This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Divine is the star of “Cavalcade of Perversions” in John Waters’s splendidly lurid MULTIPLE MANIACS

MULTIPLE MANIACS (John Waters, 1970), THE DIANE LINKLETTER STORY (John Waters, 1970), and MONDO TRASHO (John Waters, 1969)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Francesca Beale Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Thursday, September 11, $25 (standby only) 7:00
Series runs September 5-14

The awesomely titled Film Society of Lincoln Center complete retrospective “Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?” was probably primarily inspired by the fabulously titled September 11 program “Celluloid Atrocity Night!” That evening includes three of the Baltimore-born auteur’s craziest early works, hailing from 1969-70, when the King of Bad Taste, serving as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and editor, was in his early twenties. The triple feature kicks off with the extremely low budget romp Multiple Maniacs, which begins with barker Mr. David (David Lochary) inviting people into “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions,” proclaiming, “This is the show you want. . . . the sleaziest show on earth. Not actors, not paid imposters, but real, actual filth who have been carefully screened in order to present to you the most flagrant violation of natural law known to man.” Of course, that serves as the perfect introduction to the cinematic world of John Waters, one dominated by the celebration of sexual proclivities, fetish, salaciousness, indecency, violence, and marginalized weirdos living on the fringes of society. Lady Divine, played by Divine, turns out to be a cheat, the freak show just a set-up for a robbery. Soon Divine is jealous of David’s relationship with Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce), hanging out with her topless daughter, Cookie (Cookie Mueller), and being led into a church by the Infant of Prague (Michael Renner Jr.), where she’s brought to sexual ecstasy by Mink (Mink Stole). There’s also rape, murder, Jesus (George Figgs), the Virgin Mary (Edith Massey), and the famed Lobstura. Shot in lurid black-and-white, Multiple Maniacs is a divine freak show all its own, an underground classic that redefined just what a movie could be, a crude, disturbing tale that you can’t turn away from.

Divine plays Diane Linkletter on the day of her suicide in John Waters’s wicked short

Divine plays Diane Linkletter on the day of her suicide in John Waters’s wicked short

On October 4, 1969, Diane Linkletter, the twenty-year-old daughter of television personality Art Linkletter (Kids Say the Darndest Things) and his wife, Lois Foerster, committed suicide. The next day, her father announced that it was Diane’s use of LSD that killed her, and he soon became a virulent right-wing antidrug crusader. Also on October 5, John Waters made the nine-minute The Diane Linkletter Story, an improvised fictional dramatization of Diane’s suicide, with Lochary as Art, Pearce as Lois, and Divine as Diane. The short begins and ends with snippets of the real Art and Diane’s Grammy-winning spoken-word record “We Love You, Call Collect”; in between, Divine acts up a storm as a defiant drug-loving hippie standing up to her white-bread parents. Is the film a mean-spirited attack in horrifically bad taste? A clarion call for the youth of America to continue their revolt against squares? Just an experiment for a group of friends exploring the boundaries of cinema? You decide.


Prince Charming has a thing for a blonde bombshell’s feet in MONDO TRASHO

The Waters hat trick concludes with 1969’s truly bizarre Mondo Trasho, a freestyle foray into fast cars, foot fetishism, and severely fractured fairy tales. Pearce stars as a Cinderella-like blonde woman whose feet are attacked by Prince Charming (John Leisenring, who also plays the Shrimper) in a park. Later she is accidentally run down by Divine driving a cherry 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible as the story turns into a freak noir / 1950s rock-and-roll movie. There is minimal dialogue; instead, Waters fills the film with a ricocheting cacophony of R&B, rock, classical, doo wop, gospel, opera, show tunes, and more that fly by like a chicken without its head. (Beware of the opening scene, when that’s just what happens.) Much of Mondo Trasho is hard to watch, and very little of it makes any sense, but there’s something endearing about its madness, although it won’t seem nearly as sick and twisted to those familiar with the work of Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith. (Well, actually, perhaps it still will.) Waters made the film for a mere two grand, and it features his regular troupe, including Lochary as Dr. Coathanger and Susan Lowe, George Figgs, and Mink Stole as asylum inmates (and other characters), while taking on authority, the medical community, conventional society, religion, and even cinema itself. The screenings will be followed by a conversation with Waters moderated by Dennis Dermody. The series continues through September 14 and features all of Baltimore’s favorite son’s shorts and full-length movies in addition to “Movies I’m Jealous I Didn’t Make,” eight films that Waters says are “extreme, astoundingly perverse, darkly funny, and, most importantly, supremely surprising films that turn me green with envy.”

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