'Pleasantly Plump' teenager Tracy Turnblad achieves her dream of becoming a regular on the Corny Collins Dance Show. Now a teen hero, she starts using her fame to speak out for the causes she believes in, most of all integration. In doing so, she earns the wrath of the show's former star, Amber Von Tussle, as well as Amber's manipulative, pro-segregation parents. The rivalry comes to a head as Amber and Tracy vie for the title of Miss Auto Show 1963. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hairspray both this version and the new 2007 one are a pair of great satirical films about teenage mores in the early Sixties of the Civil Rights Era. Sometimes our heroes and heroines for civil rights and human decency can be found where you least expect.
Such a person is Tracy Turnblad played by later television host Rikki Lake who's a full figured gal in every sense of the word. Her biggest desire growing up in Baltimore of the Early Sixties is to get on the local teen hop show hosted by Corny Collins. The regulars who dance there have a celebrity status, but something a fat girl dare not hope to dream.
Tracy doesn't hope, she lives the dream and actually gets picked to dance and be a regular to the distress of plastic teen princess Colleen Fitzpatrick. But it's a cause for celebration for Tracy's parents played by Divine and Jerry Stiller and her best friend Leslie Ann Powers.
All this is against the background of the civil rights era and Baltimore had its problems also. The Corny Collins show is segregated with a prescribed Negro Day once a month. That seems as bogus to Tracy as baseball being segregated not too long ago and she joins the fight to integrate the show. She's even convinced her teen dream new boyfriend Michael St. Gerard to join in as well.
A subplot is Powers finding love herself in the person of Clayton Prince who is black and that's upsetting to a lot of people, not the least is Powers's mother. It would be within that same decade that the Supreme Court did away with miscegenation laws, so these kids are running some real risks.
Hairspray is a very funny film with a very serious message about live and live. In fact that's the main problem with the world today right now, certain people feeling they've got the right through religion or secular philosophy or plain out and out wealth who just feel they've the right to dictate the lives the rest of us are supposed to lead in conforming to how they see the world.
In the remake of Hairspray, Queen Latifah who plays Ruth Brown's role of Motormouth Mabel says to the characters playing the Powers and Prince roles that as a racially mixed couple that those young people should be prepared for a whole lot of stupid in the world to deal with. One cast member of this version of Hairspray had occasion to deal with a whole lot of stupid back in 1994.
In the cast he's listed as Keith Douglas, lead singer of the Lafayettes DooWop group, but he was Keith Douglas Pruitt, a talented musician, actor, and composer. He and his partner were attacked by a trio of suburban rednecks who were dismayed at seeing two members of the same sex holding hands on Waverly Place. Keith sustained a fractured skull and a hearing loss for a while looked to permanently impair his career in music.
It was in my working days with New York State Crime Victims Board that I met Keith Pruitt. I did the claims for both he and his partner, giving them what my agency could provide for both of them. He did go back to work eventually to the applause of his friends and admirers of his work.
Keith Pruitt died only a week ago at the age of 47. He left a legacy in art, but he also left a legacy in life as a genuine hero. One who certainly never started out to be one, but things are thrust upon us in life sometimes. He stood up to the homophobic bigots and bashers with dignity and pride. I'm really proud I knew him and was part of his story in a small way.
And so this review of Hairspray is dedicated to Keith Pruitt, someone we can all emulate in life.
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