In the late 70s, in my early 20s, I lived in San Francisco, south of Market Street, in a warehouse zoned for commercial use. I lived there illegally (because of the zoning) with maybe 10 other artists. There was a lot of this going on in the area (this was before the Moscone Center was built). Nobody really knew who lived where unless there was an earthquake, and then we would all come out and compare our "Huh? What just happened there?"s and see who was new to the area. There were musicians, dancers, painters, etc. and we all created living spaces in the places where we worked.
Sound romantic? HA! It was horrible. HORRIBLE. It was freezing cold (San Francisco is cold, COLD and when your floors are concrete, it is really cold. When I worked in my studio space I had to use a space heater on my hands so they wouldn't cramp up from the cold.). The place looked like a warehouse because it was a warehouse, complete with crud constantly falling from the ceiling because before we moved in, the space was used to manufacture something called Sta-Crete.
I remember some book came out around that time about "loft living" and when we eventually all moved out, people actually came to look at the place in hopes of duplicating that "loft living" lifestyle. They were horrified. No stairs to get upstairs, you had to use a ladder. We had to install the plumbing and that looked awful. We built our own bedrooms. That was bad enough with the bad framing and drywall but the bedroom floors were covered in a bright red carpet that had been thrown out of a hotel that was being remodeled (one of the artists worked there at night). We were all very poor. But in your early 20s, that kind of thing is tolerated because you know, at that age, you are going to live forever.
Most of the artists living in the warehouse were still in art school but had outside jobs that paid practically nothing. I bring all this up just to set the tone of this celebrity story I'm going to tell. We were really poor. At least I felt that way. My boyfriend, who lived there with me, had a night job cleaning up a natural foods organic restaurant (oh yeah, that could sound romantic too but this place was SO natural and organic, when they made apple pie, they would throw everything in, including the seeds). This restaurant was maybe a 45 minute walk from where we lived. And to walk to this restaurant, you had to walk through the most dangerous part of the city-the Tenderloin.
One night Nik called from his night job because he was bored and wanted some company. Could I come up and talk to him while he worked? Well, why sure, why not. It was maybe midnight or worse and I had no money for a cab (not that we ever took cabs anyway) and there really wasn't a bus that would take me there so I had to walk. And I had to walk through the Tenderloin, at midnight or worse.
Nik told me the only thing crazy people are afraid of are other crazy people. I kept that in mind when I preplanned my walk through the Tenderloin. This is what I did... I put on a couple outfits. Let me repeat that, I put on a couple outfits. On my final layer I wore a blue and grey plaid coat from the 50s and on one shoulder I either pinned or clipped a little plastic parakeet toy. When I entered the Tenderloin area, I started talking to this parakeet and laughing at all the jokes it was "telling" me. I made it through the area with NO problem and when I finally got to Geary Street, which is a street with a lot of lights and restaurants and traffic, I could feel safe. But I still continued with my crazy talk with the parakeet on my shoulder. I guess I was probably getting into it at that point. Anyway, while walking down Geary Street a man approached me from the opposite direction. He had white hair and he was dressed in gray and black. We passed each other. He looked kind of familiar for some reason.
I walked a little bit and then turned around to look again at the man I had just passed.
The man I had just passed had also stopped to turn around to take a good look at me.
I then recognized him.
Divine had done a double take on me.
Yes, that gave me validation that I had done a good job of dressing up all crazy because, Good Lord, Divine had done a double take on me!!!!!
The man I saw...
And the character he played...
If you're not familiar with Divine, he was in a lot of John Waters movies. Not familiar with John Waters? You're probably familiar with one of his movies indirectly. The character John Travolta played in the movie "Hairspray" was based on the musical "Hairspray" which was based on the original John Waters movie "Hairspray" which starred Divine as the John Travolta character.
Ha ha ha.