Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John & Divine

These image hosting sites can eat up serious minutes on the clock. When the numbers of images are solidly in the billions, a simple search for say, "Divine" can illicit thousands of hits. I am sure when I went to the Photobucket site, I did not intend to download 25 images of Divine in various states of insanity. I cannot even remember downloading them. Yet when I cruised through my on site album, there they were. Divine in all her, er, his glory.

With no clue what to write about tonight, I decided to consider Divine and her, er his impact on my life. Certainly, claiming she, er he warped my young pot befuddled college mind back in the day and that's why I am what I am today would be easy to do. But it would be a cop out to blame anything worth blaming on a dead guy, er gal. I pretty much have made the bed I lay in now. Let's just say Divine, John Waters, and the 60s all had their effect on me. They rounded out the bizarre aspects of my coming of age period.

I was but a sophmore in college when Divine and John entered my life. Towson State, just north of Baltimore often had odd movies playing. There was also a very energetic local indie film movement. The Baltimore Film Festival was held at Towson when I went there. John Waters was at the center of it all. Filming locally and producing what still are the oddest and most disturbing flicks I had ever seen or would see in the future.

"Pink Flamingos" was an eye opener for me. It may be the most offensive movie ever made. And if it is not, then it sits comfortably in the top ten.

"Pink Flamingos" had it all. Cannibalism, sexual perversions galore, murder, mayhem and really really bad acting. Acting so bad, it was half the fun of the movie. Divine played Babs Johnson, the self proclaimed "filthiest" person alive. Mink Stole hated her for this and spent the entire movie trying to bring Divine down. The final shot had Divine winning the day by following a little poodle and when it pooped, she ate it. Her title safely intact.(Yes, Divine actually ate real bonafide dog poop freshly delivered)

I missed the premier, but caught it only a few weeks after it was released. That first viewing found me numb and dumb when it was over. I was sure it was the worst movie I had ever seen. It was not until I saw it the 3rd time did I come to appreciate what Waters and Divine were trying to do. Shock and awe cinema. Taking convention and viewing it through the eyes of a mad man. What a great movie.
Now a confirmed Waters fan, I have seen every movie of his I could. "Female Trouble" and "Desperate Living" marked the end of John's raw and jagged movie making. With Polyester, he had become famous enough to find real money to back his efforts. From then on his movies took on a more polished look. He went Hollywood. "Hairspray", "Serial Mom", "Pecker", "Cry Baby" all had real stars and high end production effort even if the plots still smelled like a Waters effort.

I guess what I really appreciate about Divine, John Waters, Mink Stole and Edith was their constant onslaught on the high moral ground America feels it is entitled to. That Life is not really as serious a business as most of us seem to think it is. That what some see as values are really just the manifestations of a part of our culture with a stick up it's butt. All they want is for us to lighten up. And watching them on the big screen helped me to do just that.

Many consider John Waters and his merry band from the 1970s a perfect example of how low our culture had sunk. The predictable aftermath of a generation that had not found it's limits. Over indulging and completely self absorbed, the baby boomers who grew up with "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver", had done a 180 from the settled and well ordered lifestyle of their parents. There had to be more to Life than a house in the burbs with a two car garage. Split level living was not their idea of pushing the edge.

In my mind, the Waters cast and crew were members of the cultural redefinition we have been going through since civil rights and the Cuban Missle Crisis. They realized along with countless others that America was not well paved streets with Americans busily building a better world. It was an illusion. America was pretending that ugliness did not exist. Ignoring the travesties and indulgences of a culture too uptight to vent itself safely. In my mind, I am grateful for their efforts.


KayInMaine said...

I loooove the campy side of life. Lots of fun. ;-)

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Many, many years ago, during an inebriated evening out to a nightclub in Toronto, my friends and I saw bits and pieces of a movie starring Divine. There was no sound, just the film playing on a large screen. The film itself was tame enough that it drew no complaints from the crowd, but the whole thing seemed out of place. Surreal, if you will.

Ah, memories.

Apertome said...

I saw "Pink Flamingos" in college, having no idea what I was getting myself into. It sure was raunchy! It went too far for my taste, and I don't offend easily.

The only other Waters film I've seen is "Pecker" and that one I did enjoy. Perhaps I should look into some of his other movies.