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Harris Glenn Milstead was an American singer and actor known by his drag persona Divine and his appearance in several of John Waters' films. The New York Times said of Milstead's films in the 1980s, "Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine's performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick."
Born in Baltimore on October 19, 1945, Milstead was raised as an only child. At the age of twelve, his family moved to Lutherville, a Baltimore suburb, where Milstead attended Towson High School and became acquainted with John Waters, who lived in his neighborhood.
In the 1970s, Milstead starred as Divine in a number of New York City theater pieces, including the classic camp women's prison drama, Women Benhind Bars, which was a major off-Broadway hit in 1976, playing the lead role of the evil matron, Pauline. Divine returned to the stage in another play, The Neon Woman, where he played the role of Flash Storm, the owner of a sleazy strip club plagued by a series of murders.
Milstead is most notably remembered for his numerous starring roles in film, for which he was a part of the regular cast known as the Dreamlanders. The Dreamlanders appeared in many of John Waters' earlier works such as Pink Flamingos (in 1972), Female Trouble, Polyester and Hairspray.
On the evening of March 7, a week after Hairspray was released, he was in Los Angeles staying in the Regency Hotel. The next day, he was due to audition for a part in the Fox network's television series Married... with Children. Known for his punctuality when working, people became concerned when he did not appear on the set the next morning. His manager, Bernard Jay, went to the hotel at noon to check on him. The autopsy found he had died in his sleep of heart failure, or an enlarged heart brought on by sleep apnea. He was 42 years old.