Pink Flamingos: My Experience with the “The Ultimate Experience in Bad Taste”
By Steve Shroyer
I remember being a young pup and making pilgrimages to the local library to read or pick up a huge pile of books. One book I used to pick out was in the over sized non-fiction section, the place where coffee table books and reference books on movies and other dewy decimal subjects were found. The book was slightly outdated and was an encyclopedia of “Cult Films” and it was my gateway into the weird and obscure. I’d sit at one of the tables and thumb through it, reading synopses of films I had never heard of and some that had stayed in my mind even without viewing. “Eraserhead” “Rocky Horror” and the Paul Morrissey film “Trash” were just a few of the titles I combed through but one movie stood out. That film was “Pink Flamingos.”
I remember first hearing about the movie through Premiere Magazine and its most infamous scene when I was either 6 or 7 and remember being fascinated with it. Years of research had made me curious on what exactly was so trashy about it. How bad was it? Did it really go all the way in terms of bad taste? It would take almost 18 years and a misplaced graduation gift to finally give me the opportunity to see this film. Let me say this now fellow Bizarros, it’s everything you’ve heard about and more. I will not go into plot details since, for most of us visiting this blog, it is fairly familiar; however I will share what I went through while I watched it.
For its entire hour and a half run time I was either laughing my ass off or staring in wide eyed horror. I was either feeling icky or feeling giddy, there was no in between. Edith Massey’s “Egg Lady” was both disgusting and almost Yorkshire terrier cute, Divine’s performance was both freakish, and nearly God like, and the “Birthday Party” sequence was almost like looking at a Roman Orgy. Somehow this film, made on a small budget, had a power over me that no other movie since “Beauty and the Beast” had when I was 16. In other words, it was freaking epic.
The neat thing about this film is how John Waters makes the trashy things in this movie almost as normal as a latte at Starbucks or Wonder bread. You watch these things in horror but afterwards you look at it and go “Wow, that’s brilliant.” Waters makes the trashy and filthy into an art form. In essence the film and its plot reflect that. The long monologues, and the almost mundane and blasé lifestyle of its villains seem to reflect something out of a European art film of the 1960s. It is the quintessential expression of Trash as Art.
To say that this movie is now one of my many favorite movies is quite an understatement. This film is a life changer, a religious experience for me. If you don’t know what I mean my fellow Bizarros , get a copy and see. Like me, you too will become full time members of the cult of Divine.