Queerty is better as a member
“Who wants to die for art?”
I love Divine, and John Water’s (JW)! Me and a couple of friends rented Pink Flamingo’s on VHS 1987-1988 or so. They kept it in the adult section, but a friend of the family that worked in the video store, let us rent it. Let’s just say she was not a pillar of the community. After watching it, my life had changed. I related to the characters and knew that I was different from the average kid in school, and I embraced it! Female Trouble remains one of my favorite JW films and I watch it at least a few times a year.
“Dawn, are you still a thief”
“Not as much as used to be, but I still rob houses!”
Divine – a classic. Died way too young.
“I Am Divine” made its debut at Frameline this spring. See it. It’s absolutely brilliant.
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Thank you for this tribute to the inimitable Divine.
Hairspray brought her to a wider audience, and has lost none of its punch or wit despite the passage of time or subsequent adaptations.
Another great Divine vehicle was Polyester, starring Tab Hunter, and which, I’m old enough to remember, debuted with “Odorama” cards! That movie still packs a wallop too.
I was lucky enough to first experience Pink Flamingos in its intended setting: TLA cinema, early 1974 Philadelphia, midnight showing, and the theater air actually fogged with pot smoke.
John Waters is quoted as having intended to “scare the whole world” with Multiple Maniacs and Flamingos after it. Today however, given the human atrocities trotted out on any week of Springer, Wilkos & Povich episodes, one shutters to imagine what Waters would have to come up with to set out with the same goal. Now, his 70s Dreamlanders seem like huggable zanies compared to what’s come since.
If it wasn’t a settled point already, after Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, there’s no further question that Divine was not only a star, but a true actor.
In Flamingos, Babs Johnson is nothing less than an implacable force of nature, and when challenged and crossed by Raymond and Connie Marble for the title of ‘filthiest person alive,’ exacts an irreversible revenge. You cannot look away from Babs, but you are also very intimidated by her.
Female Trouble, made with a considerably bigger budget thanks to Flamingos success, features a much stronger narrative. Divine’s character, Dawn Davenport is central again but vastly deepened and sympathetic. Dawn too triumphs in a sense, but from put-upon teenager to electric chair candidate, only after surviving betrayal by parents, teachers, a rapist, her husband and his aunt, her child, and mentor-neighbors, Donald and Donna Dasher.
Waters knew how to write for Divine and she returned the favor with a pair of performances that put both permanently on the map.
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