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Film Actor ‘Divine’ Eulogized At Funeral

March 13, 1988 GMT

TOWSON, Md. (AP) _ Divine, the outlandish 375-pound cult film star, was eulogized for his talent, gentle manner and individuality during funeral services Saturday that attracted hundreds of fans, friends and colleagues.

″He was a friend, business partner, co-conspirator and actor who could say the words I wrote better than anybody,″ said John Waters, who directed Divine in such cult classics as ″Pink Flamingoes,″ ″Polyester,″ ″Lust in the Dust,″ and the just-released ″Hairspray.″

″How many people at age 42 love their job as much as he did? He was happy, talented, successful, and a true original,″ Water told mourners, some with rainbow-hued hair and others in suits and ties, at a funeral home in this Baltimore suburb.

Divine, a Lutherville, Md., native whose real name was Harris Glenn Milstead, died Monday in his bed at the Hollywood Regency Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County coroner’s officer determined he died of an enlarged heart due to obesity. The Friday before his death a doctor had said Divine was in perfect health except for his weight, which had been a problem for the actor all his life.

Divine was known mostly for his outrageous roles as loud and foul-mouthed women in Waters’ films, although he also played a male Sidney Greenstreet-type character in the 1985 film ″Trouble in Mind.″

The Rev. Leland Higginbotham, pastor of the Calvary Baptist church to which the Milstead family belonged, described Divine’s youth as an ″agonizing period″ during which the budding actor ″took a painful and circuitous road to find himself and his talents.″

Divine’s popularity had grown with ″Hairspray,″ a relatively mainstream film that was attracting more traditional movie audiences. Waters said Divine was thrilled with the success, noting that ″people who had hassled him in high school were asking for his autograph.″

Flowers were sent by such entertainers as Whoopi Goldberg, Elton John, and the cast of Fox Television’s ″Married ... With Children,″ the program on which he was scheduled to appear the day after his death.