Postcards From Divine
This photo album is an endearing tribute to Glenn Milstead, who is much better known to the world as his drag persona, Divine. Fans of the ever-divine Divine and John Waters’ ever-fabulous underground gross-out films will treasure this look inside the world of Waters’ biggest star.
In the introduction, we learn that Milstead, who died in 1988 at age 43, was hardly a model son. He constantly lied to his parents to get money and was pretty much a layabout when he was discovered by Waters in Provincetown. A nucleus of performers was formed in the Massachusetts town that would shortly in Baltimore come to include Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Mary Vivan Pearce and, of course, Edith Massey.
In Waters’ early 8MM films, Divine developed the kabuki make-up, flesh-revealing outfits, mile-high wigs and truck-driver-on-a-runway walk that would catapult him to international stardom. Along the way, he developed some serious acting chops, along with a cabaret act. I remember a critic in the New York Times bemoaning the fact that Divine’s performance in "Polyester" was the best by a woman that year.
I just saw "Hairspray" again and was once again blown away by the naturalness of Divine’s acting. In his commentary, John Waters notes that Divine said anyone who said that his drab housewife get-up should convince anyone that he’s more than merely a "drag queen." He also noted that the Baltimore housewives on the set as extras assumed Divine was one of them. Truly a remarkable personality.
The book consists mostly of postcards written by Divine to her parents from various places. One funny consistency is that, in any country with a standing monarchy, Divine’s postcards always portrayed a queen (well, Princess Ann in Scotland). The writing on the postcards itself is pretty much the boilerplate stuff any kid writes to his mom -- the flight, the hotel, the food, the sights.
What makes it all special is that this is Divine writing this. Frances Milstead, who seems like a very normal person (and a good sport), was instrumental in providing the material for this scrapbook, which includes photos, reminiscences and a timeline.
by Norah Brodie, Dan Marshall, Frances Milstead and Michael O’Quinn
Available at Amazon.com.