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Also Known As: Harris Glenn Milstead, Glenn Milstead Died: March 7, 1988
Born: October 19, 1945 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: actor, singer, hairdresser

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Born Harris Glenn Milstead, the much loved, oversized female impersonator Divine grew up down the street from high school pal John Waters and became a cult figure as Waters' longtime leading performer. It was Waters, along with make-up artist Van Smith, who transformed the flamboyant and brilliantly talented actor into the horror show Divine, forever associated with vile, repulsive acts and attitude to match. Divine developed his persona in such early Waters efforts as "Eat Your Makeup" (1968), as a Jackie Kennedy-obsessed fashion groupie, "The Diane Linkletter Story" (1969), as the suicidal heroine, and the silent "Mondo Trasho" (1970), as a blonde bombshell who accidentally runs over a foot fetishist-pedestrian. In 1970, Divine and Waters released their first full-length talking film "Multiple Maniacs", the dark, funny and violent story of Lady Divine, leader of a Manson-like crime family. They followed with the classic "Pink Flamingos" (1972), a gritty, obscene but somehow heart-warming comedy of ill manners that gained relatively widespread attention as one of the first "Midnight Movies" and firmly established the director and star. Starring as Babs Johnson, 'The Filthiest Person Alive', Divine...

Born Harris Glenn Milstead, the much loved, oversized female impersonator Divine grew up down the street from high school pal John Waters and became a cult figure as Waters' longtime leading performer. It was Waters, along with make-up artist Van Smith, who transformed the flamboyant and brilliantly talented actor into the horror show Divine, forever associated with vile, repulsive acts and attitude to match. Divine developed his persona in such early Waters efforts as "Eat Your Makeup" (1968), as a Jackie Kennedy-obsessed fashion groupie, "The Diane Linkletter Story" (1969), as the suicidal heroine, and the silent "Mondo Trasho" (1970), as a blonde bombshell who accidentally runs over a foot fetishist-pedestrian.

In 1970, Divine and Waters released their first full-length talking film "Multiple Maniacs", the dark, funny and violent story of Lady Divine, leader of a Manson-like crime family. They followed with the classic "Pink Flamingos" (1972), a gritty, obscene but somehow heart-warming comedy of ill manners that gained relatively widespread attention as one of the first "Midnight Movies" and firmly established the director and star. Starring as Babs Johnson, 'The Filthiest Person Alive', Divine turned in a star-making performance. Even his famed devouring of dog turds at the film's close couldn't overshadow his genuine comic gifts. He was even more brilliant in the tour de force "Female Trouble" (1974), in which he aged from a rebellious high school girl into a deranged death row inmate. Divine also played his first male role in this film and, through the magic of cut-rate special effects, even had sex with himself.

Divine took his persona to the stage, first performing in San Francisco with a troupe called The Cockettes in such fare as "Journey to the Center of Uranus" and "The Heartbreak of Psoriasis". He made his New York debut in Tom Eyen's "Women Behind Bars" (1976) and after its success there also played it to London audiences. Eyen's second play for Divine, "The Neon Woman" (1978), ran Off-Broadway and then to packed houses in San Francisco, Toronto, Provincetown and Chicago. He returned to the screen for Waters in the amusing "Polyester" (1981), which featured the infamous Odorama cards for audiences to scratch and sniff scents depicted on screen, before working with other film directors. Paul Bartel's "Lust in the Dust" (1985) reteamed him with "Polyester" co-star Tab Hunter and Alan Rudolph's "Trouble in Mind" (1985) took him out of drag for his role as Hilly Blue, a powerful gangster in a fictitious city.

Not only did he act, but Divine also enjoyed some fame as a disco diva recording star and club attraction. Beginning in 1978, he cranked out eleven international hit dance singles, including "Shoot Your Shot" (a Gold single in Holland) and "You Think You're a Man" (which reached Number 17 on British charts and Number 5 in Australia). He recorded primarily with producer Bobby Orlando (who oversaw the Pet Shop Boys' first flops) before switching to the team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman (whose roster included Kylie Minogue and Dead or Alive). Divine toured the world with his solo cabaret act of disco and outrageous humor, performing over 900 times in more than 19 countries.

Divine's biggest hit came with Waters' mainstream comedy "Hairspray" (1988), playing both proud Mom Edna Turnblad (his trademark wigs and outlandish make-up somewhat toned down) and TV station manager Arvin Hodgepile. He was about to guest star as Uncle Otto on the Fox program "Married...With Children", a Bundy relative Fox was projecting as a regular, when his personal manager and biographer Bernard Jay discovered him in his hotel suite, dead of heart failure. Bartel's "Out of the Dark" (released in 1989) featured him in a last cameo role as a gravely-voiced male detective.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Divine Trash (1998)
2.
 Out of the Dark (1989) Detective Langella
3.
 Hairspray (1988) Arvin Hodgepile; Edna Turnblad
4.
 Trouble In Mind (1985) Hilly Blue
5.
 Lust In The Dust (1984) Rosie Velez
6.
 Polyester (1981) Francine Fishpaw
7.
 Alternative Miss World, The (1980) Guest Of Honor
8.
9.
 Female Trouble (1975) Dawn Davenport; Earl Peterson
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Maryland
1966:
Film acting debut in John Waters' "Roman Candles"
1972:
First gained relatively widespread attention in Waters' "Pink Flamingos"; film became a classic of studied bad taste
1975:
Briefly appeared as a male character in John Waters' "Female Trouble"
1981:
Starred opposite Tab Hunter in Waters' "Polyester"; original run included Odorama cards distributed to audiences in order to scratch and sniff odors depicted on screen
1985:
Again paired with Hunter for Paul Bartel's "Lust in the Dust"
1985:
Played first substantial (and entirely) male role in Alan Rudolph's "Trouble in Mind"
1987:
Guest starred in "Seymourlama" episode of syndicated "Tales from the Darkside", directed by George Romero
1988:
Starred in mainstream Waters hit "Hairspray"; played both tawdrily dressed mother and bigoted male television station owner
1989:
Last film, Paul Bartel's "Out of the Dark"; Bartel dedicated film to Divine
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I don't do Judy Garland or Mae West, and I'm not a female impersonator. I'm an actor." Harris Glenn Milstead (aka Divine) in 1976 interview quoted in his March 8, 1988 The New York Times obituary.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Harris Milstead. Died in the early 1990s.
mother:
Frances Milstead. Wrote memoir "My Son Divine" (2001).

Bibliography close complete biography

"Not Simply Divine" Fireside
"My Son Divine" Alyson

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