The first John Waters movie that I ever saw was 1994's Serial Mom. I was probably much too young to be seeing a John Waters movie, but I loved it. I don't feel as if I can call myself a mega Waters fan, however, because I haven't yet seen all of his movies and there is some seriously stiff competition in that department. I have tried to see most of his work with Divine—Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble—although I inexplicably haven't seen their most commercial collaboration, the original Hairspray.
Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead, was a longtime friend of John Waters and part of Waters's Baltimore acting troupe, The Dreamlanders. His offscreen story is fascinating and heartbreaking, and I highly recommend watching the documentary I Am Divine, if you're interested (last time I checked it was on Netflix). Waters and Divine did several movies together and each is iconic in its own way—although it's hard to top the ending of Pink Flamingoes where Divine (SPOILER ALERT FOR A 45-YEAR-OLD MOVIE) eats real dog shit or the scene in Multiple Maniacs where he is raped by the giant lobster, Lobstora (it doesn't make sense out of- or even in context, really).
The first stop that I planned on our recent mother-daughter road trip, and the only stop that my mom knew about in advance (besides, of course, South of the Border) was Prospect Hill Cemetery, in Towson, Maryland to pay our respects to Divine. Divine died in his sleep of an enlarged heart in 1988, three weeks after the release of Hairspray. He was only 42. John Waters gave a speech at his funeral, and he was buried in a family plot next to his grandmother.
Prospect Hill is a small cemetery, and although we didn't have an exact location for the grave it wasn't hard to find. We read that it would be covered in trinkets, and after just a few minutes we spotted it amongst several other Milsteads. Divine was estranged from his family for years, before reuniting with them before his death, and his headstone bears both of his names and the heartbreaking epitaph "Our Loving Son." I think the lipstick kisses, messages and offerings—both glamorous and trashy—would have pleased Divine. I brought my own tube of red lipstick to leave behind and I only wish I could take credit for those fabulously painted red nails, forever praying to the church of Divine.