Honoring Divine in the Month of March


Image © 2017 The Criterion Collection

This month marks the 29th anniversary since the death of Divine, the actor, singer and drag queen most famous for the films he made with his friend and fellow Baltimore native, John Waters. Recently, a full six months after its release in North America, the United Kingdom was blessed with the limited theatrical release of the newly restored version of Waters’ second film 1970 Multiple Maniacs. On the 21st, The Criterion Collection will be releasing the title on DVD and Blu-Ray and for fans, it is essential viewing.

For mainstream audiences the 1988 feel-good Hairspray, its subsequent Broadway musical adaptation and then play’s 2007 cinematic re-adaptation are likely their first introductions to the duo. But, for those casual fans curious about the humble beginnings of Waters and his muse Divine (aka Harris Glenn Milstead) Multiple Maniacs is as good a starting point as any and perhaps a gentler introduction to the pair’s oeuvre than the more famous Pink Flamingos (1972.)

The plot of Multiple Maniacs concerns “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions” where unsuspecting middle-class punters pay to see such late ‘60s American horrors as “real homosexuals kissing” in a Baltimore roadside carnival scam where everyone is eventually humorously robbed, humiliated or killed. Like all of Waters’ early work with Divine, the story is secondary to the visuals, which are indeed meant to shock and include simulated sexual acts with a rosary inside a church and a sexual assault perpetrated by a giant lobster.

Past reviews have referred to the film as “outrageous”, and “grotesque.” It is also agreed by many to be very funny and it was indeed, a hell of a good time to watch it with an audience at the BFI.

In the 47 years since its initial release, the one word that has probably never been associated with Multiple Maniacs is charming. Not charming as intended by a film like Marley and Me (which is arguably a more traumatic a viewing experience) but charming like your favorite nephew’s first student film that had monsters running around in it. Where the director and crew had not yet mastered the technical skills associated with good filmmaking but whose results made it abundantly clear that those kids put their hearts and souls into every frame.

Rather than being mean-spirited, the scenes of violence in Multiple Maniacs are frequently evocative of child’s play, with Divine’s knife strikes missing their intended targets by a good 18 inches. Compared to modern rebellious cinema, such as the New French Extremity movement, this film feels innocent. The missed cues, flubbed dialogue, out-of-focus zooms and awkward editing only add to the experience and more than once, I found myself rooting for Edith Massey (the egg lady from Pink Flamingos, 1972) to get through a whole take without missing a line.

Of course, as with all of Waters’ earlier works, Divine is the standout performer of the piece. He effortlessly recites pages upon pages of dialogue without missing a word, hits all of his marks perfectly and ultimately elevates the proceedings to new heights in his high heels. The camera loved him, whether he played men or women. Waters knew this and his instinct to showcase Divine’s talents whenever possible was part of what made him into the cult hero director he is today. Had Divine lived, he would have no doubt enjoyed the same enduring success.

As fate would have it, March 7th is the 29th anniversary of Divine’s death. He died of heart failure at the age of 42 in 1988 on the eve of starting work on what was likely to become a groundbreaking recurring role as the openly gay Uncle Otto on the American sitcom Married With Children.

Of his late friend and long-time collaborator, Waters once said “I think he changed drag queens forever. Ru Paul’s show wouldn’t be there. His legacy was that he made all drag queens cool. They were square then, they wanted to be Miss America and be their mothers.”

So, in honor of the great Divine, (and John Waters who was recently bestowed the Writers’ Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award) pick yourself up a copy of Criterion’s newly restored Multiple Maniacs on DVD or Blu-Ray, make some popcorn and have some friends around. Soon you’ll all be quoting such award-winning lines as “I love you so fucking much…I could shit!”





How to Fix the U.S. Media: 101


In the ‘90s I had a very passionate Professor named David Hawkins who taught my Broadcast History 101 class. During one memorable lecture, he told us that the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was the single most destructive act of de-regulation ever committed against our democracy. He told us bright-eyed young journalists, editors, writers and presenters that we would some day face a very different world professionally than the one we had signed up for. It took a few years for this to materialize, but ultimately Professor Hawkins was right. RIP.

The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required all licensed broadcasters (including radio) present all issues considered to be of public importance, i.e. Presidential races, be presented in a manner that was honest, and equitable to all sides of a debate, with all points of view being represented. Those broadcasters who failed to do so were at risk of losing their license. WWII was fresh on the minds of both regulators and the public, who all understood clearly how Hitler and Goebbels had manipulated Germany’s media to their advantage. For many years, this rule helped the U.S. to avoid a similar situation developing at the dawn of the advent of a little thing called Television.

Just imagine it. To be able to turn on your TV or Radio and have actual facts presented and different points of view all in one place! Rather than some truths, many half-truths and opinions presented as facts, all from one side of the aisle depending on what station you’re tuned in to.

The people who argued against the doctrine (people like Rupert Murdoch) referred to the doctrine as “the thought police” and believed that it “restricted the journalistic freedom of broadcasters.” (1). Because as Stephen Colbert once noted “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

It’s funny how those who argue the loudest that their freedoms are being hindered are usually the ones who inevitably remove everyone elses. But they had Ronald Regan’s ear and the act was eliminated in 1987.

In years since, we have seen the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News and MSNBC. In 2011, all language even referencing the doctrine was removed. The final nail in the coffin of responsible un-biased journalism.

Now, here we are with a Trump/Pence administration set to take over the country. Many are decrying the agendas of the different so-called news outlets. Outlets that have become sad shadows of their former selves. Even more are criticizing the lack of oversight on the publishing of false information on Social Media. But nobody is advocating a return of industry regulation, despite all signs to the obvious.

Re-instatement won’t work. Technology is changing too fast for that. What we need are new modern regulations that include current and future social media platforms and take into the consideration the 24-hour news cycle, which did not exist when the original rules were written. Perhaps then we can return to the discourse of reason, facts, calm debate and respect for opposing viewpoints. Perhaps then we can close the gap between “them” and “us” and realize we’re all in this together. Perhaps then we can avoid political and economic shitstorms like the one we’re heading into.

Oh, wait…that’s not profitable. Sorry! I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled bullshit now.

5 Films in 5 Weeks – Halloween Edition


It’s 5 weeks until Halloween. In the run-up to the big day, there will be parties, costumes, candy and decorations. Part of celebrating the season includes watching scary films. If you’re too busy to look through the longer lists available online, here’s a short tally of recommendations for your viewing pleasure, on per week in the run up to Halloween 2016.

  1. The Thing (1982) Dir: John Carpenter

THE GREATEST HORROR MOVIE EVER MADE. All the films on this list lose nothing with repeated viewings, but The Thing is so well constructed, that the mystery deepens each time. Details emerge that we didn’t notice the first (or fifth) time. Every shot, every edit and every plot twist are perfectly crafted to keep us guessing and on the edge of our seats. There is no waste. It is a lean, mean scaring machine with great acting, atmosphere, real in-screen special effects and creatures the way your wannabe Tom Savini loving cousin used to make. You haven’t seen it? “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” If you have, go watch it again. See if you can figure out if Doc was infected when he logged on to the computer.

  1. Halloween (1978) Dir: John Carpenter

The first of two films by John Carpenter on this list. Though the re-make by Rob Zombie gets its fair share of respect from audiences, I was not one of the champions. I threw my remote at the TV as the credits rolled. Then I re-watched the original classic to wash the bad taste from my mouth. Michael Myers was scarier when we didn’t know why he killed. He just did. That’s all we need to know. The story, though simple, is so well photographed, acted and scored that it still holds up 38 years later. Watch it with the lights off and if you’ve seen it, watch it with someone who has never had. It’s fun to see people jump the way we did the first time and it really brings home how effective Carpenter is as a director.

  1. The Exorcist (1973) Dir: William Friedkin

Lauded as the “scariest movie of all-time” it needs no exposition. Full disclosure: I was unable to watch this all the way through until I was 41 years old and yes, I had nightmares after.

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Dir: Tobe Hooper

Far superior to the 2003 re-make. I base my opinion on my experience of watching a restored print at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA with an audience of millennial film students. Initially, they were dismissive, chuckling at the bell-bottoms and astrology-driven dialogue. But, once Leatherface made his first kill with his handy sledgehammer, they became silent. They remained so through the continued mayhem until well after the end credits. When the house lights came they revealed expressions of traumatized dismay. 42 years later, it still packs a punch. Right in the gut. With the business end of a sledge.

  1. Evil Dead (2013) Dir: Frede Alvarez

In a sea of bad re-makes of horror classics, this one stands a mountain above the rest and deserves a place on this list. It respects the Sam Raimi classic while updating it smartly within the narrative. It increases the tension of the original situation by adding the specter of drug addiction and ramps up the pace and effects to such an extent that when it was over, I had all but forgotten all about my undying love for Ash and his boom stick. Of course, if this list were longer, I would honor that love and tell you to watch the original as well as its two awesome sequels. Groovy.

Got a scary film you’d think I overlooked or a list of your own? Please share it in the comments section! Happy Halloween and Happy Viewing!

Finding purpose as a multipotentialite

Square Peg in a Round Hole
A square peg forced into a round hole.

It seems that a week cannot go by without the publishing of a new article on finding one’s purpose. A cursory Google search brought up 196 million hits dedicated to doing so. Quizzes, personality typing tools, pep talks and “how to” books all dedicated to helping people to figure out what they want when they grow up, regardless of age. It is clearly a lucrative game. But I wonder if it’s really helping or it’s just a lunchtime mood booster for miserable office workers to see guys like Tony Robbins share their success stories from their palatial estates telling us how successful we’ll be if we follow his plan of self-discovery. For a price, of course.

What about those of us who have taken the personality tests, read the books, listened to the “experts” and find it disheartening to discover that we don’t fit into any one box? A few of us have lots of different interests that have changed and developed over time. What about people perfectly happy in one job for a while who then decide to do something else, only to hear “You don’t have the experience!” or “Your CV has too many different things on it!” from recruiters. Some of us are good at more than one thing and find it frustrating when we cannot apply our skills in our working lives. It’s time for us to find our collective voice.

For this type of person, reading (and writing) articles on finding your purpose or doing quizzes to identity your passion are counter-productive because they promote what career coach Emilie Wapnick calls “a narrowly focused life.” This may be fine for those who knew from age 3 that they wanted to be a Doctor. But, many people are what Wapnick calls multipotentialites.  It’s a great word that describes a person with “many interests and creative pursuits.”

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of possessing such a personality i.e. having a fractured CV or dealing with the problems of changing fields, Wapnick ascribes us 3 Superpowers. These are:
1. Idea synthesis (bringing ideas from a broad range of fields of expertise together to create new and interesting concepts)
2. Rapid Learning (people who are polygamous in their interests are generally good researchers and keen to learn all they can about their new subject of interest)
3. Adaptability (the ability to become whatever an employer needs them to be. They can draw on their vast past experiences and broad range of knowledge.

It is a model that stresses breadth and depth, rather than simply the depth of finding one thing to do for the rest of your life and sticking with it. These are attributes encouraged in higher education, but rarely drawn upon in the professional world outside of academia.

I for one will be exploring my newfound multipotentialite attributes and eschewing any more of the “specialist” focused online quizzes and purpose-finding books and articles.

Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk on Multipotentialites can be found here: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en#t-472195

10 Things the UK must do to move into the 21st Century

20/03/2012 Torn and tattered Union Jack flag on Plymouth Hoe pic by Lucy Duval

The 5th anniversary of my moving to London from Los Angeles has passed. Even now, people ask me to compare living in the US to living in Great Britain. A few things are superior over here, such as sensible gun laws, the NHS (although this is deteriorating), good public transportation, great beer and a simplified tax system. Actors and musicians are top notch and of course, there’s the rich history every Brit boasts of proudly. But after 5 years, I can say with absolutely no regret whatsoever that this place needs work in some very basic areas. The UK would be better served by moving into the 21st century in the following 10 ways:

Get some decent clothes dryers. Laundry takes 8-12 hours per week. I’m not kidding. In winter it’s longer. It’s tortuous, slow and everything has to be a. hung up or left to b. left spinning in a “water extractor” dryer for many hours at great cost to the electric bill. If it saves money and time, surely it’s worth drilling that small vent hole, right?
Put screens on the windows. The UK has flies, mosquitoes, wasps and the biggest house spiders I have ever seen. Not to mention wandering cats (one of whom let himself in through my bathroom window repeatedly and turned out to be a real sweetie), mice and rats. But not one window has a screen on it anywhere in the UK. The technology is not new. Bonus: Having screens makes having the windows open during the 4 days of summer much more pleasurable and a lot less like camping out.
Make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels to work. To be fair, not all companies have this incredibly sexist policy, but many do. Parliament will be debating this issue following a petition that signed by over 150K people asking the Government to force companies to make their dress codes equitable.

Eliminate recruitment agencies. For those unfamiliar, these are companies who work for other companies looking to hire people. Their employees are mostly very young and work on commission, which they receive when they make a successful match. They take valuable resources from the hiring firms, who are too stupid or lazy to build up their own internal HR and recruitment departments and have no interest in matching the right people with the right company because they work on commission. They care about nothing other than their sales record and monthly bonus. They frequently block good people with experience from communicating directly with potential employers, ignore career changers or anything that their “keyword” software doesn’t flag. In general, they are a nasty bunch of self-serving kids with little respect for their clients. I am hopeful that businesses will soon realize what a waste of money these jokers are stop using them.
Learn some damn manners (applicable in London only). Simple phrases include: Please, Thank You, Bless you (for sneezes), excuse me and I’m sorry.
Improve your dentistry. You knew it was coming, right? Well, far be it from me to break a stereotype. The less said about brown teeth the better.
Get over your classism. Bono once said that the difference between America and the UK was that Americans look at a big house on a hill and say, “I aspire to have that.” In the UK they say, “I’m going to get that son of bitch.” Truer words were never spoken. Example: Just because a person eats at a gastropub and drinks craft beer does not mean they are “posh” or “stuck up.” It means they have better developed taste buds and yes, probably a bit more money. Is it a bad thing to work hard and spend your earnings on healthier, tastier victuals? For a large segment of the UK population, it is. Conversely, a person who wears a leather jacket is not necessarily a criminal waiting to rob you blind and every shopper with a backpack in a department store is not shoplifting.
Get some therapy. Alcoholism is rampant among all age groups and binge drinking is a huge problem among under 25’s. Recently, the London sewer water tested for high levels of cocaine. This, to me, is evidence that everyone is miserable and repressed. So society has set up “pub and club culture” as a way to self-medicate and allow for “social lubrication” (apparently it’s terrifying speaking to other human beings while sober) on a grand scale.
Legislate renters’ rights and real estate rules. Currently, any one can sell or rent a house in any condition to anyone else and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to protect themselves. Agents have no governing body or required license and landlords are not required to keep up with maintenance.
Stop funding the Royal family. Stop wasting tax pounds in an era of austerity where libraries are being closed while paying for an already rich family’s palaces, cars and boats. It’s freaking ridiculous. They supposedly hold no political power, so why not let them survive on their own millions for a while?
Of course, none of these are likely to change any time soon, unfortunately. What they need is a good old American-style social revolution. But the Brits have a habit of losing revolutionary wars.


Why Selifes are Bad for Humanity


Yesterday, a friend called to tell me about his awesome trip to Plitvicka Lakes National Park, Croatia. The conversation soon turned to his annoyance with crowds blocking the hiking trails by stopping to take selfies at the most scenic spots. Having been almost impaled by an extremely sharp selfie-stick last summer in Venice, I sympathized. I am convinced that the taking of selfies is bad for humanity. Here’s a list of reasons why:

  • It is annoying to your fellow bipeds. We don’t just take selfies in front of spectacular scenes or monuments. We do it everywhere. In the process, we piss off countless others simply trying to walk to their destination.
  • It feeds into a fear of the natural process of aging. Andy Warhol said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” Perhaps this is what motivates millions of us to document every single moment in our otherwise ordinary lives. Because some day, we will get old and die and it’s important that our great grand children know about that time we stood in front of the bus stop waiting for the 57 to Raynes Park looking hot.
  • It is narcissistic. I am reminded of the scene in Madonna’s documentary Truth or Dare where then-boyfriend Warren Beatty questions her exhibitionist decision to have her throat exam filmed. “Why would you say something if it’s not on camera?” “What point is there existing?” The answer for many is that there isn’t.
  • It’s potentially dangerous. Earlier this year, there were stories about people ignoring safety signs and ultimately dying trying to take selfies in Yellowstone National Park and my friend said the same had, sadly, happened in Croatia. Let’s think about that. They died trying to capture a moment rather than being aware of their surroundings, enjoying that moment for real and surviving to tell others about their amazing experiences.
  • It brings out the worst in people. The worst abuse of the technology I have come across was late at night when I came across a group of drunken 20-somethings who had awoken a homeless man and forced him to take selfies with them. It was almost as if the camera phone gave these people protection from real-world consequences. He pleaded with them to leave him in peace. It was the single most disgusting thing I have seen since moving to London and that includes watching a rat consume fresh human vomit on a train platform.

My solution is to avoid taking selfies unless only I find myself in the very rare situation that I am surrounded entirely by people who are missing all manual digits.

What will yours be?

Top 10 School Supplies we had in the 80s


It’s back to school time in the USA. Many of my former classmates from the 1980s are now teachers. Even the ones who threw 6” steel nails at Mrs. Drake’s head and flaming matches at Mr. Passer in the 9th grade. They are sharing how different things are in 2016 when compared to our time. Ahhh, the 1980s. When Eddie Murphy was funny, hair was big and mascara thick. Things were simpler then. Especially in terms of school supplies. Rather than 3-page lists with specific requirements from schools that must be upheld, we had a few simple items that lasted all year. Here is a list of the Top 10 things that every kid had.

  1. A Trapper Keeper. With this, you could fit all of your schoolwork into neat little pockets, with dividers for each subject. Mine had kittens on it.


  1. Number 2 pencils. They started out long and tall. An ideal slingshot frame. By the end of week 2, they would fall victim to the horrible medieval pencil sharpeners mounted on the walls in each classroom.

#2 Pencil Nub

  1. Shitty eraser tops. They broke apart and smudged color all over your freshly ruled paper but they were good for stress chewing and throwing at other kids. Hurt like hell if you took one in the eye.

Shitty Erasers

  1. Troll pencil toppers. I never understood this fad. I always thought they looked like creepy old junkies with pencils up their asses.

Troll Pencils

  1. A Real Metal Lunch box with thermos. Not the plastic kind! Mine was from my then-favorite TV show Space 1999. Still a great show available for download on iTunes. Somehow it made the crappy bologna sandwich taste better.

Space Lunch Box

  1. Duffle bag a.k.a a Book bag. The boys typically had a sports logo and the girls had unicorns and rainbows. All were brightly colored so as to blind you. Doubled as a deadly weapon when full of books.

Duffle Bag Unicorn

  1. Sketch Scented Markers. They smelled like fruit. They actually encouraged kids to sniff them. AWESOME.

Fruity markers

  1. Brown paper bag book covers. They lasted the whole year and were mandatory to protect your textbooks. You could draw on them. Band logos, landline numbers and dick pics never looked so good.

Book Cover

  1. Folders with popular characters on them for extra paperwork. I had one with Garfield in a Hawaiian shirt and another with the Purple Rain album cover. Of course I did.

Garfield Folderjpg

  1. Denim Jacket fully customized with favorite band patches and pins. Not so much a supply item but a standard for small-town American kids. Where uniforms were not a requirement, we established our own. Pretty much the same now. It’s nice to know that some things never change.

Denim Jacket 2