divine, Transvestite Film Actor, was 42

Divine, the stage name of Harris Glenn Milstead, gained notable fame as a Baltimore native and collaborator with filmmaker John Waters during the 1960’s. Their partnership resulted in numerous film projects that showcased Divine’s talents.

Divine rose to fame after playing lead roles in several short films, eventually landing the coveted position of lead actor in renowned director Waters’ feature films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), and Pink Flamingos (1972), which became a cult class in its own right. Besides performing in theatre productions in San Francisco, Divine also became a regular performer in Waters’ films such as Female Trouble (1974), Polyester (1981), and Hairspray (1988). The widespread use of home video in the 1980s catapulted Divine to international fame. Other directors also sought Divine’s acting talents and the star appeared in popular films like Lust in the Dust (1985) and Trouble in Mind (1985).

During the early 1980s, Divine ventured into dance music and achieved success with popular tracks like “You Think You’re a Man,” “Shoot Your Shot,” “I’m So Beautiful,” and “Walk Like a Man.” Collaborating with renowned Hi-NRG producers such as Bobby Orlando and Pete Waterman, Divine quickly established a name for themselves in the music industry. Divine’s fame extended beyond music as they became a recurring guest on various television chat shows and were even immortalized in art by icons like Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

At the age of 42, Divine passed away due to heart failure, only three weeks after the widespread release of Hairspray in movie theatres on March 7, 1988.

Mistead, also known as Divine in drag, kept his sexuality hidden in the early stages of his career. However, as time passed, he became more open about it. His manager advised him to avoid discussing LGBT+ issues with the media, fearing it could harm his success. Nonetheless, Divine’s music remains popular in queer clubs and his films have gained a cult following. He continues to be an inspiration to many, including artists Anohni and Roisin Murphy, who paid homage to him in their work. Interestingly, Divine served as the inspiration for Disney’s iconic character Ursula the Sea Witch.

Harris Glenn Milstead, known by his stage name Divine, rose to cult fame as the leading performer in director John Waters’ films. Milstead, born in a Baltimore suburb on October 19, 1945, met Waters in high school and the two bonded as “refugees from the fraternity and sorority life.” It was under the name Divine that Milstead acted in early Waters films like “Roman Candles” (1966), “Eat Your Makeup” (1968), “Mondo Trasho” (1969), and “Multiple Maniacs” (1970). However, it was in the 1972 film “Pink Flamingos” that Divine gained significant notoriety as a symbol of extreme bad taste and rebellion.

Actor Mr. Milstead appeared in multiple films, including ”Female Trouble” (1974), ”Polyester” (1981), and ”Lust in the Dust” (1985). He also played a non-transvestite role in ”Trouble in Mind” (1986) and portrayed both a mother and a television-station owner in the comedy ”Hairspray” (released last month).

In a 1976 interview, Mr. Milstead clarified his approach to acting in women’s roles. He viewed himself as an actor, not a female impersonator, and did not imitate icons like Judy Garland or Mae West. Rather, he saw himself as a part of a longstanding tradition of men playing women’s roles.

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