It was a compelling existence: Alongside the fame and celebrity acquaintances and dreams coming true, Divine endured decades-long struggles with things such as money shortages, familial shame, and the complicated burdens tied to the eating of dog shit. To tell the story, Jeffrey Schwarz's documentary I Am Divine, shown recently at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, uses interviews, antiquated photographs, and tracks from Divine's music career. (If you haven't heard them yet, the songs mostly just layer scream-talking over assaultive disco beats.) Best of all, a good collection of Divine-centered movie clips recalls John Waters's strange worlds, enlivened by senseless murders and carnal errands—with mothers shoved into Christmas trees and characters shooting up liquid eyeliner, presumably to get high. It's great.
Divine's ensembles are shown in passing, but they're steadily brilliant and accentuated with thoughtful details. There's the slim-fit tomato-orange scoop-neck mermaid gown from Pink Flamingos, of course. To promote the right breast shape and natural swing, stylist Van Smith stuffed Divine's giant bra with lentils. The gold lamé cha-cha mules with Spring-o-Lator insoles from Female Trouble were directly copied from an obscure movie about a washed-up stripper. And in Mondo Trasho, Divine wears a cropped and shimmery toreador-themed costume, while her matted bouffant wig is an homage to Baltimore's elaborate mid-century hair rituals—when poofy updos were rigidly encased with layers of hairspray, blotted dry with toilet paper, wrapped at bedtime, then teased back into form every morning.