75. Divine

2.16.2010

By Michael Musto


To err is human, but to be big, boisterous, and funny is Divine. Fatty Arbuckle crossed with Liz Taylor, Divine peppered many a John Waters film with high-glam vamping and anything-goes camping. Born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore in 1945, Divine bonded with Waters at school, and the pair went on to become the Rossellini and Bergman of midnight movies, making outrageously hilarious filth fests that shook up cinema while giving gays a communal coming-out experience that left no gallstone unturned.

In Waters's 1972 classic Pink Flamingos, as Babs Johnson, Divvy was 'the filthiest person alive' and anxious to hold on to her laurels by going down on her son, drooling on her rival's furniture, and ingesting dog feces. He stayed nasty as a beauty-obsessed felon in Waters's Female Trouble (1974), but by the time the director cast him as Edna Turnblad in the original Hairspray (1988), it was clear that Divine had way more range than your average starlet could muster.

He was reportedly the basis for Ursula, the wicked sea hag in The Little Mermaid, and though they didn't give him the role, in 1988 he did get a male part on Married With Children -- all too perfect, since Peg Bundy had always seemed to be Divine with a vagina. Sadly, the influential comic actor -- who helped pave the way for today's raunchy screen comedies -- died of an enlarged heart the night before the taping.

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