How do you describe Divine? asks Tim Baros. He was flamboyant, shocking, and even stunning. Harris Glenn Milstead was Divine, a man who became famous for starring in films directed by John Waters and who became even more famous for just being Divine. In this movie, which open today, Jeffrey Schwarz gives us the entire story of Divine which was the opening night film at last year's London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Born an only child in 1945 in Baltimore, Maryland to a conservative family, Harris Glen was an overweight child who in his teens realised he was different because of his attraction to men, though he did have a girlfriend in high school.
And then at the age of 17 Harris Glenn met filmmaker John Waters, and his life would never be the same again. Both were from the same neighbourhood, and with their new found friendship Divine started hanging out with Waters' group of misfit friends. It was Waters who named him Divine, and would eventually have him star in ten of his films.
In Eat Your Makeup Divine played Jackie Kennedy and he and Waters recreated the John F. Kennedy assassination, with Divine covering up the actor playing JFK, whilst climbing onto the back of the convertible. It was 1965 and not many people at that time thought it was funny.
Divine then found his way to San Francisco where he performed on stage with the Cockettes, a famous psychedelic drag queen group. However, it was John Waters' next film that would take him to another level of stardom. Pink Flamingos, made on a budget of $10,000, shocked America and the world because of one scene, the scene where Divine eats actual dog poo. After this, Divine was soon hanging out with Andy Warhol and going to Studio 54, being mobbed at airports, and it a life Harris Glenn had never dreamed that he would have.
Another movie, Female Trouble, followed, and then Divine was off to New York to star in a play called Women Behind Bars. It was here that he became the centre of the New York party scene, hanging out with the likes of Andy Warhol and Elton John. It was a life the young Harris Glenn could never have dreamed he would have.
He became a singer, and had several hit records, and toured the country, but it was his weight that was started to cause him problems. He was smoking marijuana heavily and was eating lots.
He would have to stop shows halfway through just to catch his breathe. Another film followed, with the good-looking former teen idol Tab Hunter, called Filming Lust in the Dust in New Mexico with former teen idol Tab Hunter he had a hard time in the hot temperature. Then came Hairspray, which was John Water's most mainstream film, and with it, the best reviews of Divine's career.
He was at the pinnacle of stardom, but sadly it would come to an end as three weeks after Hairspray was released nationwide, Divine was dead of a massive heart attach.
I am Divine is just divine, and we finally get to know the man who was Divine.
I Am Divine, directed Jeffrey Schwarz is out now