It was the first week of the new millenium that The Divine David Presents first appeared on British television (Dangerous Minds own Richard Metzger’s TV series
premiered immediately before it on the Channel 4 network). The show was the creation of performance artist David Hoyle, who each week offered up a choice selection of his alter ego, the Divine David’s thoughts, views, and takes on life, sex and everything in between. It was bitingly satiric, often indulgent, regularly offensive, but ultimately a show that hit like an earthquake and left hundreds of after-shocks that continue reverberate all these years later. As the press fumed at the time: “there had been nothing like seen on our screens!” And sadly there’s been damn few things like it ever since!
Hoyle was born in Blackpool, the seaside town famed for its bright lights, shows, candy rock, its kiss-me-quick hats and its Tower. As a gay child, living in Blackpool was “horrendous.” Going to school everyday was like “was like walking to your death on a daily basis. Knowing that you were going to get assaulted, knowing that you didn’t have anybody to talk to.” As he told The Times there was no one to turn to, even his teachers were unsympathetic:
“They would watch as my bag was emptied out of the window, three storeys up. They would allow it because they believed that by subjecting me to violence it would make me heterosexual. Your life is a nightmare but you can’t tell them why, because what you are is so massively wrong that what people are doing by assaulting you is the right thing. You should be assaulted for being a homosexual. That’s what was going on in my mind.”
Hoyle coped by turning his pain into comedy. At 17 he made his stage debut at a working men’s club, the Belle Vue.
“I created this character who was the illegitimate offspring of the Duke of Edinburgh and Dorothy Squires. His name was Paul Munnery-Vain, taken from the pulmonary vein in your heart.”
From such beginnings Hoyle progressed into creating The Divine David who satirized the lifestyles many of his audiences held dear—gay-community narcissism, the chauvinism of drag artists, sexual politics, celebrity culture and sex. Hoyle was not just mining the world around him, but using up large chunks of himself—and it came at a cost.
His Channel 4 TV series brought him some mainstream success, but Hoyle became “mired in drink and drugs,” and to save himself, he decided to kill off The Divine David in an ice-show spectacular at the Streatham Ice Arena in London. He moved back to Manchester. “At the end I was pretty burnt out.” Then Hoyle had a breakdown that left him contemplating the wallpaper: “Just rocking to and fro, you know, the days merging, the seasons coming and going.”
It took time, but the fragile Hoyle recovered and in 2005, he appeared as Doug Rocket in Chris Morris’ comedy series Nathan Barley. He then wrote and starred in a series of shows including Magazine (2007), Dave’s Drop-In (2009), Licking Wounds (2010) and a night of musical entertainment, Unplugged (2011). Hoyle also co-directed and starred in the film Uncle David in 2010.
But let’s go back and have a look at Hoyle as his alter-ego, The Divine David, spreads some Christmas cheer.
More Divine David, after the jump…