Thursday, 1 August 2013

THE “I AM DIVINE” DOC






Last evening screening at the Fantasia Film Festival featured a documentary about gay icon Divine from the makers of SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY. Now, you know that Sleaze Factor just had to have a look at this, since Divine and John Waters are the epitome of sleaze, with such classics as FEMALE TROUBLE and PINK FLAMINGOS under their belts. Speaking of FEMALE TROUBLE. I saw this one more than a decade ago on a rainy day when I was looking for something cheap but highly engrossing to watch. And you know how finicky one can get when on a movie hunt. I rolled and rolled in the aisles until I grabbed this title up. I couldn’t remember ever having seen it, but once popped in, I fell in love. This variation on VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and on every women behind bars flick is not only a hoot to watch but is—like any Walters oeuvre—thought-provoking. I dare anyone to lose interest during the film’s first five minutes. You can’t keep your eyes away. You just can’t.

 
But back to I AM DIVINE. The movie house was packed to the hilt for this Quebec premiere, seats filled with every colorful cat imaginable. My partner was the only guy in attendance who wasn’t really into Divine. Warning: before you go about bombarding him (or me) with hate mail, let me just say in his defense that he’s more of the classic type, but has an open mind when it comes to pop culture (I mean, he’s living with me for Heaven’s sake), and he actually came out of this flick with a new respect for this 300 pound entertainer. The doc goes from his humble beginnings as ostracized gay teen Harris Glenn Milstead to his superstar status as Divine, with interviews from Waters, numerous co-stars and friends, and even his once estranged mom who really loved him despite an on and off relationship. Photos and film archives abound, showing a different kind of Divine behind the lens. Turns out the guy was a big pothead, but more importantly he was a sensitive soul who, like the rest of us, yearned to be accepted, especially as a straight-shooting actor. Which almost came to fruition (he was set to play uncle Otto on MARRIED WITH CHILDREN) before his untimely death from a stroke.
 
 
Sad as this may be, one thing is certain: it was a heck of a thrill being gay during the Divine years. Everywhere you went, there she was: in movies, on stage, in music… Hearing her smash underground hit I’M SO BEAUTIFUL or STEP BY STEP last evening made me go back to that particular time when I was all young and hip—and a little lost, I must say (who isn’t when you’re in your early 20s?). It all came back at once: the big hairdos, the dance clubs, the men, and yes, the drugs. But underneath it all was the comfort and joy of finally belonging somewhere, a place where I could, like little Harris Glenn Milstead from Baltimore Maryland, be myself.


 
 
Catch a screening of I AM DIVINE when it reaches your local film festival.


 


 
 
Until next post—Martin


 




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