John Waters’ affinity for the weird, wild, and whacked-out took more mainstream form in 1988’s Hairspray, a loving ode to early ‘60s music, fat chicks, and racial and sexual tolerance. Waters’ dedication to period detail reveals a fetishistic fascination with the artificial, whether it be “The Corny Collins Show” – a cheeky, brightly colored version of “American Bandstand” – the hairspray-sculpted coiffures, or the ultra-cheesy slang tossed about his high school protagonists. Waters employs artifice as a means of both critiquing and paying homage to the decade’s stifling conservative values. Ricki Lake’s “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad becomes a celebrity on Corny Collins’ dance-o-rama, much to the chagrin of the show’s skinny, whitebread established star Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick). Amber’s campaign against Tracy is a battle not only between WASP and outcast but also between segregationist and integrationist, as their feud soon becomes intertwined with efforts to allow black dancers to regularly strut their stuff on Corny’s show. Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton (Leslie Ann Powers) falls hopelessly in love with a black teen named Seaweed (Clayton Prince), and Waters hilariously skewers whites’ fears of black people by sending Penny’s prejudiced mother into the Baltimore ghetto to save her daughter from a voodoo dancing session. The director also, in a bit of subversive casting-against-type, appears briefly as a creepy psychologist bent on exorcising Penny’s jungle fever through hypnotism. Divine handles dual roles as Tracy’s mother and a racist television station owner, Jerry Stiller pops up now and again as Tracy’s gag-loving pop, Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora cameo as frightening pot-smoking beatniks, and Sonny Bono and Deborah Harry ham it up as Amber’s cutthroat parents. Yet despite the plethora of stars, it’s Lake’s exuberantly reactionary Tracy and the choreographed dance numbers set to early ‘60s hits from Chubby Checker and Lesley Gore that steal the show. The film may be a long way from the shocking grossness of Waters’ early work, but Hairspray is perhaps the defining moment in the auteur’s career-long dedication to lionizing Baltimore’s misfit population.
Chubby Checker is not credited at imdb.
I have only seen the film about 10 times, but I do not think any CC songs are there.
Posted by: Brandon Sussman | December 24, 2005 at 03:14 PM
As far as I can remember, Chubby Checker's music is present throughout the film. And a Goggle search for "Hairspray" and "Chubby Checker" brings up lots of hits indicating that his songs are in the film.
Posted by: Nick | December 27, 2005 at 12:57 PM