Multiple Maniacs: John Waters Directs Divine

John Waters and Divine collaborated again, to better effect, in “Multiple Maniacs,” in which the star plays Lady Divine, the manager of the “Cavalcade of Perversion” show which exhibits perverse fetish rituals and obscenities like puke-eating.

The show is free of charge, though the performers must persuade reluctant passers-by to attend. At the show’s finale, Divine robs the patrons at a gunpoint, which is approved by her lover, Mr. David (David Lochary). However, bored with the routine, she ups the ante and decides to murder the patrons instead of just robbing them.

Escaping the murder scene, Divine returns home to her daughter Cookie (Cookie Mueller), a prostitute, and her boyfriend Steve (Paul Swift), a member of the Weather Underground. Lady Divine is informed by Edith (Edith Massey), the owner of a local bar that Mr. David is cheating with Mary Vivian Pearce. Rushing to the bar, she is raped by two glue-sniffers, but then the vision of the Infant of Prague appears leading her to pray in church. This is a Waters film and so the church becomes a cruising ground, when the Lady is seduced by a strange woman (Mink Stole). During their sexual encounter, Mink inserts a rosary into Divine’s rectum while reciting the “Stations of the Cross.”

Waters has singled out that scene as the most blasphemous in all his movies. Watching it today, it still is shockingly rude and rudely shocking, because Divine is seen wiping it off with her sleeve, while another person is shooting up on the altar. Waters recalled: “It was the most gratuitous shot in any of my movies—really ad-lib—for no reason, just another horrible thing to show. Since the guy shooting up did it for real, and upon seeing the film the priest asked Waters never to tell where it was shot (He has kept his word to this day).

Waters attributes the religious mockery in this and other movies to his strict Catholic background: ”I am certainly a Catholic filmmaker, but that does not mean that I am a good Catholic. They told us that we couldn’t do this or that, so it has formed me, the same way as being gay has.” As for the image of the Infant of Prague, he noted: “How could I not be a Catholic and do that!?”
Lesbian lovers Divine and Mink go to Edith’s bar, intending to kill Mr. David, but they are too late. Mr. David returns to Cookie’s house to kill Divine, and in a violent argument, his mistress Bonnie accidentally kills Cookie. In retaliation, Divine kills Bonnie, and devours Mr. David internal organs with a knife. Angry at Mink for betraying her, she stabs Mink, but a giant lobster (Lobstora) rapes Divine.

Geared in mink coat, Divine , a self-proclaimed “maniac,” goes on a killing spree. In the conclusion, the National Guard shoots Divine while the iconic Kate Smith sings the patriotic tune, “God Bless America.”

“The Diane Linkletter Story” was produced around the same time as “Mondo Trasho.” This 15 minutes black- and-white short tells the story of Divine as the young Dawn Davenport, the protagonist of Waters 1974 feature-length “Female Trouble.”

After the opening credits, during which Divine inhales drugs, the tale begins with a voice over of a letter from Diane to her old folks (played by Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary). The parents are worried about Diane’s behavior, taking drugs, hanging out aimlessly with her boyfriend. High on drugs, Diane responds to her parents concern by proudly declaring: “I am what I am, doing my own thing in my own time.” This was a slogan of the 1960s, an era Waters ridiculed—despite the fact of participating in its wilder activities, and despite the fact that they served as inspiration for his work.

The father calls a doctor to treat his daughter, and when Diane protests, the mother slaps her. The upset father screams up the stairs at his daughter, “you’re disgusting slut.” The delirious Diane walks to the window and falls out, screaming as she lands on the ground. Seeing in a high angle her bleeding body, the hysterical parents beg Diane: “Please come back to us. We love you. Call collect.”