The Fans Behind Baltimore’s Divine Monument: Alex Fox & Michal Makarovich

Meet the John Waters Fans Planning Baltimore’s Outrageous Divine Monument

By Moze Halperin, Flavorwire (February 9, 2016)

divine

Beyond “Crab Cake Capital of the World,” one of Baltimore’s best-known nicknames is “The Monument City.” And one of the city’s most notable features is its wealth of behemoth effigies, with General Pulaski kicking it in the same city as Billie Holiday, Martin Luther, Babe Ruth, and a whole bunch of Confederate sculptures whose future is currently being debated within Baltimore’s municipal government.

What it means to monumentalize something, and whether some monuments should be reconsidered or simply eradicated, has become a big subject of conversation in Baltimore. That might partially explain why recent news of the plans for an eight-foot-tall shrine to Divine (and originally, strictly her dog-shit eating Pink Flamingos scene) was met with so much enthusiasm, conjuring mimetic shit-eating grins from Divine fans across the Internet.  (Inevitably, that enthusiasm was also paired with disdain from ultra-conservatives who were outraged by the city’s threat to Confederate monuments).

The proposed monument is a large, formal marble segmental arch, with a dramatic image of Divine’s — aka Harris Glenn Milstead’s — made-up face peeking out of it. It’d be in keeping with the historically reverent architecture of monuments… but for the fact that its subject would be a drag queen who notoriously vied, in Pink Flamingos, for the title of “filthiest person alive,” and that the sculpture would be besmirched by a diminutive pile of bronze dog-shit pellets (accompanied, now, by a few other objects). This devotional artwork comes with a massive price tag, too — at $70,000, the monument will cost seven times as much as to make as Pink Flamingos itself, a number that could either be seen as extravagant or as exactly what’s needed imbue “trash” culture with the financial veneration usually reserved for war heroes and high-brow artists. And so, with the project’s glorious outrageousness comes an outrageous budget, which the creators need to raise on Kickstarter by March 26.

screen-shot-2016-02-09-at-2-10-29-pm

Alex Fox, left; Michal Makarovich, right

The project began with Michal Makarovich, the owner of Hampden Junque antique shop in Baltimore, and Alex Fox, a young, Ohio transplant who was inspired to move to Baltimore after watching Pink Flamingos secretly with his Jehovas Witness friend, and who created the Church & Company event space in a restored church from 1875, which he also inhabits. They teamed up with Iranian writer Parisa Saranj; Baltimore sculptors David Hess and Sebastian Martorana; a software engineer; a teacher; and the  filmmaker behind the Sundance award-winning documentary Divine Trash. It’s an effort that’s just as much about community (drinking) and companionship (drinking) as it is about sticking a colossal face on the side of a wall, with small, glistening turds beneath it.

I spoke over the telephone (separately) with Makarovich — who could very well be a John Waters character, speaking with the glee of a hundred tchotchkes trying to tell their own stories — and Fox last week. But days ago, the two were still fighting battles both internal and external to maintain the crass minimalism of their proposed idea: the massive Divine, the tiny turds. And since some fans critiqued the concept — noting that Divine ultimately grew tired of having his legacy affiliated with that scene — they sent me an email after our conversation, with the following update:

We acknowledge that many in the Divine fan base want more of a tribute than just the doggy-doo reference. So [we’ve] decided to expand the scope. On the marble steps, in addition to the reference to the [bronze dog poops], are [also] plans for other objects: cha-cha heels (Female Trouble), an iron (Hairspray), and a tube of lipstick (drag performances).

The story behind the Divine memorial is both filthy and sweet, dysfunctional and quirky: a seeming testament to what these people want to assert Baltimore, and particularly Divine’s and John Waters’ Baltimore, is all about. Read what Makarovich and Fox have to say about the project below.

Continue reading “John Waters Fans Planning Baltimore’s Outrageous Divine Monument” at Flavorwire.

 

Posted in 1970s, Baltimore Babylon, Baltimore Films, Baltimorons, Divine, Dreamlanders, Films, John Waters, Kitsch, Mount Vernon, Roadside Attractions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

City Paper “Sex Issue” recalls Carousel Coupling ‘toon

SexIshCP

“Sex Issue” City Paper cover by Charlie Herrick

The “Sex Issue” cover of today’s City Paper (shown above), drawn by Charlie Herrick, recalls the infamous 1987 City Fair cartoon (shown below) that promoters published in The Sun and Evening Sun, while reminding us of how times have changed.


The infamous 1987 City Fair cartoon,  click for super-sized image.

The City Fair cartoon looked innocent enough when published as a full-page ad, until a closer “Where’s Waldo” inspection revealed a couple coupling on the carousel.


Close-up of coupling carousel couple.

The City Fair ‘toon infuriated city officials and cost Schnably, Evans, McLaughlin, Inc. – the advertising agency responsible for the ad – its account with Baltimore’s Transportation Department (which ran the account because the City Fair took place under the Jones Falls Expressway). The agency agreed that the illustration, drawn by the firm’s own Don Schnably, could be interpreted as “a lewd act” and paid its $22,000 cost.

How innocent that cartoon from almost 30 years ago looks now, compared to the “no holds barred” acts depicted in artist Charlie Herrick’s City Paper  cover. And how ironic that Baltimore’s “Free Alternative Weekly” is now owned by the same paper that published the 1987 cartoon.

Related Links:

Carousel Coupling at the City Fair (Baltimore Or Less)

Posted in 1980s, Advertisements, Baltimore Babylon, Festivals, Media, Pranks, Roadside Attractions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Criswell Predicts Maryland’s Future, 1968

Criswell Predicts: “I predict that Maryland will suffer great losses at the hands of nature over the next ten years. The Chesapeake Bay will be ravaged by fantastic storms. And the damage from these storms, one after another, will force Maryland to ask for Federal Government aid for its stricken population. And, in other parts of Maryland, there will be great civil disorders, as a part of the growing racial tension and racial violence that will sweep the United States between 1968 and 1970.”

criswell
“Criswell Predicts from Now to the Year 2000,” 1968

Posted in 1960s | Leave a comment

Belgian Elvis tribute artist to play 2 Md. shows

Can’t help falling in love with Franz

By Liza Harlow, Special to The Avenue (avenuenews.com, February 1, 2016) and The Dundalk Eagle (dundalkeagle.com, February 3, 2016)

Franz1

Elvis is Le Roi! (Photo courtesy of Franz Goovaerts)

The award-winning Franz Goovaerts, who hails from Erquelinnes, Belgium, will be making his way to Baltimore County this month with stops in Rosedale and Dundalk.

Franz Goovaerts, an Elvis Tribute Artist with the well-deserved nickname Elvis Jr., was just a toddler when Elvis Presley died, but over the years the King has become a huge part of his life. The award-winning Goovaerts, who hails from Erquelinnes, Belgium, will be making his way to America this month with stops here in Baltimore and Pennsylvania thanks to his new manager, local music promoter Darlene Warren.

FranzGoovaerts

Warren, who has been booking shows for popular artists Ronnie Dove and Ronnie McDowell for decades, first met Goovaerts at Elvis Week, which is held annually each August in Memphis, Tenn. Goovaerts has performed at the event each year since 1996.

Throughout his career, he has won a long list of Elvis Tribute awards, including Elvis of Belgium (1991 & 1996); Elvis of Germany (1993); Elvis of Holland (1994); and Elvis of Europe (2000 & 2005). But the award Goovaerts is most proud of is the prestigious Images of the King World Championship. Goovaerts made a promise to his father before he passed away that he would keep entering the contest until he won. “But sadly he never saw me win the trophy,” he said.

Images of the King is an annual contest held during Elvis Week, and Goovaerts entered 10 years in a row beginning with his first Elvis Week in 1996. He earned third place in both 1999 and 2000 before finally being crowned the Images of the King World Champion in 2006.

Franz2

2006 Images of the King Champion Franz Goovaerts (Photo courtesy of Franz Goovaerts)

Ironically, Goovaerts’ grew up on Elvis music thanks to his older sister Cynthia, but he wasn’t a big fan.

“Elvis was not my ‘cup of tea’ at that time,” said Goovaerts. But at the age of 15, he saw the “This is Elvis” documentary, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“My life changed. Don’t ask me why and how — I have no idea! Elvis came into my life, as God did too,” said Goovaerts.

So he started performing as Elvis for his family in the living room just for fun.

At the age of 16, he was on stage for the first time, “just because Cynthia was thinking that I was not so bad,” he joked.

Goovaerts has had no formal voice training, but does try to work on his accent, as French is his native language. When pressed, it’s tough for him to choose his favorite Elvis song.

“It’s really hard to say. It depends how I feel. But for sure, I’m out of the commercial stuff. I love Elvis’ style, voice and charisma in the 70s,” said Goovaerts, whose favorite albums are Elvis Today and Raised on Rock.

“The best part of being an Elvis tribute artist is feeling so close to him when I sing his songs. I feel like I understand him,” said Goovaerts. “Elvis was not only a singer, not just a Vegas showman. At the end of his life, Elvis found himself. Probably many songwriters understand this. So in 1974 to 1977, most of the time, Elvis sang about his life.”

“Franz is one of the most popular Elvis tribute artists that go to Memphis every year for Elvis Week. He has always been one of the highlights of Elvis Week for me,” said Warren. “He’s very memorable. He doesn’t wear the jumpsuit — he doesn’t need it.”

Last August while at Elvis Week, Warren took a leap and talked to Goovaerts while at his show and asked if he’d like to do some more shows in the U.S. “I said, ‘people needed to see what I’ve been talking about all these years,’” she said.

They quickly clicked and it was a match made in Memphis — Goovaerts asked if Warren would be his manager.

“He’s so passionate and so talented, I just wanted as many people to see him as possible,” said Warren. So she booked Goovaerts’ first U.S. tour in November 2015, and he opened for Ronnie Dove for shows in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Mississippi.

As an Elvis Tribute Artist, of course Elvis is the focal point of Goovaerts’ shows, but he does work in other artists, and Warren says he does a great Tom Jones.

“I need a good feeling about the song in order to sing it. It needs to talk about what I like or how I live my life. It’s all about love,” he said.

Warren is working on scheduling shows for Goovaerts every three months in the U.S. He currently tours all over Europe.

“I’m just trying to do something different from everything else you see right now,” said Goovaerts. “If you want to see an Elvis Tribute Act, I do it my way, and with a lot of respect.”

Posted in Dundalk, Entertainment, Kitsch, Music, Roadside Attractions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment