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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 269 > From the Underground

From the Underground


NO QUEER PERFORMANCE artist will ever be quite as divine as Divine. Born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore, on 19 October 1945, he starred in some of the most outrageous films ever made including Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. By the early 1970s, Divine had become a benchmark, figurehead and bellwether for the softness and ferocity of a life lived on the outside. He was a living homage to self-reinvention, of gently rejecting the suburban person you were supposed to be and becoming the fabulous person you could imagine yourself into. Actor, singer, muse and walking attitude, he was thrust to fame under the tutelage of the great observational film director John Waters, his high school buddy. Waters is often dubbed The Pope Of Trash, Divine an icon of wilful bad taste, both titles that undercut much of the glorious humanity in their films. Divine was Waters starlet. Waters was Divine’s cackling, unselfconscious mirror. Their work climaxed with Hairspray, with Divine’s sensational role as Edna Turnblad. That it became a crossover franchise mainstream smash after Milstead’s death is diamondcoated proof of how ahead of his time he was. He died from a coronary on the eve of the first day of filming his role in mainstream American sitcom MarriedWith Children, three weeks after the release of mega-hit Hairspray. Divine changed the game for performance art, set the pace for the crack and whip of high-nrg disco, never sold out and kept the left-field pot boiling with humour, wit and a sheer force of personality. His mother, Frances, paid tribute in her 2001 book, My Son Divine. The Divine biopic, I Am Divine, is required viewing for anyone studying for their Gay Levels. His legend is immortal, hanging ghost-like over culture as a reminder of what effortless fun pure radicalism can be at its most sincere and artful.

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About Attitude

Out gay NFL player Michael Sam leads our All American issue. Inside, there’s an exclusive extract from the book everyone’s talking about What Belongs To You, gay singer Parson James on growing up in the homophobic and racist Deep South, and an interview with the guys behind the excellent new Robert Mapplethorpe documentary. Elsewhere, there’s our Gay Guide to America, we look at Hollywood’s history of closeted movie stars, and celebrating the icons that made queer USA great. Plus, FREE with this issue our guide to best of Thailand.