Howdy Doo-doo

As suave today as his films were once gross, John Waters is an almost foolproof documentary subject. In Divine Trash, director Steve Yeager traces the career of Baltimore's most notorious filmmaker from his high school 8mm days through his collaborations with his great star, Divine. As always, Divine steals the show. Claiming that The Howdy Doody Show inspired his own career, Waters describes Divine as "Clarabell the Clown and Jayne Mansfield put together, the Godzilla of drag queens." Yeager uses behind-the-scenes footage of Divine eating the dog shit in Pink Flamingos as the climax of Divine Trash. "There's no law against it," says Waters, "because who was ever going to do that again?" While Waters is an amusing and articulate spokesman for his work, Yeager gets additional perspective from his parents ("He became entranced with the wicked witch in Snow White, Captain Hook in Peter Pan, and he went on from there"), the minister of the Episcopal church where Waters premiered his first film, Roman Candles, and various underground and indie authorities. Waters acknowledges his debt to Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and the Kuchar brothers, but when asked in a late-'60s television interview about his idols, the director responds, "My idols? The Manson girls and Russ Meyers, but I don't really pray to them."

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