Yesterday afternoon I attended a screening of the John Waters film ‘Polyester’ in the New Theatre in Dublin. Starring the ‘Godzilla of drag’ Divine, this 1981 film marks the bridge between Waters’ earlier thrashy exploitation films (‘Multiple Maniacs’; ‘Pink Flamingos’; ‘Female Trouble’) and his more mainstream work (‘Hairspray’; ‘Cry-Baby’; ‘Serial Mom’).
In Polyester, Divine plays an obese, suburban housewife named Francine Fishpaw, whose husband runs a dirty-movie theatre; her son is a sex-offending foot-fetishist; and her daughter wants to drop out of school to become a go-go dancer, and have an abortion. When Francine’s husband leaves her for his dreadlocked secretary (Mink Stole), Francine becomes an alcoholic. Hope finally appears on the horizon in the form of the hunky Todd Tomorow (played by former matinee idol Tab Hunter). All is not what it seems though.
‘Polyester’ was as tasteless as I remember (I was living in Amsterdam when I saw it previously, so my memory is hazy concerning the earlier viewings).
I had seen Waters’ mainstream work on video cassette. Until recently I had only heard tale of his earlier pieces – in particular ‘Pink Flamingos’, a film made infamous by the scene where Divine eats dogshit. Some years ago (2012 maybe?) in the old cinema squat building – the OT301 on Overtoom – in Amsterdam, I finally rectified this when I saw a double bill of ‘Pink Flamingos’ (1972) and ‘Female Trouble'(1974). It was during this screening that I met and fell in love with the actor David Lochary.
John Waters was the founder of the Dreamland Film Studios – which he ran from his teenage bedroom in his parents’ suburban Baltimore home. Obsessed with cinema from a young age he started making films in 1962 with the short ‘Hag in a black leather jacket’. He befriended a fellow schoolboy named Harris Glenn Milstead (who became Divine) who appeared in his films, along with some other of their Baltimore friends – including my Facebook friend Mink Stole (name-dropping furiously here); Mary Vivian Pierce and David Lochary – who Divine had met at beauty school. This motley crew of people became known as the Dreamlanders for their collaborations with Waters.
Together they made no-budget exploitation films that were shown in church cellars on a pay as you go basis, while attempting to stay on the right side of the law. Waters earned the nickname ‘The Prince of Puke’ and ‘The Pope of Trash’ thanks to his unique film style.
For ‘Pink Flamingos’ Divine played ‘the filthiest person alive’ who lives in a trailer with her egg-addicted mother Edie (Edith Massey) and children. Connie and Raymond Marble (played by Stole and Lochary) have plans to assume the title of ‘filthiest people alive’ for themselves – by kidnapping and impregnating women, holding them in the cellar and then selling the babies to lesbian couples.
Lochary was a glorious looking fop – tall, thin with a receding hairline of long blue hair (coloured with magic marker). He tended to play sophisticated perverts (in ‘Female Trouble’ he played Donald Dasher – a beauty salon owner who hires Divine as a model and gets her addicted to intravenous eyeliner). He was ever so dashing.
I am fascinated with Lochary because despite being one of the main stars of John Waters’ earlier cult films, he is now largely forgotten. ‘Female Trouble’ from 1974 was his last film. Angry that he was not being offered other film roles outside the John Waters cult films, he fell out with Waters over money he felt he was owed, thanks to the earlier films’ success. He moved to New York; became a drug addict and ultimately died in 1977, at the age of 32, after falling through a glass table after a PCP overdose. Allegedly.
As he died before Waters’ films had their commercial breakthrough; and because he was estranged from the king of the Dreamlanders at the time of this death, there is little on record about him. There are records of the exploits of Divine, Edith Massey; Cookie Mueller and Mink Stole. Not so much for David Lochary.
I love John Waters and his vile movies. David Lochary will always be my bad boy crush. When I first saw him on screen, I wanted him in me. Quite deeply.