Waters Shorts: Eat Your Make Up, Roman Candles, Diane Linklater Story

In 1966, Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the campus grounds, which led to expulsion from NYU. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he completed several shorts, “Roman Candles” and “Eat Your Make-up.”

Roman Candles

Composed of three 8mm films, shot in color and shown simultaneously, “Roman Candles” introduced several other Dreamland regulars, including David Lochary, Mink Stole, Pat Moran, and Divine. Maelcum Soul exerted strong influence on Divine in style and make-up. Multiple images, which at first seem random, are used to portray religion and bizarre lifestyles, playing off each other while juxtaposed with split-second shots from old horror flicks.

Acts involving religious mockery (Maelcum dressed as a nun), drug-taking and weird sex emphasize the absurd and the provocative. The focus again is on victimized and tormented women. Mary Vivian Pearce is attacked with electric fan, and a man in black leather beats another woman. The short concludes with a montage showing one actor photographing Mona and another in drag on motorcycle. In a shocking reference to Kennedy’s assassination, David Lochary fires a shotgun and there is an image of Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother. Divine, in a red wig, is playing hide and seek. The bizarre and wild images play to nostalgic Shangri-Las tunes.

Eat Your Make Up

Eat Your Makeup, a black-and-white, 45 minute short shot in 16 mm, made in 1967, follows a couple of perverse gangsters (played by David Lochary and Maelcum Soul), who kidnap women and chain them. The three captives (Marina Melin, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Mona Montgomery) grovel for the food, but the only thing they can eat is cheap make-up. The women, chained to a freestanding wall, are then forced to model before jeering crowds until they drop dead—literally. It is the first and last Waters film in which the evil group exploiting innocent others win. In later Waters films, the villains lose, and the misfits, who are comfortable with their deviance, win after a struggle.

Most of the crude and intense images deal with religion. Early on, a wicked couple and vicious dog stalk Marina (wearing peekaboo dress) as she emerges from church, fingering her rosary. Later, as a bishop intones the sacraments, Divine fantasizes herself as Jackie Kennedy and Howard Gruber as JFK. They ride joyously in an open car, waving to invisible but cheering crowds. When a shot is fired, Howard slumps over, and Divine (in pink dress) climbs over the back of the car. The sequence ends with Divine fading back to reality. After Marina dies on the runway and the vicious people depart, a man in cavalry uniform puts flowers on her body. She then comes back to life in the woods, as a fairy princess.

In his shorts, as in his later features, two prominent themes emerge: the nature of American society as increasingly image-conscious and media-saturated, and the use of fables and fairytales in deformed and distorted ways to comment on contemporary culture.

The Diane Linkletter Story

“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.”