December 9, 2006

"When we started in those days, drag queens were square... "

Goodbye to Van Smith, who designed the costumes and makeup for John Waters films. Dead at age 61. His greatest design: the hair/makeup/costuming that made Harris Glenn Milstead into Divine. The year was 1972, the film "Pink Flamingos":
First was the hair, shaved back to the crown to allow more room for eye makeup. Second was the makeup, acres of eye shadow topped by McDonald’s-arch eyebrows; lashes so long they preceded the wearer; and a huge scarlet mouth. Third were the clothes: shimmering, skintight numbers...

The entire budget for “Pink Flamingos,” Mr. Waters said, was $10,000.

That left little to spend on costumes beyond sequins (absolutely essential), staples (to hold the costumes together) and lentils (see below). ...

Like his costumes, Mr. Smith’s makeup was the stuff of riotous nightmare. It was often made from common household ingredients, including dirt (used as foundation), egg whites (when dry, they lent the face a scabrous look) and potato chips (the crumbs made teeth appear plaque-ridden).

Then there were the lentils. These, as Mr. Smith discovered after much experimenting, made natural-looking prosthetic breasts for Divine. They moved better than socks.
So coat your teeth with chewed-up potato chip, smear the dirt and egg white on your face, load up that brassiere with lentils: An artist has died.

ADDED: To see the full effect of Smith's design and to hear the answer to the question "Could you give us some of your political beliefs?," click -- NSFW! -- here.


Dave said...

"First was the hair, shaved back to the crown to allow more room for eye makeup."


When did cross-dressers' eyes go their foreheads?

Makeup makes no sense, even less so when it's on a man.

Gahrie said...

Divine (and John Waters) transcend both sense and rationality.

You either get it, or you don't.

stephenb said...

Well I don't get it.

Dawn said...

Dave, apparently you've never seen pictures of Leigh Bowery

He made Divine look tame in comparison.

price said...

Van Smith was really crucial to John Waters' work, and therefore crucial to cinema in general. This is really sad. But at least Divine and Van have been reunited and he can continue to design her "priceless theatrical wardrobe"!!

Gahrie said...

Oh I don't get it either.

But it is simply undeniable that the appearance of Divine in Waters' films have had an impact on our culture.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Professor Althouse became a little cooler in my personal book of cool by posting this and, especially, for providing that video link.

Les said...

The best line in Pink Flamingos:

"You sir are accused of a$$hole-ism!"

I hadn't had a similar movie-watching experience until seeing Borat last friday. Funny stuff.