I babysit a couple of times a week for Isabella and little brother Dylan. I’ve been watching Isabella since she was three months old; she’ll soon turn five. These two kiddies are loved by me and my family as if they were my grandkids. But…Isabella is jealous of the time I spend with baby brother. Gee, that kind of reminds me of how I was when my sister Jane showed up on the scene.
Too make a long story short, trying to teach Dylan and keeping Isabella from selling him to the mailman takes its toll on this old granny at the end of the day. Today, I was so tired that I just flopped on the sofa as soon as I came home. I wasn’t ready to work on my writing or interviews so I flicked on the television and scanned through the guide. I was in luck. I found the original version of Hairspray and I settled down to watch it.
Written and directed by the marvelous John Waters, Hairspray is a comedy and musical film that brings up segregation in the 60’s and the trials and tribulations of overweight women. Divine (Harris Glen Milstead) played two parts in the film, Mrs. Turnblad and Arvin Hodgepile the owner of the television studio. The film also starred Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Leslie Ann Powers, Ruth Brown, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Shawn Thompson.
Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) and friend Penny (Leslie Ann Powers) want to be part of the Baltimore Corny Collins Show which is like Philadelphia’s Bandstand; it’s the place to go if you like to dance and it’s based on the real-life Buddy Deane show. Overweight people and black people are not welcomed on the show by the owner, Hodgepile (played by Devine) although Corny Collins (Shawn Thompson) is ready to make the show integrated and he likes Tracy’s dancing abilities.
Tracy’s dancing is so good, that even though she’s overweight, she becomes the star of the show, infuriating the show’s reigning queen Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick). Amber is rich, spoiled and so are her parents, Velma (Debbie Harry) and Franklin (Sonny Bono) who owns an a segregated amusement park. Amber’s boyfriend falls in love with Tracy and Amber and her parents begin to plot on keeping Tracy from winning the title of Miss Auto Show 1963.
Tracy's is not at all embarrassed by her weight and is hired as a plus-size model for the Hefty Hideaway clothing store Tracy’s teased and dyed hair causes her to be placed in a special education class, where she meets black classmates that were put in the class to keep them back academically. Tracy, her mother (Devine) and father (Jerry Stiller) fight the segregation going on at the Corny Collins show, but Tracy is arrested.
I love this show. I love the dancing and the music. I was an expert at the mash potato, twist, Bristol Stump, and all the dances that were out during the sixties. I even played hooky from high school a few times to take the bus with friends and go to the Bandstand show that was hosted by Dick Clark. I remember my sisters and me driving my father nuts because we were using up his stock of hairspray. We couldn’t help it. We had to have the look! We would set our hair in empty frozen juice cans to make our hair fuller, followed by teasing our hair a mile above our heads before smoothing it into a style and holding the set with the spray.
This was my teenage years, and yes, it was a time when teenage America found its voice both with its music and with its acceptance of people of different races and cultures. It wasn’t that many years later that we used our voices to protest the war in Vietnam.
Side note: I never understood why that war was started, but our young soldiers from that war were never given their due respects and honor, but having both family and friends fight in that war, I will always be eternally grateful for the bravery of all our Veterans. Oorah!
There was a newer version of Hairspray in 2007which was directed by Adam Shankman and starred John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, Christopher Walken as Wilbur, Nikki Blonsky as Tracy, Michelle Pfeiffer as Velma, Brittany Snow as Amber, and Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle.
I loved this version just as much, and especially John Travolta's and Christopher Walken's take on Edna and Wilbur
If you get the chance, watch both, and then let me know which version you enjoy the best...and make sure you brush up your moves on the dance floor.