Long before I was an overweight cross-dressing movie star, a certain misunderstood Divine one (née Harris Glenn Milstead) walked the earth in cha-cha heels and parlayed loud-mouthed audacity into a permanent role as director John Waters' beefy, tragic muse. You know, back when Ricki Lake was FAT, and not just big-boned and smart-suited. Back when eating poo, as Divine did in the movie "Pink Flamingos," was cool.
In town this night, thanks to the folks over at Shameless Magazine (www.shamelessmagazine.com, which, tellingly, does stories about eating poo), is Divine's mom, Frances, to sign-and-speak on the subject of her son, blurrily detailed in her new book, "My Son, Divine." And I'm going to talk to her! Or at least at her ...
So what made you do it, dear?
"You wanna get a chair and sit down beside me?" she grandmas, with that sit-down-you're-making-me-dizzy flair peculiar to Florida blue-rinses. Clearly, she's running this interview. Talk when you're ready, Frances.
"To tell the truth about my son," she tells the truth. "And to tell these parents who turn their children away because the children say they're gay that they're wrong."
Go on, sister. Still, talking to an eightysomething cross-stitcher about sexuality and cross-dressing smacks of separateness. I feel like I'm sinning just by sitting here ... in the gift shop ... at a gay bar ... called Studz. (Question: What do they sell at gay-bar gift shops? Answer: bikini briefs and lube.) I surely would turn me away.
Nobody, however, seems to be turning Frances away, to hear her tell it. Her book is flying off the shelves of gay-bar gift shops worldwide, and the press won't stop hounding her. Say it isn't so!
"You know I never thought that I'd have to do all of the stuff that I'm doing -- getting calls from Europe, doing interviews," she gripes. "It's interesting but I never realized that I was going to have to do all of this."
Interesting? That's a word we use to say nothing, Frances. Try grueling. Or maybe even divine?
"I never knew who Divine was, OK?" she smarts. "I didn't find that out until I moved to Florida in '72. I didn't know anything about his movie or his stage show. I only heard about it through his friends.
"The worst part is, he never invited me to the parties!" she huffs, almost convincingly.
"He took me to see "Hairspray" ..." she begins to reminisce, only to be halted by the timely appearance of a seven-foot-tall black drag queen ... and some very large boobs.
"Oh my goodness, this is some chair to try to get out of!" Frances wobbles. "I gotta take a picture with him!"
Predictably, I'm enlisted to take the picture, as memaw pulls the disposable out of her handbag. I'm now a disposable photographer, in addition to being a disposable journalist.
"Smile, you're on 'Candid Camera,'" she outdates, rubbing the giant drag boob to the right of her ear.
"I've never seen anybody pat someone on the boob before," I lie.
"You've got pretty legs!" Frances adds, obviously not talking to me.
"So the response has been pretty good, then?" I cower, trying to rein this interview back to the subject at hand. Which is nothing, really. Something about her son that she didn't know and not getting invited to parties. Which would make her very qualified to write a biography, right?
"You're gonna have to talk a little bit slower," she fades. "I'm hard of hearing!"
ARE YOU HAPPY!!?
"I'm pleased with it," she autopilots. "From what I hear, the publishers are selling a lot of it."
YOU GO PLACES PROMOTING IT!?
"Different places have invited me, so I go there," her mind wanders. "Different nightclubs, mostly the gay clubs ... Y'know."
Yeah, yeah, I know. Briefs and lube.
"I want a book, but I don't have any cash," enters a feckless real girl, interrupting my inquisition for what I swear is going to be the last time. "Are you taking credit cards?"
"No, we're not taking credit cards, because ... oh my god, it's slipped my mind," slips the attendant, probably on a puddle of lube.
"Charity," offers the giant drag boob.
"I hope you've got some underdrawers on," grandmas Frances in the boob's direction. Why? Is somebody full of shit?
Trying to exit, I bump into the entering Sexy Savannah from Real Radio. "You're from that magazine," she drawls. "Billy, right?"
Oh, that's right. I'm full of shit. Anyway, Savannah's entourage includes a motley assortment of local celebrity, so I'm stuck mingling with my media kin.
"I don't suppose you're a chubby chaser," offers chubby local celebrity Michael Wanzie. "I like slight guys." He's trying to smell my feet. He has a foot fetish.
I move my feet out of reach, but it's obvious by his sniffing that my pungent toes have tainted the air supply. I respectfully decline. One overweight crossdresser is enough for today. I'm all out of lube. (Geddit?! I'm All Out of Lube! Air Supply! Oh, shut up.)