“He was the Drag Queen of the Century. He called himself Divine and he was proud of his creation: a unique and hilarious high-camp cartoon, a Miss Piggy for the blissfully depraved.”
People magazine, March 1988
Out of all of my alternative heroes growing up, Divine, the gorgeously grotesque female caricature created by a misfit from Maryland, was definitely one of the weirdest. Embracing the American counterculture of the 1960s, the delicious, decadent Divine developed a name for himself as an utterly ignoble impersonator of the contradictory gender in a series of controversial John Waters films, moving into theatre in the 1970s and, lastly, embarking on a music career in the 1980s, which is where I discovered this rotund, raucous trashbag.
I spent my tricky teenage years coming to terms with a burgeoning outsider identity in the green and not always pleasant land of rural Buckinghamshire, an hour north of London. In the bitterly divided decade of Thatcher’s Britain, Divine, along with David Bowie and Dead or Alive (and possibly one or two other acts that didn’t necessarily begin with a D) was a breath of hot air that helped me understand a lot more about myself than any anodyne boy band sporting regulation Calvin Klein undies and Levi 501s ever could.
In the mid ‘80s the term Body Positive had yet to be coined, and heifers were largely reviled, or eaten. I was far from fat, in fact I was pretty skinny all the way through to my thirties. To hit that home, Tracey Waistnedge and Joanne Povey, my closest college comrades at Bletchley Park, bestowed me with the moniker The Golf Club. Size 11 feet leading to long, slim legs clad in the tightest possible drainpipe jeans probably had something to do with that.
Nevertheless, Divine, who’d gone from bullied gay teen to cult movie queen, helped me accept myself and my specific brand of Pafford peculiarity all the same. I mean, this was someone so iconic, so outré they actually ate real live dog poo as soon as it was evacuated… in “the sickest movie ever made.” She was fresh… exciting. Ouvre le chien…
Born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore on October 19, 1945 (my paternal grandmother‘s 35th birthday), the future-shock Divine always stood out amongst his peers. He was obsessed with glamour and fashion. For him, Elizabeth Taylor was the very embodiment of these things and was his main inspiration when he first went out in drag.
These were the seeds of the outrageously over-the-top character of Divine, who Glenn would become shortly after beginning his artistic relationship and friendship with the underground filmmaker, John Waters. Divine would become the name by which Milstead would be known and loved, which his closest friends shortened to “Divi.”
Collaborations with Waters, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey, among many others in his circle, led to a level of fame that Divine could never had anticipated. She was the first lady of filth and the queen of trash and glamour at the same time, always channeling her idol, Liz Taylor, in some fashion.
Is anybody still hungry?
To put the act in a historical context, Divine was a comedy character, and one of many interesting takes on drag on the silver screen. From the silent era, it’s been a comic staple, with pretty much every male comic star of note donning a frock for laughs.
Like Divi, many British stars have played eccentrically exaggerated women rather than men in drag for comic effect, from the sublime (Alastair Sim in the St Trinian’s films) to the dreadful (quite frankly, the current popularity of the BBC’s Mrs Brown’s Boys beggars belief).
Film director John Waters, the self-styled ‘pope of trash’, was a perfect larger-than-life fit for Divine, from rarely screened early underground curios such as Roman Candles (1966) and Eat Your Make-up (1968) to those later cruddy classics. Divine was a revolutionary drag performer, who elevated the form from female impersonation into something much more interesting and challenging.
Although best known for his ferocious grotesquerie in Pink Flamingos (“the filthiest person in the world,” above, 1972) and Female Trouble (1974), Divine also used his drag to send up the victimised heroines of Hollywood melodrama in Polyester (1981), drab portrayals of female working-class drudgery in Hairspray (1988) and, most provocatively, real-life tragedy, such as The Diane Linkletter Story (1970), filmed immediately after the subject had killed herself.
By the early 1980s Divi had metamorphosed into a disco artist and notorious nightclub act. Coincidentally, as 1983 mutated into 1984, I’d become heavily influenced by the voracious ‘anything goes’ vibe of The Joint, a Steve Strange Blitz-inspired polysexual club in Milton Keynes I’d started slipping into under-age and most definitely overwhelmed. In no time at all I’d bought my first two Divine singles: Shake It Up and Love Reaction they were called, and naturally, I opted for the heavyweight 12” editions.
I’d already witnessed the shimmering Shake It Up being performed live on Channel 4’s The Tube (below, replete with unkind Muriel Gray interview that Boy George told me he hates), and marvelled at every second of this thunderous electronic earthquake, but was unfamiliar with Love Reaction, which had provided the Baltimore babe with his first and, so far, only chart entry at a lowly 65. “Oh, you know it,” remarked my fellow student of weird, Paul Day: “You’ve bought it once already. It’s basically Blue Monday with different lyrics.” And by jove, it was too!
Quite how Divine and the mainman behind this astonishing heist, New York dance supremo Bobby Orlando, escaped some serious litigation from Factory Records is one of pop’s great mysteries. Just a decade later, when sampling had started to become commonplace, it would have been a very different story.
Love Reaction sounded like a slightly pitch-shifted sampling of the groundbreaking New Order record, with the unholy Divinity providing rudimentary vocals and a cursory synth line providing a bolted-on melody to lend it its only differentiation from Blue Monday. It was cheap, it was fun, and it was unapologetically derivative. In fact it barely sounds like a song, and let’s be frank, if Divine were not filling out the sleeve, no one in their right mind would have wanted to hear it. Still, the Manchester indie pioneers were game enough to take this ballsy snatch on the chin. In an interview with Smash Hits magazine in 1984, bassist extraordinaire Peter Hook bemoaned the band’s inability to come up with finished songs, quipping, “We’re getting so desperate we’ll have to ask Divine to write one for us.”
Known for his economic, easily identifiable productions featuring trademark dense synthesisers, rolling I Feel Love-purloining basslines and resounding percussion, Bobby ‘O’ was one of the founding fathers of Hi-NRG music, an incongruously arch-heterosexual one-man band that wrote, produced and released a clutch of similar sounding no-expense-disbursed gay disco ditties throughout the Eighties, including Passion by The Flirts, Roni Griffith’s (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up, and two earlier club classics for Divine, the brilliant Native Love (Step By Step) and its sister record, the lewdly laconic Shoot Your Shoot.
Later in ’84 Orlando would go on to helm an unfinished album for a couple of ardent admirers from the north of England. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe had just started a new hi-NRG meets hip-hop duo called the Pet Shop Boys. Sadly all but three of the original recordings have yet to be released, though Tennant seemed to tease just last year at the the possible prospect of the set’s long overdue inclusion into the PSB catalogue.
As Bobby ‘O’ became obsessed with breaking his new pop proteges, the good ship Divine sailed across the Atlantic in the opposite direction, and hooked up with a fledgling production outfit from England. The final results were the first time the names Stock Aitken & Waterman appeared on a hit record. And boy, what a record.
You Think You’re A Man was written by former Leighton Buzzards and Modern Romance frontman Geoff Deane, as a potential vehicle for Gloria Gaynor. In a recent Facebook chat with this author he recalls how he’d recorded an early tryout with chirpy cockney entertainer Joe Brown’s 19 year-old daughter Sam, who went on to a reasonably successful solo career in her own right.
“The demo of You think You’re A Man I did with Sam Brown, and provided all of the melodic top lines for the song and gave a flavour of the arrangement. We never had much equipment at our disposal so that was fairly skeletal. Four on the floor, hi-NRG bass and cowbells and a couple of synth pads, as I recall.”
The track came to the attention of Barry Evangeli, who ran Proto Records, an independent dance label based in London’s Camden Town. Proto specialised in Boystown, a distinct form of 1980s disco popular on the gay club scene, of which Hazel Dean’s Searchin’ (I Gotta Find a Man)* had just given the young company their first sniff of chart action.
Evangeli had lured Divine away from Bobby ‘O’ and was looking for a suitable song for his shiny new signing.** You Think You’re A Man was way more than suitable, it was perfect. Spitting out the lyrics like a towering inferno of wounded pride, the singer proclaims of being the best lover in the world, castigating a succession of men with huge egos and under-developed manhoods that have no ability to give her what she needs.
Queer delusion of this kind is a tactic oft employed in drag — the most unlikely of faces and bodies can become the biggest superstars, the most celebrated celebrities, the most popular partners, all while undermining the over-compensating arrogance of masculinity. That was Divine through and through.
The record company flew the portly performer out to Britain and his distinctive vocals, more hoarse than horse, were cut in an afternoon session at the famed Marquee Studios in Soho. The SAW-led team were in complete control of the music, which, with delicious irony, owed more than a debt to Bobby ‘O’. Deane, the song’s composer, remembers “Mike Stock and Matt Aitken put on all the bells and whistles and planned the 12-inch mix, which they did brilliantly I think. Waterman had fuck all to do with any of it.”
Pete Waterman, I presume.
On closer inspection, the credits do appear slightly ambiguous. Grandiose even: ‘Produced by Pete Waterman and Barry Evangeli, directed by Pete Ware, Mike Aitken, Matt Stock. A Pete Waterman production’. In effect, Stock Aitken and Waterman got their first gigs together only because Waterman was working out of Proto’s office at the time.
Considering the general public had barely heard of Divine or SAW, You Think You’re A Man was a surprisingly instant hit, crashing straight to the top of Record Mirror’s influential Hi-NRG Disco chart then crossing over into the UK Top 40 the second week of July. Trade bible Music Week declared it “electric ‘high energy’ dance club rock, laying down an infectious beat, with an unforgettable vocal. If dance is your passion, make a point of finding this record.”
In terms of sales, 1984 was one of music’s biggest ever years, a pivotal year in pop culture, and probably the gayest ever in terms of out(ish) and loud pop stars queering the upper echelons of the charts. A coincidence? A quick scan through the week before Divine made his long-awaited entry shows Frankie Goes To Hollywood top of the tree at Numbers 1 and 2, with Bronski Beat at 7, Michael Jackson at 8, George Michael’s Wham! at 9 and Elton John at fifteen. Further afield there were Hazell Dean and The Smiths (not together, mind: Morrissey only ever vacated his frontman role to one woman, Sandie Shaw, earlier the same year) bringing up the rear at thirty-four and thirty-five respectively. What a time to be glad to be gay.
You didn’t have to look much further to find the likes of Boy George and Culture Club, Dead Or Alive, Marilyn and Prince also making their gender-bending presence felt in ’84. Even the now ‘closet heterosexual’ David Bowie slapped the Boots No.7 back on again, as the swinging, sashaying Screamin’ Lord Byron in his Grammy Award-winning short film, Jazzin’ For Blue Jean. The dear old Dame.
Since 1964, the heyday of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, until it was unceremoniously axed in 2006, British television had an all-important promotional device for new and popular music: the BBC’s legendary, long-running Top Of The Pops.
A hugely significant part of British popular culture, TOTP was transmitted weekly, at a coveted early evening slot for young potential record buyers and their family. With regular viewing figures of 15 million plus, the programme was far and away the most influential and result-orientated marketing tool in the UK’s record industry. Usually, once a single had reached the Top 40 it was considered for exposure by the show’s producers.
Aunty Beeb could be incredibly conservative in its broadcasting decisions, particularly at a prime-time 7 o’clock slot like Top Of The Pops. And in 1984 the TV station was being even more cautious, having felt under pressure to follow Radio 1, banned FGTH’s debut single, Relax, only after they’d performed it on the show. The censorship hoo-ha garnered so many headlines that I felt compelled to hide the record – full length 12” version, naturellement – under my bed.
The corporation were acutely aware that, by its embarrassingly delayed actions, it’d given Frankie more publicity than the band could have ever dreamed of, and had become involved in the kind of controversy it tried hard to avoid.
The ensuing storm ensured Relax swiftly became the best selling single of 1984 – until the charity behemoth Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas was released that December – and is still the second highest seller of the entire Eighties and sixth biggest of all time.
Now, just a few months later, here was a 350-pound man, grotesquely dressed as a parody of a fat slag, six feet eight inches in high heels and even higher beehive wig, singing lyrics about thinking someone’s a man but being only a boy. There came a point where the BBC could no longer ignore him. Thirty-four years ago today, on Thursday 19 July 1984, Divine made what is my favourite ever Top Of The Pops debut. Hell, it’s quite possibly my favourite TOTP moment, period.
Never mind the Bowies and the Ants, this was the stuff of louche legend. Looking like Dusty Springfield’s sluttier bigger sister, Divine revelled in the party atmosphere of the show, all big bouncy balloons and cheesy cheerleaders, a high thrusting triple meat feast sandwiched in between Blancmange’s kooky cover of ABBA’s epic The Day Before You Came and, live on video, the incongruously named Thompson Twins.
To top it off, Frankie were midway through their hefty nine-week stint in pole position, and decided to perform Two Tribes clad in gangster black brandishing firearms. Naturally, I thought the episode had two of the greatest, most subversive things I’d ever seen on the small screen.
That same week I was on my work placement, apprentice cheffing at a distinctly masculine blue-collar industrial unit, Cole Plastics in Bletchley. Having just turned a not so little 15, and emboldened by such an out there display, I expected, as you would, everyone to talk about what they’d seen on the telly the night before. I sauntered into the kitchens the next morning. It was a national pastime, no less.
At least it was in the school playground. Not a chance in the grown-up world.
As I began to prepare a small selection of fish dishes for my schoolfriend Adele Rogerson’s dad, Ian, and assorted factory fellas (’twas Friday, see), the only thing I heard from the beaky-nosed head chef, the never-more-appropriately-named Mr Thornbird, was an admonishment for tucking my chef’s trousers into my savagely pointed winkle picker boots. “It’s not a fashion show, Chef,” he shouted. Oh, the anti-glamour. Oh, to be a journalist and live it up in a big city like, oooh, how about London or Sydney? That would have to wait.
With the indifference of my catering colleagues in mind, it’s somewhat hard to believe Divine was ‘banned’ from Top Of The Pops for this very performance. Shocking even, especially when you to think what ‘some’ of the show’s presenters were later revealed to be getting up to behind the doors of Television Centre: “You stood there, lonely, treated with contempt by the bands, quite rightly,” remembers presenter Simon Bates. “Then a floor manager would gather twelve pre-pubescent schoolgirls, instructing them to look adoringly at you. It was deeply suspicious. You certainly wouldn’t see that happening nowadays.”
Following the totally live broadcast – which was, in retrospect, as risky as it was atypical for TOTP at the time – it was reported that dear old Aunty Beeb’s switchboard had, supposedly, been “flooded” with over a thousand calls – probably about 27 then -, angrily complaining about the “fat lady” their children had been exposed to that evening: “It was disgusting, obscene,” apparently.
The station concluded that a bold and brassy fat bloke in a silver dress was far too offensive for their viewers and allegedly blacklisted Divine from ever appearing on the show again. Bet Lynch with a bit more than a paunch then, if I can paraphrase Absolutely Fabulous.
As with the Frankie fiasco, the so-called ‘scandal’ was spread over the front pages of the British tabloids: “I’m more shocked than all the people who phoned the BBC,” Divine was quoted everywhere. “My performance was toned down and I kept to all the rules. God knows what would have happened if I’d done my real show.”
“I’m surprised so many people in Britain, which I consider my second home, have such closed minds,” (s)he declared indignantly. “I’m very hurt.”
But the reviled pedlar of raunch had the last laugh: You Think You’re A Man shot up to No.17, then peaked at a bittersweet sixteen the following week, though the track would prove to be Divine’s only Top 20 hit. The only other release that came close was an infernal cover of the Four Seasons’ perennial Walk Like A Man, which cruised to No.23 the following year. And yes, Top Of The Pops did show some – some – of the video, though they carefully avoided inviting our favourite vulgarian back to perform in the studio.
Having eventually seen Divine live in the flesh in November 1987, I kind of wondered what all the fuss had been about. The nightclub at The Point, atop an illuminated pyramid shaped ziggurat in the centre of Milton Keynes, would be the venue for this unprecedented display of vulgarity. I found myself going with a colleague from work, Tony Stacey, who I’d known from the decadent days of The Joint some four years before. Bizarrely, our current workplace, the Moorings Toby Hotel at Peartree Bridge Marina, was on the site of the very same club that had been such a musical and sexual awakening for the flowering me.
“She did a concert at Heaven where she said onstage: ‘I need to get myself a new Rolls-Royce – so I can drive it over Boy George!’ (Laughs) I loved someone I admired mentioning me. It was a shame that when I became famous, she never knew what a massive influence she was in my life as a teenager.”
Now though, in 1987 it felt slightly odd thinking about finally witnessing this bawdy and salacious club act, as earlier that year I’d turned 18 and started full time employment, and to mark my ascendance into adulthood my sister and I had hopped on the train to the capital to do grown-up gigs. Big names, big venues all in the space of a week. I’ll have a return to Mainstream Central, please: Tina Turner and David Bowie at Wembley (June 17 & 20), Iggy Pop at Hammersmith (24), and finally Peter Gabriel at Earl’s Court (25, sadly three days too early to catch Kate Bush make her legendary live cameo).
The Point was packed to the rafters with boys and girl eager to be shocked by this fabulous filth merchant. Tony and I found ourselves huddled by the front of the stage, not quite believing that the high priestess of spunk was about to perform in Milton Keynes of all places. A bastion of squeaky clean conservatism, marked by endless roundabouts and a herd of ridiculous concrete cattle. Silly cows.
We spied some activity at the rear of stage left and Tony suddenly announced he would be “back in a minute.” And on that note he proceeded to weave his wily way through the crowd to the dressing room door, from where he was admitted forthwith! When he returned, he told me he’d met Divine when he performed a PA at Heaven, the groundbreaking gay club in London’s Charing Cross, across the road from my birthplace on the Strand, and wanted to say Hello.
“He didn’t say much. He was with his boyfriend.”
“Divine’s gay? But he once said he wanted to marry the Queen Mother.”
“Steve, he was joking.”
I blushed at my teenage naivety and we waited for the show to begin. The backing tapes rolled and the self-titled Filthiest Person Alive made the most theatrical of entrances, arms raised high above his head, as if he was the Pope blessing his flock. The Divine One tottered centrestage then motioned, irritated, that the microphone was too low. As the middle-aged dirtbag stepped back while a roadie put it up, and I noticed he was visibly sweating before he’d even growled a note.
Native Love, Jungle Jezebel, Little Baby (which even Grace Jones had had the good sense to reject), the hilarious I’m So Beautiful – a cocky response to the viewer complaints after the TOTP fiasco – all the best identikit Divine songs made an appearance that night. He was clearly singing along with his records, like karaoke, but with the original vocals still present. I assume the idea must have been for his planet-sized personality to overcome the performances’ showmanship deficiencies. But such was the nature of Divine’s large cult that the between-song banter was absolutely worthy of that trash-diva reputation. This was what they wanted.
“Talk dirty, Divine!” a man screamed from the bar area wearing, appropriately enough, a T-shirt and tight blue jeans.
“Yeah, forget the crap tunes, we wanna hear some filth!”
“Well, fuck you very much!” replied the roly-poly rascal, unruffled.
“I’m looking forward to being on your TV show again, what’s it called, Top Pop? Top Pops?”
“I told him to say that!” Tony blared in my ear, proudly.
“It helps if you get the name right then,” I thought to myself.
One girl several rows behind us had climbed on to someone’s shoulders to get a better look at this purveyor of pervdom. It was clear she’d come to have a heckle.
“Why are you so fucking gorgeous?!” she shouted.
“ I can smell your cunt from here,” Divine retorted, quick as a flash. “Haven’t showers arrived in these parts yet?” He continued:
“Is that your man you’re sitting on? I bet that’s the first time you’ve tried that, eh.”
“Does he fuck you good? In the ass too? It sounds like it’s gonna cleaner round the back, right? Come on then boy, is your dick big? Whip it out so we can all have a laugh… Wanna fuck me?” And with perfect timing, You Think You’re A Man began.
An endless avalanche of scatalogical insults and randy references to individual audience members’ bodily parts and functions would come thick and fast. This star was on a roll. Divi would never allow himself to be beaten or abused by his audience. He gave us what we wanted. Trash. Filth. Obscenity. In bucket-loads. And, of course, we lapped up every word.
“You want more? I can’t hear you! You want more? Well, fuck you! You want more? Well, tough!”
And with that, (s)he shuffled off the stage, trailing obscenities in his wake. As he tottered past me, I patted him on the left arm as if to say “well done.” Sweat was pouring off him. It was only a perfunctory 40-minute set, but pop’s premier provocateur certainly left his own particular mark on MK that night. It would prove to be Divine’s last hurrah in Europe.
While his recording career had stalled, Divine started to make another mark in Hollywood, and received great notices for his twin roles in a new movie, Hairspray, starring alongside Blondie’s Debbie Harry and a fresh-faced Ricki Lake. It was another John Waters production but whereas the devilish one had described their early collaborations as “avant-garde comedies, not pornographic at all,” Hairspray, set in 1962, was pitched firmly at the box office, and is perhaps John Waters’ most atypically accessible film. As such, it’s a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity (“A family movie both the Bradys and the Mansons could adore,” exclaimed Rolling Stone) which went on to even greater success when remade as a musical in 2007, with John Travolta assuming Divine’s plus-sized mother role. Though he’d started to become sensitive to criticism…
“They say I’m selling out. I don’t really call it selling out. Same person. Still do all the material I want to do. What did Frank Sinatra sing? I did it my way. I stuck to my guns. Give people what they want and they can laugh and have a good time. That’s one of the best things you can do for anyone.”
Chicago Sun Times, February 1988
Sadly Hairspray was just about the last thing Divine was able to do, period. Just ten days after its general release, on March 7, 1988 he was found dead in his hotel room at the Regency Plaza Suites Hotel in Los Angeles. He was 42. It took just two days for the Los Angeles Coroner’s Department to pronounce the official cause of death: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy wit cardiomegaly. In other words, an enlarged heart. He would have chucked at the irony. In a strange quirk of fate, it was five years to the day that Blue Monday had been released. The original New Order version, not the remade New York interpolation that gave Divine his first slice of (minor) chart success.
The timing was tragic: just as Divine’s dream of becoming a well-respected actor was finally coming to fruition. He even landed a guest role on the hit TV series Married…With Children but his passing occurred the night before filming was due to start. While he was famous for his drag persona, over-the-top, and at times gross antics, in real life this was not him. In fact, Divi was quoted as saying that his favorite part of drag was getting out of it and he only wore it to get paid.
Although he came to embrace his homosexuality openly, he did not consider himself a drag queen, transgender nor transsexual. His ultimate goal was to be taken seriously as a male character actor and in later years would prove himself to be just that talented. Those who got to work with him saw past the outlandishness he exhibited on stage and in front of the camera and actually saw what the raw talent and natural sense of comic timing he possessed. Many who knew him described him as soft-spoken, kind, and generous.
Though, of course, in musical terms, it’s that pathfinding pop nugget from 1984 he’ll always be remembered for. While undoubtedly a killer single, and the one song Madonna would have hocked her last bottle of botox to record, the enduring appeal of You Think You’re A Man lies in its wide-ranging influence, which had a subtle but striking domino effect in the music industry.
Without You Think You’re A Man you wouldn’t have had Dead Or Alive’s ever-enduring You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), which Pete Burns was candid enough to credit the Divine track as being the template for his. It gave DOA their only chart-topper, and its producers, Stock Aitken Waterman, the first of many. Bananarama were so enamoured by Spin Me they too wanted a slice of the SAW machine, which led to the trio’s only US chart-topper, Venus, which led to Mel & Kim, which lead to Rick Astley, Kylie, Jason and, well, love them or hate them, Stock Aitken Waterman dominated the pop firmament in the second half of the Eighties, notching up more than 100 Top 40 hits, including 15 No.1 singles. And it all started with You Think You’re A Man. It’s the freakiest show, you know.
- *The first time I flew anywhere, it was to Ibiza in the summer of 1983. As it happens George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley had filmed the video to Wham!’s Club Tropicana there just days before. I had more pressing matters on my mind: my first taste of the hedonistic partying that the island was starting to become infamous for was a night in the hotel disco (Hotel Playa Dorada in Cala Long, fact fans) truing to dance to Hazel Dean’s Searchin’ (I Gotta Find a Man). I wouldn’t mind, but I’d just lost my virginity to a girl. You win some, you lose some…
- **On 18 April 1984, Divine signed a recording agreement with In Tune Music, a partnership with Nick and Ian Titchener: “I’m not saying all was a bed of roses – what is? said Divi about the split with Orlando. “But I thought I could progress more with someone else. They seem able to see the future – visualise things.” Three days earlier I found myself discussing Divine with Andrew Murray and the two Alisons on the way to my first ever concert, Dead Or Alive at Dunstable Queensway Hall. Alison Ward, the one with the penciled-in eyebrows, was trumpeting her latest purchase, a Divi mini-album entitled T-Shirts & Tight Blue Jeans. “Oh, I don’t know if I like Divine. It’s a bit trashy,” came the response from the other younger Alison, McDermott. But that’s the whole point!” the senior namesake pointed out, as we stifled out sniggers. It’s been a funny old ride.