Two partners in a top law firm, a drag queen and a documentarian walk into a bar …
OK, so the late, iconic performer can be there in spirit only, but the other characters hope you will join them for a film premiere and reception being billed as “A Divine Sunday.”
Yes, that Divine. The actor also known as Harris Glenn Milstead, the star of “Mondo Trasho, “Pink Flamingoes,” “Polyester” and — who can forget? — “Hairspray.”
For $50, attendees will gain admission to the Minnesota premiere of the newly released biopic “I Am Divine,” a chance to mingle with its director, Jeffrey Schwarz, over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Pracna on Main between screenings, and to see another of his acclaimed films, “Vito,” a portrait of Vito Russo, whose presence at the Stonewall riots propelled him to prominence as an early gay-rights advocate.
Proceeds to Trevor Project
All proceeds will go to the LGBT youth crisis and suicide intervention effort the Trevor Project. The benefit is part of the Out Twin Cities Film Festival, taking place May 29-June 2 at the St. Anthony Main Theatre; the Divine Sunday is, of course the last day of the festival.
So where do the aforementioned lawyers come in? In addition to being partners at Lindquist & Vennum, Stan Duran and Chris Cuneo are huge fans of the director John Waters, the filmmaker who propelled Divine to iconic status.
Some time ago the two were attempting to get Waters and Divine inducted into the hall of fame at Towson High School, Duran’s alma mater. Waters didn’t go to the Maryland school for long enough to qualify, but they got Divine in.
Outcasts both, the went to stardom together
In the process, the two Minnesotans interviewed all kinds of people about how Milstead became Divine, and learned that he was bullied relentlessly by students and faculty alike as a student in the early 1960s. Outcasts both, Milstead and Waters bonded and went on to stardom together.
At the time, most drag queens tried to be as “pretty” and realistic as possible. Overweight and outrageous, Milstead’s Divine became a camp pioneer. The films he made with Waters were every bit as over the top as his alter ego, but frequently with a serious point about outsider culture.
The young Milstead’s story touched a nerve for Duran, who has a gay son. When he and Cuneo learned that Schwarz was making a film about Divine’s life, they pitched in and helped bring the project to fruition. Schwarz put them in touch with the organizers of the Out Twin Cities Film Festival and Lindquist & Vennum got on board as a sponsor.
Duran and Cuneo wanted to take things a step further, though. Their firm has a long track record of pro bono work involving diversity, and they were all too aware of the lack of resources for struggling LGBT youth. Despite a wave of teen suicides, the Trevor Project had no local sponsor.
A new layer of urgency
“We wanted to help carry the banner here and help give them some promotion and raise awareness,” said Duran. “The timing seemed optimal given the new law.”
The new law being a long-sought, comprehensive statewide harassment and bullying prevention program that was widely expected to be approved during the legislative session that ended Monday. It faced a late groundswell of opposition from religious conservatives, including the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who linked it to the legalization of gay marriage. The bill died an ideological death in the state Senate late Sunday night, leaving Minnesota with one of the nation’s weakest anti-bullying laws at precisely 37 words long. And so the Divine Sunday acquired an additional layer of urgency, as the Trevor Project could help fill some of the resulting gap.
Tickets are available via a website created to promote the event that includes a trailer of “I Am Divine,” which had its world premiere at South by Southwest, information about the other Schwarz film to be screened and a number of resources for those interested in the Trevor Project, the film festival or the filmmaker.
“Vito” will be shown first, at 4:00 p.m., followed by a private reception with Schwarz. “I Am Divine” starts at 7:30. Directions can also be found online.