Punks Get Off The Grass
What with John Waters seemingly everywhere these days (Salon, the NYT, Fresh Air) as he promotes his new book, Role Models, I thought it’d be a fine time to revisit one of his former film muses, Edith Massey.
Along with Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce, Massey was a stock player in the Dreamlander universe, and a key contributer to that trilogy of Waters films I and many others consider particularly essential: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living.
Watching those three films growing up (and watching them, and watching them), Massey always struck me as being infinitely stranger than larger-than-life drag queen, Divine. Maybe it was because I somehow grasped that “drag” was, by definition, “performative,” and thus safer than the whacked-out maternalism that Massey so artlessly channeled. In fact, whereas Divine’s acting method might be described as quotation-marks-within-quotation-marks, Massey seemingly acted without the cushion of any marks whatsoever—quotation or otherwise.
Massey’s life after Waters was perhaps no odder than her life before it, and its trajectory has an arc straight out of Dickens: from orphanage to reform school, from freight train rider to brothel madam, and then, as these things sometimes go, to Hollywood.
Of course, no Massey entry would be complete without the infamous “Egg Man” moment from Pink Flamingos. That follows below:
After a battle with cancer and diabetes, Massey passed away in Venice, California, in 1984. That was 2 years after Massey and her band, called, naturally, Edie and the Eggs, released the below Rodney on the Roq staple, Punks, Get Off The Grass: