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Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Divine! A Remembrance

Divine in perhaps his most famous role, as Dawn Davenport, in "Female Trouble"
I remember having breakfast in Earl's Court, London, while on vacation in '88. The radio was playing pop tunes that went with the glitter-painted walls on that sunny March morning, and then the news interrupted. It was announced that Divine had died.

It was only weeks before when I saw John Waters with Harris Glenn Milstead (Divine) on the red carpet at Greenwich Village's Waverly Theater for the premiere of "Hairspray." Milstead had eschewed being in drag as his famed alter ego.

I had an even closer encounter with Divine, in front of the old Bleecker Street Theater in New York. Divine was milling about in front of the old movie house, on the theater's pillared portico, in full drag. She was with a gaggle of men, holding court, and I stood across the way with a friend of mine, watching her and conversing, waiting for the doors to open for the night's showing of "Pink Flamingos," amongst a small sea of moviegoers. Suddenly, Divine broke from her group, stalked directly over to my friend and I, and said hello, towering over me in stillettos. (Milstead was 6'2" without the heels; I'm 5'5".)

So, there we were, and I was very flattered to have the larger-than-life "underground" movie star begin pawing my chest and lavishing attention on me with trademark, camp eye and lip gestures I couldn't take seriously. I was young then, and in tight blue jeans and a black shirt boasting pink flamingos across my chest. A fan of Divine's since I saw "Pink Flamingos" when it debuted in NYC at the Elgin Theater in Chelsea, I chatted it up, even though starstruck. It was a lively conversation, though I don't recall what was said. I do remember laughing a lot.

Divine with Andy Warhol at Studio 54
The doors opened, we went inside, and Divine was escorted away as she was about to take to the stage to intro the film and do a q&a with the audience afterwards. It all remains a memorable event in my life, this brush (literally) with celebrity.

So, cheers! Happy Birthday, Divine, for all the joy you brought us through your films and dance music. And for that brief but thrilling encounter on Bleecker Street that I'll never forget. Wikipedia labels Divine a cult figure; I consider Divine a superstar.


  1. And I'll never forget your introducing me to the Divine canon of movies during my early days in NYC! Thank you, Buddy!

  2. Great memories. Divine, and the equally incomparable Leigh Bowery, have proven to be enormously influential on fashion and pop culture ever since their first coming out. Sadly too many people now steal from both without even knowing that they're doing it (Gaga excepted, she knows—or at least Lady Starlight knows, which is the same thing).

  3. Thanks, Edgekabaret & Johnny. Long live Divine!

  4. What a wonderful story, dj B.B., and thanks for sharing it!