Divine Trash

Director: Steve Yeager
Screenwriters: Kevin Heffernan, Steve Yeager

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


As a boy, filmmaker John Waters would sneak out of the house to watch underground films through binoculars outside the drive-in movie theater. His formal film training consisted of five minutes at NYU film school, where he found he would rather watch Olga’s House of Shame instead of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Steve Yeager’s documentary Divine Trash is an in-depth look at the making of Waters’s Pink Flamingos, the most successful and arguably most important underground film ever made. Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, the star of the film, was Waters’s greatest discovery and one of his closest friends. A mix of Clarabell the clown and Jayne Mansfield, Divine gave new meaning to the term “drag queen”—some even compared her to Godzilla. Rare archival footage of a young, long-haired Waters, and interviews with actors, relatives, and film scholars reveal how passionate and serious he was about filmmaking.

Not everyone is a fan, though. Mary Avara of the now-extinct Maryland Film Censor Board says if she could, she would give all his films a rating of “RT” for Real Trash. She may be responsible for jump-starting Waters’s career. Steve Yeager captures the respect, love, and dedication that the Pink Flamingos family had for each other and for Waters’s unique vision. John Waters puts it best when he describes Divine, who died in 1988, as an actor “who started his career playing a homicidal maniac and ended it playing a loving mother—which is a pretty good stretch, especially when you’re a three-hundred-pound man.”

Steve Yeager, Director
Born in Baltimore in 1946, Steve Yeager began shooting 8-mm movies while a theatre major at Towson University, where he now teaches filmmaking and acting for the camera. In 1991 he produced, directed, and cowrote his first feature film On the Block, which starred the late Howard Rollins, a fellow Baltimorean and childhood friend. For two years he produced and directed crime re-enactment segments for “America’s Most Wanted.” He is now developing dramatic and documentary projects.

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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