Divine was named Drag Queen of the Century by People magazine. We remember Divine’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Divine was named Drag Queen of the Century by People magazine. Born Harris Glenn Milstead, he rose to cult-hero status when he began starring in John Waters films including Pink Flamingos, Polyester and Hairspray. While his fame as an actor grew, he built a music career and scored dance hits like “You Think You’re a Man” and “Native Love (Step by Step).” His over-the-top image influenced many … including the Disney animators who created Ursula the Sea-Witch in The Little Mermaid, basing the villain’s appearance on Divine’s. We remember Divine’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2016: Michael White, British theater and film producer who produced the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” dies at 80.
2013: Claude King, U.S. country musician known best for his million-selling hit “Wolverton Mountain,” dies at 90.
King was one of the original members of the Louisiana Hayride, the Saturday night show where Elvis Presley got his start and Hank Williams Sr. frequently performed. The show transformed country music from 1948 to 1960 – the Hayride’s heyday – with music genres including western swing, mountaineer, jazz, blues and gospel. Duane King recalls meeting Presley and Hank Williams Sr. backstage with his dad at the Hayride. King’s hit, “Wolverton Mountain,” co-written with Merle Kilgore, was about an Arkansas mountain man, Clifton Clowers, who guarded his daughter from suitors. Read more
2013: Peter Banks, English musician who was the original guitarist for the rock band Yes, dies at 65.
2013: Sybil Christopher, English actress who was at one time married to actor Richard Burton and who founded the popular 1960s celebrity nightclub Arthur in New York City, dies at 83.
The Welsh-born Christopher was Sybil Burton when Richard Burton, her first husband, left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. She then left California for New York, where she opened a nightclub in 1965 with backing from famous friends like Julie Andrews and Leonard Bernstein. The club, called Arthur, became a celebrity hangout and turned Christopher into a post-divorce success story. Read more
2006: Gordon Parks, U.S. photographer known for his photographic essays for Life magazine and his work as director of the movie Shaft, dies at 93.
He covered everything from fashion to politics to sports during his 20 years at Life, from 1948 to 1968. But as a photographer, he was perhaps known best for his gritty photo essays on the grinding effects of poverty in the U.S. and abroad and on the spirit of the civil rights movement. “Those special problems spawned by poverty and crime touched me more, and I dug into them with more enthusiasm,” he said. “Working at them again revealed the superiority of the camera to explore the dilemmas they posed.” Read more
2005: Debra Hill, U.S. screenwriter and film producer who co-wrote many movies with John Carpenter, including Halloween and Escape From New York, dies at 54.
2004: Paul Winfield, U.S. actor who had roles in Sounder and Star Trek II among many other movies, dies at 64.
In 1968 Winfield played the boyfriend of Diahann Carroll in her situation comedy Julia – a role that some suggest helped open television to other black performers. Four years later Winfield’s portrayal of the father in Sounder earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. He was Emmy-nominated for best actor in the title role of the 1978 miniseries King, and nominated the next year in the best supporting actor category for playing a college chancellor willing to sing African-American spirituals to get donations for his school in Roots: The Next Generation. He finally won an Emmy in 1995 for a guest appearance on Picket Fences. He played a federal judge whose rulings on busing inner-city children are challenged by a local resident. Read more
1999: Stanley Kubrick, U.S. film director who is regarded by many as one of the greatest film directors of all time and whose movies include Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, dies at 70.
More than 40 years have passed since the film 2001 emerged into a world where the landscape was changing in ways just as incredible and confusing as the film itself. Controversial and inspiring, the movie is remembered for its often-wordless, extremely serious and mystically wondrous portrayal of the future. It remains unchallenged as one of the greatest works of science in art, and as the years have passed, its legend as one of the greatest films of all time continues to grow. Today almost all science fiction films have emerged from its visionary womb. Star Wars, Aliens, Star Trek – their spaceships, atmosphere and technology are all borrowed from the groundwork established in 2001. Read more
1991: James “Cool Papa” Bell, U.S. baseball great in the Negro Leagues who was considered one of the fastest players ever and who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, dies at 87.
1988: Robert Livingston, U.S. actor who appeared in 135 films, dies at 83.
1988: Divine, aka Harris Milstead, U.S. actor and drag performer who was mostly associated with the films of John Waters such as Polyester, dies at 42.
Divine was probably America’s most-beloved drag queen, and his over-the-top performance and appearance were perfect for the cult films of John Waters. Divine starred in many of Waters’ movies, ending his reign with Hairspray. The original version of the film – and the favorite version of cult-movie purists – was released just weeks before Divine died. Read more
1986: Jacob K. Javits, U.S. politician who was a senator for New York from 1957 to 1981, dies at 81.
1983: Robert Bray, U.S. actor who played the role of forest ranger Corey on the TV series Lassie from 1964-1968, dies at 65.
1975: Francine Larrimore, U.S. actress who appeared in many silent films, dies at 76.
1967: Alice B. Toklas, U.S. companion to Gertrude Stein who was part of the avant garde in Paris, dies at 89.
1955: Tom Dugan, Irish actor who appeared in Hollywood movies such as Take Me Out to the Ball Game, dies at 66.
1274: St. Thomas Aquinas, Italian priest who was an immensely influential philosopher, dies at 49.