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Hairspray (1988)

Long-time cult film director John Waters burst into the mainstream with this cheerfully zany spoof of 1960s TV teen dance shows.

Ricki Lake may be better known for her weird and wonderful US chat show (that ran until 2004), but it was director Waters who launched her into stardom with this kitsch classic.

Waters toned down his usual excesses, but his mischievous black sense of humour was still very much to the fore in this affectionate salute to Z-grade teen movies.


Lake is the fun-loving heavy-set Tracy Turnblad, who becomes the new teen dancing queen on The Corny Collins Show (Baltimore’s answer to American Bandstand) much to the horror of her wealthy, snobbish parents, who want their daughter to shine.

Tracy is overweight, opinionated, always in trouble at school for “hairdo violations” and looks just like her mother, Edna (Divine in his last movie).

A rebel with a cause, Tracy outmanoeuvres snooty teen queen Amber Von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick) and eventually wins viewers hearts with her radical social views, her new dances and her revolutionary hairdos. Complications arise with a conspiracy by Amber’s parents (Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry) to bomb the TV studio if their daughter is not crowned dance queen.

Waters simultaneously indulges in cliches and lampoons them: A race riot takes place in an amusement pavilion called Tilted Acres and a black guy named Seaweed (Clayton Prince) declares with a straight face, “Our love is taboo!” while contemplating his affections for a white girl (Leslie Ann Powers).

The eclectic cast included Jerry Stiller, Pia Zadora, former Cars singer Ric Ocasek and the great 1950s R&B singer Ruth Brown (as a disc jockey called Motormouth Maybelle) and the soundtrack dredged up some brilliant old toons, with oldies both golden and mouldy.


Tracy Turnblad
Ricki Lake
Edna Turnblad/Arvin Hodgepile
Franklin von Tussle
Sonny Bono
Motormouth Maybell
Ruth Brown
Amber von Tussle
Colleen Fitzpatrick
Velma von Tussle
Deborah Harry
Link Larkin
Michael St Gerard
Penny Pingleton
Leslie Ann Powers
Clayton Prince
Wilbur Turnblad
Jerry Stiller
Beatnik girl
Pia Zadora

John Waters