of 1979 in Australia, performing with Cabaret Conspiracy and painting murals at a gay bar called the Barracks and writing a column for Campaign. It was during this time that her friend Jasper Havok perished in a house fire.

After relocating to San Francisco, Doris returned to Sydney on a semi-annual basis, visiting family, performing in shows, and working as an artist for the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras.


Doris visited San Francisco for the first time in March 1975, and returned for an extended stay in the summer of 1976. That year she won a talent competition to join the proto-punk rock band The Tubes which was looking for oddball acts to compliment their bizarre shows. This led to friendships with fellow audition winner Pearl E Gates and with Jane Dornacker, Leila and the Snakes leader and a future collaborator on Blonde Sin. Other than the Tubes run, Doris’ only known public performance during this time was in Halloween Harlots, the October 1976 revue organized by Ambi Sextrous through whom Doris met Tippi.

Returning to San Francisco in fall 1977, Doris worked with James Moss on his magazine San Francisco Gay Life-Where It’s At, an unfinished film called Magazine Movie and Kalendar, a free gay bar magazine. Doris, Tippi, and Freda Lay performed with Leila and the Snakes for a Halloween 1978 show.

San Francisco Drag Queens Doris Fish and the Sluts A Go-Go. Tippi, Freda Lay, Doris Fish, Miss X. 1982 promotional photo by Eddie Troia.
Doris Fish headshot. Photograph by Martin Ryter. 1981

Doris returned to San Francisco in July 1979 after a successful run of shows in Sydney. In September, Tippi introduced her to Brad Chandler at a party at Ambi Sextrous‘ house. Brad was recruited to help write a script and perform in drag for a halloween show at the Gay Community Center. The show was the debut of the Sluts A Go-Go, and the trio would perform with a variety of co-stars (Jane Dornacker, Ginger Quest, Freda Lay) and for the next decade where the reigning Drag Queens of San Francisco.

Their first hit was 1980’s Blonde Sin, which ran for over a year. In 1983 they began filming Vegas In Space with director Phillip R Ford. The film was in post-production throughout the decade and was finally released in 1991, and has been a cult classic ever since, the greatest drag queen movie ever made. In the meantime, they performed in Naked Brunch directed by Mark Huestis, Nightclub of the Living Dead, the Happy Hour shows, the Gay Cable Network. They performed together theatrically in the Bad Seed, and Doris starred by herself in Jean Genet’s The Balcony. Doris also worked in 1981 with Martin Ryter on Click TV, a pioneering gay television magazine style show that never aired. In 1982 she acted in the play Torn Tulle directed by Chuck Solomon.

Doris Fish and the Sluts A Go-Go were also models for the extremely successful line of comic greeting cards by West Graphics, a San Francisco company run by Randy West. From 1981-1989 they produced hundreds of different cards that spread their image (as well as gay camp sensibilities) across the country and world as tourists snapped up the funny, artful cards and attached them to bulletin boards and refrigerators at home.

Doris, as Philip, made his living primarily as a male prostitute in both Sydney and San Francisco, which is discussed at great length in the Craig Seligman book, as is his painful illness and death from AIDS in 1991. Doris was open about her illness towards the end of her life, writing about it in her column for the Sentinel.

In 1990, her community organized a benefit show for her at the Victoria theater in San Francisco, Who Does That Bitch Think She Is?. The event was sold out, with lines around the block of people eager to pay tribute to her. San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos declared November 3, 1990 Doris Fish Day. When she died it was announced on the front pages of the San Francisco newspapers. Her film Vegas In Space premiered just a few months after she died, the most bittersweet timing.

Since then, her memory has remained vital and alive in those who knew her or saw her perform. Her influence on the art of drag is enormous, though under-appreciated by the drag crazy culture of today.

Poster for the Who Does That Bitch Think She Is benefit show at the Victoria Theater, Novemeber 3, 1990. Courtesy Mark Huestis.

Doris Fish Photo Archive