Mink Stole appeared with Divine in each and every one of his collaborations with John Waters, from “Mondo Trasho” in 1969 to Divine’s final film “Hairspray” in 1988. As one could only imagine, she has a wealth of incredible memories — many of which she shared in Jeffrey Schwarz’s living, hilarious documentary “I Am Divine” (which is out on DVD today). But we got on the phone with Stole (who was as lovely as you would imagine) and asked her for a few more…
On meeting Divine… I met him at a party. I was high on acid, and I think he was too. He was draped in sheets and French kissing his Yorkie. I was just sort of ‘oh my god.’ I had known John Waters just for a few months. I had been a little suburban kid with a chip on my shoulder. I’d been a little suburban kid with attitude. I didn’t know anybody like these people. I’d just met gay people for the first time in Provincetown! So I was kind of blown away and incredibly intimidated by [Divine]. Just by his complete comfortableness with who he was. Because I still hadn’t become comfortable with who I was. So there was that. I was really impressed with that. With his flamboyance and his comfort with it. Because I was so shy. So he was such an opposite to me. And I liked him right away. He was very kind, and asked me where I was from. I told him my neighborhood and he just looked at me very oddly because I come from a very conservative neighborhood. He was sort of ‘why are you here.’ But he was lovely.
On Divine not getting arrested (while Mink did) on the set of 1969’s Waters film “Mondo Trasho” (watch the film for an expanded, glorious version of this): I don’t think we actually had any scenes together [on ‘Mondo Trasho’]. But I was there the day that Divine picked up the naked hitchhiker. That impressed me because I didn’t even have a driver’s license. The fact that he could drive was impressive [laughs]. I was very young and inexperienced. With attitude, but young and inexperienced… and easily impressed. And that was the day we all got arrested. You know that story? Divine didn’t get arrested, but some of us were arrested for the nude hitchhiker. What impressed me was the presence of mind of both John and Divine. The campus police had apprehended us and told us to stay put while they went and called the city police. And as soon as they left, Divine and John both whipped the car around we all got in and we bolted. And I think at that stage in my life I probably would have been stupid enough to stay put. As many people would. So I was impressed with that quick thinking. You know, some of us got arrested anyway, but Divine was not among them. He had gone home, very wisely!
On Divine’s determination… He used to throw parties. He threw wonderful, wonderful parties. And he charged everything on his parents’ credit card. And just the nerve of him to do that. He had this unstoppable determination to just live his life as big as he could. He wanted a really big life and he got it. That’s what he wanted. And nothing seemed to be able to stop him. Lack of money was never an obstacle for him. He just got it anyway. I found all of that very awe-inspiring, and a little bit intimidating.
On reconnecting with Divine for “Hairspray”: There were big chunks of his life that I was not privy to. I never saw him when he started making music and recording. I didn’t see him for ages. And then, I saw him right before we started filming “Hairspray.” You know, we worked together on “Polyester” and then there was a seven year gap. And then when we were getting ready to do “Hairspray,” Divine had moved into an apartment very near to where I was living in New York. He called me and invited me over, and it was really lovely for him to do that. I felt very appreciative of it. It wasn’t like we were estranged, we just hadn’t had any contact in quite a long time… And he had this fabulous apartment around Broadway and 89th Street. It was elegantly furnished and really lovely and he just turned to me and said “you know, I just love having all of this. I never had any money, and now I do and it is so much fun to have it and to be able to live like this.” Because he’d been spending a lot of his life living on the land, in a sense. But I was really grateful that he invited me because it was such a nice chance to get back together with him. We connected, so when we got back on set, we weren’t strangers. It felt very nice. And after he died, many of us would talk about how interesting it was and how lovely it was that he had reconnected with a great number of people he hadn’t seen in years. It was kind of like “wow, do you think he knew?” I mean, of course he didn’t and we didn’t really think he did, but it made me feel like I should never look up an old friend! That’s not true, I look up old friends now and again. But you know what I mean.
On finding out about Divine’s death, and how she’ll be spending “eternity” next door to him: I’d been out that afternoon and I came home and there were at least a dozen “call me” messages on my answering machine from various friends. And I listened to them and knew that something really bad had happened. And then I heard the one from my mother that said “I’m so sorry about Divine.” I heard the news from my mother. I burst into tears and I immediately just starting calling friends and we were all on the phone with each other for days. Everyone who knew him and loved him, we needed to communicate with each other. There was an almost desperate need to be in the presence of family. Of our fun family. And I came down to the funeral. It was lovely… One of the nicest funerals I’ve ever been to. Because the minister, who had actually known him, did this wonderful speech about embracing difference. I don’t remember it word for word but it was a very moving, touching tribute. And of course, I’m going to be buried 50 feet from him. John Waters, Pat Moran, Pat Moran’s husband, another friend of ours and I are all being buried within about 50 feet from him in the same cemetery. I think it’s a lovely thing. I love thinking I’ll be spending eternity with people that I loved and cared about. I mean, spending eternity, I don’t even believe in eternity, but it’s a comforting thought.
“I Am Divine” is out on DVD today. Buy it here (you won’t regret it).