As a final love letter to the TCMFF that never was, I decided to celebrate not just a classic, but a cult classic. Polyester (Disc/Download) is the rare John Waters movie that has eluded me up till now. Maybe I’d been holding out for an Odorama screening. Maybe I just wanted to watch this someplace more exciting than my living room. But then, I decided the viewing circumstances were irrelevant; Todd Tomorrow should not have to wait until tomorrow.
Having been raised on soap operas, the day I discovered the Douglas Sirk melodrama was a true awakening. Classic cinema had been churning out these “women’s pictures” (I have as much disdain for this term as I do “women’s fiction”) for decades, and life was suddenly a banquet again. But once you’ve seen Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows, where to go? Baltimore, that’s where. With his core group of Dreamland performers, including Divine, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey, The Pope of Trash took these angst-filled flicks and turned them on their heads. It’s clear Waters has a real appreciation for the original genre, down to the peignoirs, clouds of Evening in Paris perfume, and campy character names, but he injects his own brand of modern weirdness too– foot fetishism, doggie suicide, and drag performance to name a few. The story of Francine Fishpaw overcoming her cheating husband and alcoholism is straight out of the Sirk playbook, but the clever way Waters inserts his own brand makes Polyester into something truly unique.
In a nod to the “gimmick” films of the 1950s, Polyester was originally screened in Odorama, whereby audience members were given cards to scratch and smell during certain scenes. Indeed, even without the cards, we see Divine sniffing like a president during a press conference. Most of the scents are pretty vile (model airplane glue, flatulence, skunk), but the first one is meant to lull us into a false sense of security: roses. By adding a few drops of rose water to this cocktail, you can join in the fun even at home. While watching Polyester, I recommend this Stop and Smell the Roses! cocktail.
Stop and Smell the Roses!
1.5 oz Three Olives Rosé Vodka
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Grapefruit Juice
2-3 drops Rose Water
Splash of Sparkling Rosé
Dried Strawberries or Rose Petals for garnish
Combine Vodka, lemon and grapefruit juices, and rose water in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with Sparkling Rosé, and club soda. Garnish with dried strawberries or rose petals.
Eventually, Francine learns to stop hittin’ the sauce, but I don’t see any reason for us viewers to stop. Without the famed Odorama cards, we need alcohol as our gimmick. By being something special and different, Polyester breathed new life into the career of Tab Hunter. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll breathe new life into your love of movies; I know it did for me. Cheers!