Dec 3, 2013

Pink Flamingos

Without question, I have hated every single American city I have ever been to for more or less similar reasons, but Baltimore is easily the most patently pathetic, aesthetically and culturally repugnant, racially chaotic, culturally vacant, and innately irredeemable city I have ever had the grand misfortunate of wasting time in, so naturally I can respect anyone who brings further disgrace to the decidedly decaying ‘metropolis’ and quasi-local auteur John Waters (Desperate Living, Hairspray) certainly did just that, if not ironically bringing some minor fame and hipster status to the post-industrial human garbage dump in the process. Bourgeois McCatholic by birth, Waters came of age in Lutherville, Maryland, a strikingly soulless suburb outside of Baltimore City, so he never really grew up around the pigtown hicks, totally degenerated German-Americans (although totally deracinated and mongrelized, Balt-krauts make up the largest white population of the city today), philistine Polaks, bottom of the barrel blacks, and other racial/cultural rabble that populate the third world-esque city, but luckily his posh upper-middleclass background gave him the monetary and educational resources he needed to more or less infamously immortalize these poor urban peasants, with Pink Flamingos (1972) aka John Waters' Pink Flamingos being his greatest tribute to people that are totally unworthy of tribute. Utilizing what he learned from watching the films of Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Mike Kuchar, Jack Smith, and various other exploitation/arthouse auteur filmmakers, Waters gave some major, if not absurdly amateurishly assembled, movie magic to the less than ideal untermensch idiosyncrasies of Balti-morons everywhere with Pink Flamingos, which would go on to be one of the most insanely iconoclastic, greatly grotesque, and supremely shocking Midnight Movies ever made. Featuring chicks with dicks, deranged drag queens, dainty dog-shit devouring by said deranged drag queens, infantile obese elderly women with egg fetishes, real live chickens being killed during violent white trash coitus, and festive trailer park cannibalism, among countless other examples of low-camp bad taste, Pink Flamingos is arguably the greatest cultural artifact created in Baltimore City since the sardonic scribbling of Nietzschean German-American sage H.L. Mencken. Aesthetic nihilism in its most tastelessly charming Charm City form, Pink Flamingos, not unlike Harmony Korine Gummo (1997), is irrefutable proof that ‘celluloid art’ can be sired out of even the most decidedly dysgenic culture-less hellholes. The superlatively sordid, sleazy, seedy, scatological, and satirical celluloid tale of a matriarchal white trash family led by a deadly degenerate drag diva named Divine that declares total trash war against a pretentious married couple who wants to steal the mad matriarch’s well earned tabloid-given title of “The Filthiest Person Alive,” Pink Flamingos is revolutionary transgressive cinematic filth that makes Dadaism and other forms of degenerate iconoclastic art seem cultivated and classy by comparison. 

 Big, butch, and part bald ‘Divine,’ who is living under the alias Babs Johnson (Divine), is proud to be ‘The Filthiest Person Alive’ (as named by a tabloid called The Midnight) and her mobile-home-hermit filth family, which includes egg-phile mommy Edie (Edith Massey), criminal cracker son Crackers (Danny Mills), and traveling cunt companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), only add to her rather dubious reputation, but troubles arises in paradise when jealous rivals, middle-class married couple Connie (Mink Stole) and Raymond Marble (David Lochary), decide that they want to steal the tabloid title and they are willing to go to just about any lunatic libertine extreme to do so. Under the farcically false front of being a bourgeois ‘adoption clinic,’ the majorly misanthropic Marbles run a black market baby ring where they kidnap stupid young girls, which are subsequently impregnated by their flamingly gay manservant Channing (Channing Wilroy), who masturbates into his hand and inseminates the women via injection, and nine nauseating months later, the bastard babies are sold to lesbian couples. Of course, the Marbles are more ambitious than they might seem upon a superficial glance as they use the monetary proceeds of their rather unconventional adoption clinic to fund a network of drug dealers who are pushing heroin in intercity elementary schools, not to mention the fact that Raymond moonlights as a phallocentric public flasher (he shows off a giant kielbasa sausage tied to his much smaller penis) who robs young ladies of their purses after they become rather repulsed by his mangled man meat. To spy on Divine’s family and to prove the Babs Johnson is indeed Divine living under an alias, the Marbles hire a crafty cunt named Cookie (Cookie Mueller) to infiltrate the family under the guise of going on a date with Crackers. Of course, Cookie cums to rather regret it as Crackers shares carnal knowledge with her while crushing a chicken (which was actually killed in real-life for the scene) between their two unclad bodies, but at least the slut spy gets the information the Marbles were after, including Babs’ real identity as ‘Divine’, her sad family situation, and her upcoming birthday bash. In their first act of petty trash terrorism, the Marbles send Divine a special package containing an authentic turd and birthday card, which is addressed to “Fatso” and proclaims that they are really “The Filthiest People Alive.” When Divine’s hick freakshow of a birthday party of arrives, the busybody Marbles go there to spy from afar, where they spot, among other things, the big birthday girl sharing poppers with her hippie mutant friends and a fiercely fucked fellow with a ‘singing asshole’ who makes his rather flexible sphincter sing in tune with the song “Surfin' Bird” by The Trashmen.  In a more precious and lighthearted moment, a romantic Egg Man (Paul Swift) with an absolutely grotesque Baltimore accent proposes to the egg-shaped Edie and she naturally accepts, so he carts here away in a wheelbarrow for their romantic honeymoon around an egg factory. 

Eventually, the Marbles suffer all they can stomach at the bawdy birthday bash, especially after the singing asshole routine, so they call the cops and report the perverted party, but when the men in blue arrive, Divine and her cohorts kills and roast the pigs, subsequently eating their corpses in what amounts to something much more special than a simple b-day cake in a scene that seems to give a satirical H.G. Lewis-esque nod George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). After receiving a lead from a happening chick named Patty Hitler, who resembles Uncle Adolf's beloved Eva Braun, Divine and Crackers find the location of the Marbles home and decide to pay their rivals back by physically and metaphysically molesting their house, licking and rubbing their furniture with their “filthiness” and sharing a passionate mother-son blowjob (“The most divine gift a mother can give!” or so says Divine) in a rather dated parody of porn chic classic Deep Throat (1972). When Divine & Son find manservant Channing (who has been imprisoned by the Marbles for trying on Connie Marbles clothing, including her panties), they hand him over to the kidnapped girls to berate and torture accordingly (he is ultimately castrated and left for dead). Unfortunately, while Divine was away with her son molesting the Marbles humble abode, the Marbles were burning down her luxury pink-and-green trailer. After that, it is no more Mr. Nice Lady-Guy for alpha-degenerate Divine, who takes the Marbles hostage at gunpoint and holds a press conference (one of the media men is not coincidentally named ‘Larry Goldstein’) at the less the scenic site where her trailer burned to the ground and proudly espouses her ‘filth politics’ Weltanschauung, degenerately declaring, “Blood does more than turn me on, it makes me cum. And more than the sight of it, I love the taste of it. The taste of hot, freshly killed blood...Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth are my politics! Filth is my life! Take whatever you like.” Not simply stopping there, Divine holds a bolshevik-esque kangaroo court, listens to the trashy testimony of Cotton and Crackers, and ultimately declares the Marbles guilty of “first-degree stupidity” and “assholism,” for which they are executed via a bullet-in-the-head, but not before they are tied to a tree and tarred and feathered accordingly. After capturing “live homicide” on camera, the morally retarded representatives of the media leave and Divine, Crackers, and Cotton decide to relocate to Boise, Idaho, but Divine, being a decadent lard ass with bad taste and a voracious appetite, gets rather hungry during the trip and decides to eat a freshly defecated dog dropping, thus fittingly concluding Pink Flamingos with an offscreen narrator stating of the dimestore drag diva that s/he is, “not only the filthiest person in the world, but is also the world's filthiest actress.” 

 Rather unfortunately, John Waters wrote a screenplay for a Pink Flamingos sequel entitled ‘Flamingos Forever’, which Troma Entertainment offered to finance in 1984 (though Waters was not too keen on their old school Moviolas editing system), but Divine refused to do it (s/he felt it would be a bad career move, especially after having the luxury of being able to play actual male roles in films like Alan Rudolph’s neo-noir flick Trouble in Mind (1985)) and Egg Lady Edith Massey had already died by then. Of course, it was guaranteed with the premature death of Divine in 1988 that Flamingos Forever would never be made under any circumstance, but with its hysterically humorous hodgepodge of interspecies coprophilia, chick with dicks, crooning bungholes, obese-drag-queen-on-scrawny-redneck fellatios, fecal felons, and countless other uniquely unspeakable sinematic acts, it is rather questionable whether or not Waters would have been able to top Pink Flamingos with the sequel, though with Desperate Living (1977) he certainly came close. Personally, Desperate Living will always be my favorite John Waters film, even if it lacks the aberrant-garde filmmaker’s main diva Divine, but Pink Flamingos certainly comes in a close second. Indubitably, the sort of film sadomasochistic sodomite gutter-auteur Andy Milligan would have probably directed had he had a larger budget to work with and was a wee bit less puritanical, Pink Flamingos is like the ‘Fleshpot on 42nd Street of Baltimore,’ albeit much more merrily misanthropic and visually and thematically vuglar. Essentially, Waters’ anti-love-letter to the straight Catholic bourgeois Baltimore background he was reared in (ironically, Waters’ father funded the film with a loan of $10,000, but he would never get around to seeing the flick that ultimately made his son (in)famous), Pink Flamingos is an uniquely ugly, unhinged, and morally miscreant anti-aesthetic assault on traditional American mores that still manages to shock today despite the fact that the USA has morally and culturally deteriorated quite drastically since the film's release over four decades ago. Luckily, growing up near Baltimore City, Waters did not have to look to far to see examples of real-life social sickness in action, as Pink Flamingos would be nothing without its preternatural Balti-moron flavor, which a self-segregated semite like Barry Levinson (Diner, Avalon) has done his damnedest to ignore with his sheltered middle-class Ashkenazi films. In its incendiary iconoclasm, ‘wanton’ wittiness, and lack of respect for good pre-counter-culture WASP society, Pink Flamingos prestigiously follows in the traditional of H.L. Mencken, minus the literacy of course.  Indeed, John Waters may have become so popular since the release of Pink Flamingos that he had a hit musical on Broadway and is featured as a commentator on what seems like every single TV show and documentary released over the past decade or so, but as he stated at the very end of the documentary Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream (2005), “I don’t think I’ve change, I think my humor is the same…I think the American public has changed.”  Of course, Waters started to tone down the content of his films with the semi-mainstream flick Polyester (1981) starring burnout Aryan-Jew heartthrob Tab Hunter, but he never stopped paying (anti)tribute to the strikingly shitty city that has one of the highest Chlamydia rates in the country, which is a fact that I am sure the auteur is rather proud of.  Forget HBO's The Wire (2002-2008), Pink Flamingos is Baltimore in all its unhinged unglory before it turned in a pre-third-world jigaboo war zone.

-Ty E

No comments: