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Two more superstars from the Dreamland crew

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In my last post, I gave you a list of the original Dreamlanders — the cast of John Waters’ first movies. But, we can’t talk about Dreamland stars without talking about these two latecomers — Patty Hearst and Ricki Lake.

Here goes (and remember to vote for your favourite Dreamlander at the end).


“For me, my awakening came when I was kidnapped.”


Patty had the perfect CV for a Waters film. Heiress of newspaper millionaire who gets kidnapped by urban guerilla movement, the Symbionese Liberation Army, only to serve two years in prison after joining her kidnappers in a bank robbery under the name “Tania”. Waters was drooling.

Some backstory. Patricia Hearst was granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolf Hearst and heiress to the Hearst fortune. In February 1974, she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) — a left-wing guerilla group. After being kept in isolation, subject to abuse and rape, she joined her captors in their activities under the name “Tania” and as a result of the Stockholm Syndrome brought on by the abuse. She was later arrested soon after participating in a bank robbery by the SLA in April 1974.

» Footage of Patty Hearst robbing the bank.

Hearst was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment, which was later commuted by President Jimmy Carter. She ended up serving two. A pardon was granted by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

John Waters first came upon Hearst as a observer in her trial (he loves watching court trials). But they did not meet until later. According to Patty, the two met during the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. Waters said he wanted her in one of his movies. Patty thought he was joking until she received the script the next day.

The script was for Cry Baby and it was just the first of a series of his movies she would star in.

Her kidnapping was a shock to people around America, not so much because of her social status but because of what it symbolised in mainstream American. This was the era of the young drifter — middle-class teenagers leaving their homes to follow the 60s dream. Her kidnapping symbolised the worst fears and paranoia of middle-class American parents. “Has this happened to my child?”

In a sense, many of Waters’ early movies challenged mainstream American norms of the picket-fence life. So, Hearst’s place among the Dreamlanders seems all the more appropriate.

» Why Hearst’s story really shocked the nation: article from The Atlantic


“Go RIcki! Go Ricki!” (studio audience)


If Patty Hearst had the perfect CV for a Waters movie, Ricki Lake went on to develop one.

Before gaining fame as an internationally renown host of the talkshow with trashy guests, Lake played the dumpy Tracy Turnblad in John Waters’ 1988 Hairspray. It was her film debut. Here’s a clip.

Alongside Lake was Divine, who played Tracy’s mother — check her out in this clip … “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now. As a general rule, I hate musicals. There are a few exceptions. Hairspray ain’t one of them. So I have nothing more to say about this movie aside from it being remade in 2008, with Lake playing a token role.

With this kind of debut, it should come as little surprise that, 5 years later, she went on to host a talkshow whose guests included teenage whores, abusive parents, Britney Spears and drag queens called Holly Gram. The only thing missing in Ricki Lake’s notorious line-up is Dawn Davenport, or even Divine herself.

I’m sure John Waters feels the kind of pride a parent does when their child graduates. Lake took everything he would write as characters in his movies and ran it on mainstream, daytime television.

Lake did continue to appear in more Dreamland movies, though largely in background roles — Cry Baby, Serial Mom and Cecil B Demented.

In more recent films, Waters cast more high-profile actors alongside some of the remaining original Dreamlanders. The first of these was the uber hunky Tab Hunter in Polyester. It was a big deal after years of rumours about his sexuality and Divine says this is really when Tab came out (tho he formally did so in 2005, with his memoirs).

Here’s a snapshot of some other Hollywood stars Waters cast.

  • Johnny Depp in Cry Baby: According to Waters, it was after seeing rushes of Depp that Tim Burton chose the teen heart-throb for Edward Scissorhands.
  • Traci Lords in Cry Baby and Serial Mom: Penthouse Pet of the Month in September 1984. Cry Baby was her first non-porn role pretty much. Since then she’s worked on a heap of TV and film projects.
  • Kathleen Turner, Serial Mom: Serial killer meets scrapbooker. Kind of works with Turner’s roles in War of the Roses and Romancing the Stone (tho Susan Sarandon was originally approached).
  • Melanie Griffith, Cecil B Demented: she plays Honey Whitlock — an A-list Hollywood star kidnapped by renegade low-budget student film-makers.
  • Ed Furlong and Christina Ricci, Peckers (where’s Ed disappeared to?)
  • Comedian Tracey Ullman (urgh) and musician Chris Isaak, A Dirty Shame

Written by Darren Smith

22 February 2009 at 10:29 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] Notify me of follow-up comments via email. « Before Six underground directors who dirtied John Waters’ mind 11 February 2009 AfterTwo more superstars from the Dreamland crew 22 February 2009 » […]

  2. […] stories of working with Dreamland regulars such as Divine and Edith Massey, as well as Johnny Depp, Patty Hearst, Tracie Lords, Ricki Lake and Tab […]

  3. […] Two more superstars from the Dreamland crew […]

  4. Im going to coat-tail on what Very Evolved said The way you connect to your audience is Know who you are writing to. You need to pick a Target Audience and stick to them. You wouldnt write to an audience of 14yr olds the same way you would write to an audience of 60yr olds.

    Josephina Karimi

    12 February 2010 at 1:05 am

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