Template:Infobox actor Harris Glenn Milstead (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988) was best known for his drag persona, Divine.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born in Towson, Maryland to Harris Bernard Milstead (1917-1993) and Diana Frances Milstead (née Vukovich), at the age of 12 the family moved to Lutherville, a suburb of Baltimore. John Waters was a childhood friend who lived six houses down the street.

In 1940 and 1943, his mother suffered miscarriages; Divine was the only surviving child born to his parents.

Stage, film and recording career[edit | edit source]

In the 1970s Milstead starred as Divine in a number of New York City theatre pieces, including Tom Eyen's classic camp women's prison drama, Women Behind Bars, which was a major off-Broadway hit in 1976, playing the lead role of the evil matron in drag.

Milstead starred in a number of films and was part of the regular cast known as the Dreamlanders. The Dreamlanders appeared in many of John Waters' earlier works such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray. Repeating their successful pairing in Polyester, in 1985 Divine appeared opposite Tab Hunter in their bigger hit Lust in the Dust.

He is also remembered as a major character in the documentary homage Divine Trash by Steve Yeager (filmmaker), covering the life and work of John Waters.

In the 1980s, Milstead's dance-music records were hits through America, Europe, and Australia. The typical progressive type of synthesizer disco music was composed, created, performed and produced by Bobby Orlando. In Britain his Stock, Aitken and Waterman record "You Think You're A Man" was his most successful hit, reaching #16.

In 1988, the British film The Fruit Machine (1988), a/k/a Wonderland (USA), utilized Milstead's songs in a nightclub disco dance sequence that showcased an early Robbie Coltrane in drag as "Annabelle", the club's owner (a cross between Divine and Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz).

Late in his career, Milstead also played in non-drag roles in his last three films: Trouble in Mind, Hairspray, and Out of the Dark. In Hairspray he played two roles, one male and one female (which he had first done in the earlier Female Trouble).

Sudden death[edit | edit source]

In 1988, Milstead was chosen to portray the dual character of Peggy Bundy's Mother and her Uncle Otto on the new FOX prime-time series Married With Children. Quite unexpectedly, he died at age 42 from sleep apnea in Los Angeles, California due to his obesity. The producers of Married With Children sent flowers to the funeral, along with a humorous card that read, "If you didn't want to do the show, you could have just SAID something!"

His funeral in Towson, Maryland was preceded by a funeral procession attended by thousands.

"Glenn was born before civil rights, gay rights, or women's rights...God doesn't want people created out of a Xerox machine...The tragedy is that Glenn was cut off right at the point of becoming who he really was, and the world will never see how that flower could have unfolded."

–Reverend Leland Higginbotham at Divine's eulogy; Baltimore, Maryland, March, 1988

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Discography[edit | edit source]

Disco and Hi-NRG dance hits (music)[edit | edit source]

  • "Native Love (Step by Step)" (1982)
  • "Shoot Your Shot" (1983)
  • "Love Reaction" (1983)
  • "Shake It Up" (1983)
  • "You Think You're a Man" (1984)
  • "I'm So Beautiful" (1984)
  • "Hard Magic" (1985)
  • "Walk Like a Man" (1985)
  • "Twistin' The Night Away" (1985)
  • "Hey You!" (1987)
  • "From The Greatest Lover You Have Ever Known (Funky House Mix) (2005)

Trivia[edit | edit source]

According to "The Making of The Little Mermaid" documentary included on the 2006 re-release of Disney film The Little Mermaid, Divine was in part the inspiration for the design of the character Ursula the Sea Witch.

Divine was the inspiration for the song "Divine" from Antony and the Johnson's self-titled album Antony and the Johnsons.

Peggy's mother in the FOX sitcom Married... With Children, heard only in frightening voiceovers by Kathleen Freeman and ground-shaking gags (making her an unseen character), was set to be played by Divine, but he had died before production.

Divine was often a regular at the infamous Studio 54 during the late 1970s.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Jay, Bernard (1994). Not Simply Divine. New York: Fireside. ISBN 0-671-88467-0
  • Milstead, Frances; Heffernan, Kevin; and Yeager, Steve (2001). My Son Divine. Los Angeles: Alyson Books. ISBN 1-55583-594-5

External links[edit | edit source]

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