LPCA film series features ‘I Am Divine’ Friday

LAKE PLACID – The Lake Placid Center for the Arts’ Late Night Film Series features “I Am Divine” at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2.

“I Am Divine” is a documentary directed by Jeffrey Schwarz about Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, John Waters’ cinematic muse who became an international drag icon. Tickets are $6 and available at the door. For more information, call the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 518-523-2512.


Young, chubby Harris Glenn Milstead liked musicals, was drawn to feminine pursuits, and was bullied. He was privately playing “dress-up games” in his mother’s clothes. By 1963, Glenn was brave enough to show up at a party with his then girlfriend dressed as Elizabeth Taylor, among the many glamorous stars he openly idolized.

It was around that time that Glenn met the man who was about to change his life – John Waters. Like Glenn, Waters was obsessed with movies and they bonded over the films of Russ Meyer and Jayne Mansfield. They began to forge a new character, one which mocked the conventional “pretty” drag queens that aspired to look as real as possible. With Waters’ encouragement, this character started to emerge. She was outrageous, outlandish and obviously overweight. Glenn’s wicked, rebellious side matched the sensibilities of Waters, and John christened his new star “Divine” and they started making films together.

“Eat Your Makeup” (1967) featured Glenn as Jackie Kennedy in a reenactment of the Kennedy assassination. “Mondo Trasho” (1969) features Divine as a busty, blonde bombshell trashing around town. In “Multiple Maniacs” (1970), Divine plays a homicidal criminal who goes on a killing spree and is raped by a giant lobster.

When the San Francisco drag troupe The Cockettes got wind of Divine and John Waters, they flew them both out for a command performance.

“Pink Flamingos” (1972), firmly launched Divine as an underground sensation.

“Female Trouble” (1974) followed, where Divine played the insane Dawn Davenport.

Despite the films’ success, Divine wanted legitimacy beyond his shit-eating grin. His theater career began in New York when he appeared in “Women Behind Bars” and “The Neon Woman.”

For their next collaboration, John and Divine decided it was time for an image change in the form of Francine Fishpaw in “Polyester” (1981).

But years of increased interest in John Waters led to the film that put him on the mainstream pop culture map. “Hairspray” was a loving flashback to the early 60s that dealt with race relations and outsider triumph. Rave reviews for “Hairspray” gave him the praise he always craved and it looked like he might realize his dream of becoming a working character actor – a star and a legitimate performer in one. Riding high on the reception of Hairspray, Divine was cast on the hit show, “Married With Children.” The night before the shoot, Divine went to his hotel room, studied his script, and died in his sleep of a massive heart attack.

“I Am Divine” is a story about a man who fought against what society considers conventionally beautiful.