Appearing in over a dozen John Waters films, actress Mink Stole has created some of the most memorable characters in film history – including the villainous Connie Marble in Pink Flamingos, Taffy Davenport in Female Trouble, and Dottie Hinkle in Serial Mom.
She’s also appeared in But I’m a Cheerleader, The Secret World of Alex Mac, Spyder Games, Lost Highway, All About Evil, Married… With Children, and has become a regular fixture on Logo, thanks to her role as Aunt Helen in the successful Eating Out series.
Below is a quick excerpt from an interview she did with Socialite Life:
SL: I’m not sure…in the book Shock Value, John Waters said you were the best actress he had worked with.
Mink: Well, I have a natural talent – not to be immodest – but I do. I have a flair for it, I have a natural talent and, like I said, I committed totally. In any of my roles, you never see me step out of character – even for a moment. I’m always completely in character. I enjoyed creating the characters and I was always lucky with John because he created such different characters for me to play – especially in the early years – they were very strong. And he wrote brilliant lines for me. He wrote me some of his best lines. I had a lot of help from the material. I have learned over the course of my life that it’s easier to play mean than it is to play nice.
SL: I was going to ask you what you drew from to be such a convincing villain because you seem like such a nice person!
Mink: (Laughs) I actually am, in my life, pretty nice. If someone pushes me, my inner Dottie Hinkle/Connie Marble/Peggy Gravel (her character from Waters’ Desperate Living), slash, slash, slash will come out – and it’s not pretty. All of that exists in me, but it’s not how I choose to live. What’s funny on screen is not funny in real life. Nobody really enjoys bitchy friends. They get on your nerves…but they’re wonderful to play. When I was playing Taffy, in particular, especially during the car accident scenes and while I’m being so hateful to my mother, I was in a wonderful mood! (Laughs) When you get that “aargh!” out, it just frees you up. I loved it – and the other thing I loved about working with John in the early days was that he and I were both disaffected Catholics. Angry, disaffected Catholics. It was a wonderful way for me to be able to channel that really serious anger I had towards Catholicism into something that didn’t hurt anybody. It pissed my mother off, but that was just a side perk!
SL: So what was the greatest sacrifice you had to make as an actress in John Waters’ films?
Mink: Well, actually in Pink Flamingos, those were all my own clothes. And everything I wore in that movie was destroyed. Just about. And that was hard for me because some of them were priceless thrift shop finds! They didn’t cost much but they were beautiful. And they were just totally trashed, so that was tough. But, other than that, there haven’t really been sacrifices. John never asked me to do anything dangerous. Divine had to do a lot of stuff that was really dangerous – and did it. I was never asked to do anything…I had to be cold. For me it certainly wasn’t dangerous, it was just uncomfortable.
SL: What was it like working with Divine?
Mink: Oh, I loved working with Divine! Divine was totally professional, (he was) certainly as committed as I was, if not more, to every role that he played. I loved doing scenes with him because he was so focused – and he was focused on the scene and not on his own camera angles or anything like that – so when we did scenes together, we really connected and it shows in the scenes we had – it shows how connected we were. He was lovely to work with.
I also got to work with Divine on stage too. We both worked with the Cockettes in the early 70s – I was never an official member of the troupe, but I did work on the show. Divine worked on a couple of shows with them and I did a show with the Cockettes and Divine called Vice Palace that was an amazing production. We did it Halloween weekend of ’72. It was a huge extravaganza and it was very well received and it was a thrill to work on.
SL: I have to ask, since I’m in the midst of interviewing the cast of Drag U – I know you worked with RuPaul on But I’m a Cheerleader – do you have any Ru stories you can share?
Mink: I love RuPaul! You know, I met Ru on that movie and I’ve always just found him to be an absolutely delightful, charming person. I’ve never worked with him as “RuPaul” (his drag persona). He has the best looking legs of any human in the world! Absolutely spectacular legs and he’s always been perfectly delightful and charming to me but I rarely see him. I really don’t see him much and I don’t watch his show because I don’t get cable. I’ve cut my TV viewing down to almost nothing. But (Ru’s) a lovely person and he loves his family. When we were both living in Los Angeles, he would invite me to his home for parties and he was always surrounded by his family – and I love the fact that his family was so supportive and that they were so affectionate. He’s always been perfectly lovely to me. I’ve never worked with the 8-foot-tall RuPaul – I’d love to though, I think he’s fabulous!
SL: You should be a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Mink: Wouldn’t that be fun! I’d be happy to do it.
SL: Are you surprised that all of the movies you made with John still have such an enormous fan following?
Mink: You know, I got an email not too long ago from a man who had just had Connie Marble’s picture tattooed on his arm… And I’m thinking this is 40 years ago that we made that movie and it still has such an impact that somebody is willing to permanently put it on his body staggers me! It humbles me and inflates me at the same time, I kind of really don’t know how to deal with it. It thrills me, but it’s like, “Are you nuts?” In a way, I’m kind of used to it – but by that, I don’t mean to imply that I’m indifferent to it because I’m not. I think it’s really extraordinary and I feel every now and then so amazed that I was lucky enough to be part of something so absolutely amazing. Of course, at the time, there was no way to know that this would be the case – and it’s a good thing because I would have been entirely too nervous.
SL: They couldn’t make movies like those today.
Mink: Well, they wouldn’t have the same impact. You know, there are so many horror movies out now, there’s so much blood, there’s so much gore. It’s very hard to shock people now. We’re so jaded – we see people blown up on TV every day so it’s impossible to shock people anymore.
As far as the enduring popularity of John’s movies, I am thrilled by it and I’m humbled by it at the same time. I don’t live like a movie star – I live a very simple life. Here in Baltimore occasionally someone will come up to me and tell me they like my work – which is very nice – it’s lovely to have that happen. But I was watching the footage of Justin Bieber yesterday and I thought, “How could somebody actually live like that?” To be unable to perform your everyday chores – I guess if you’re Justin Bieber, other people do them for you – but what an amazingly restricted way to live. I would not like it. I’ve never had the opportunity to say, “Well, I don’t know.” I’ve never been offered that lifestyle so I don’t know that I wouldn’t like it if I had it but I think I wouldn’t.
Read the entire interview here.