Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Divine

1945 - DIVINE (ne Glenn Milstead), the American actor, was born on this date (d. 1988). Best known for his drag persona, Divine. In the 1970s, Milstead starred as Divine in a number of New York City theater pieces, including Tom Eyen's classic camp women's prison drama, Women Behind Bars, which was a major off-Broadway hit in 1976, playing the lead role of the evil matron, Pauline. Divine returned to the stage in another Tom Eyen off-Broadway play, The Neon Woman, where he played the role of Flash Storm, the owner of a sleazy strip club plagued by a series of murders. Eyen's play was loosely based on famed burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee's book, "The G-String Murders". He appeared with the Cockettes in San Francisco. After their New York bomb, the Cockettes came back to San Francisco and performed their final show in the summer of 1972, "Journey to the Center of Uranus." Divine, joined the group, in her San Francisco debut, performing her song "The Crab at the Center of Uranus" dressed as a lobster.

Milstead starred in a number of films and was part of the regular cast known as the Dreamlanders. The Dreamlanders appeared in many of John Waters' earlier works such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray. In 1985 Milstead appeared opposite Tab Hunter in their hit Lust in the Dust, repeating their successful pairing in Polyester. He is also remembered as a major character in the documentary homage Divine Trash by Steve Yeager, covering the life and work of John Waters. Late in his career, Milstead also played in non-drag roles in his last three films: Trouble in Mind, Hairspray, and Out of the Dark. In Hairspray he played two roles, one male and one female (which he had first done in the earlier Female Trouble).

Here's what Divine had to say about his "Edna Turnblad":

"For all those people who always thought I was nothing more than a drag queen, wait until they see what I agreed to look like in Hairspray! Drag queens are supposed to be hung up on glamooouur. Meanwhile, on my first day on location, I came out as Edna Turnblad--in my flip-flops and hideous housedress, with varicose veins drawn on my nubble-shaved legs and everything that is wrong with me accentuated, schlepping along in these pin curls and barely any makeup--and I walked right by the crew. Just kept going. Not one person on the set recognized me or even noticed me, because I looked like half the women in Baltimore. I had to go up to John and stand face-front for him to realize who I was. He was thrilled. I was crushed."

Divine was the inspiration for the design of Ursula the Sea-Witch in the Disney classic The Little Mermaid.

1 comment:

libhom said...

I miss Divine. I wonder if she ever got her cha cha heels.