The Full Wiki

Desperate Living: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Desperate Living

DVD cover
Directed by John Waters
Produced by John Waters
Written by John Waters
Starring Liz Renay
Mink Stole
Edith Massey
Mary Vivian Pearce
Cinematography John Waters
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) May 27, 1977
Running time 90 min.
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $65,000

Desperate Living (1977) is a film by Baltimore, Maryland filmmaker John Waters starring Liz Renay, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, Edith Massey, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Jean Hill.



Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole), a neurotic, delusional, suburban housewife, and her overweight maid Grizelda (Jean Hill) go on the lam after they murder Peggy's husband, Bosley (George Stover). The two are arrested by a policeman (Turkey Joe) who gives them an ultimatum: go to jail or be exiled to Mortville, a filthy shantytown ruled by the evil Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey) and her treasonous daughter, Princess Coo-Coo (Mary Vivian Pearce).

Peggy and Grizelda choose Mortville, but still engage in lesbian prison sex. They become associates of self-hating lesbian wrestler Mole McHenry (Susan Lowe), who wants a sex change to please her lover, Muffy St. Jacques (Liz Renay). Most of Mortville's social outcasts — criminals, nudists, and sexual deviants — conspire to overthrow Queen Carlotta, who banishes her daughter Princess Coo-Coo after she elopes with a garbage collector, who is later shot to death by the guards. Coo-Coo hides in Peggy and Grizelda's house with her dead lover. Peggy calls for the guards who fight with Grizelda, soon the house collapses and Grizelda dies. Peggy Gravel, however, joins the queen in terrorizing her subjects, even infecting them (and Princess Coo-Coo) with rabies.

Eventually, Mortville's denizens, led by Mole McHenry, overthrow Queen Carlotta and execute Peggy Gravel by shooting a gun up her anus. To celebrate their freedom, the townsfolk roast Queen Carlotta on a spit and serve her, pig-like, on a platter with an apple in her mouth.


Actor profile

This is the only feature film John Waters made without Divine prior to the actor's death in 1988. Divine was touring as a live performer and couldn't fit Desperate Living into his schedule. This was also Waters' first film without David Lochary, who bled to death after accidentally cutting himself whilst on PCP just before production.

Due to his Pink Flamingos infamy, Waters began to attract actors from outside his circle of friends. Liz Renay was a convicted felon and author of My Face for the World to See, her still-in-print autobiography (referenced in Waters' previous film Female Trouble). Casting Renay presaged Waters' later use of other crime-related celebrities like Patty Hearst and Traci Lords in his films.

Foreign release

In Italy, the film was heavily dubbed, censored, and retitled Punk Story. Desperate Living was rejected for a UK cinema release by the BBFC in 1977. It was finally released on video in 1990 after an eyeball-gouging scene was trimmed by four seconds.

Tributes paid to Desperate Living

The musician and band Marilyn Manson include a tribute to Desperate Living in their 1994 album, Portrait of an American Family. The last track on the album has a recording of Mink Stole's character, Peggy Gravel, shouting at children playing baseball (having just broken her window).

The line is spoken as follows:

"Go home to your mother! Doesn't she ever watch you? Tell her this isn't some communist daycare center! Tell your mother I hate her! Tell your mother I hate you!"

The sound of a ringing telephone is then heard on a loop before, at the very end of the track, a message from the Marilyn Manson Family Intervention Hotline answering machine is heard, specifically a mother asking for her son's name to be removed from the band's mailing list.

The musical Miss Saigon features a song called "Coo-Coo Princess".

Horse the Band's forthcoming album has been titled "Desperate Living" after the film.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Desperate Living is a 1977 film about a mentally ill housewife and her maid who flee to a city full of hiding criminals after accidentally killing a character's husband.

Written and directed by John Waters.
It isn't very pretty...


Peggy Gravel

  • [the phone rings] Hello? What number are you calling? You've dialed the wrong number! SORRY? What good is that? How can you ever repay the 30 seconds you have STOLEN FROM MY LIFE! I hate you, your husband, your children and your relatives!
  • [the children are playing doctor in the nude] Sodomites! Caught right in a sex orgy! You dirty filthy...! Is that what you learned in private school?! Nude, nude, nude! You could be pregnant, Beth! And as for you, I never thought you would rape your own SISTER! Oh God, the children are having SEX!
  • Am I living in hell?! Is that it?! Have I gone straight to hell?!
  • You know I hate nature! Look at those disgusting trees, stealing my oxygen!
  • You're just like the rest of the common dykes in this town!

Grizelda Brown

  • Good God almighty.
  • [comes into the room wielding a broom] Back off, asshole!
  • [while sitting on Mr. Gravel's face] Down, down, down, down, down, down, down! Down, down, down, down, down!

Queen Carlotta

  • Take them to our ugly expert, and give them a complete overhaul!
  • Oh, that love muscle! Whip it out and show it hard! Oh come on daddy, fuck me! Oh grow little inchworm!
  • That little MF!
  • Hey morons, you got your clothes on backwards!
  • I hope you didn't leave no pecker tracks on my gown!
  • Tell me, is it possible to get me a hydrogen bomb?
  • Seize her and fuck her!


  • Come on, bitch! Eat some dog food! Eat it! Eat it, you bitch! Put my baby in the refrigerator!
  • I'm so hungry I could eat cancer!
  • [talking to her breasts] Hi big boys! I bet you didn't know Mommy won the Maryland lottery, yes! I'm going to be buying you lots of new push-up bras, so get ready for your new home! Things are going to be looking up for you two!
  • Good old germ-carrying American currency!


  • Now I won't have any organs! It'll be like having a Barbie doll crotch!
  • I'm going to BLOW YOUR BOWELS OUT!


  • Officer: You like lingerie?! How do you like these little numbers? I sent away to 'em from Fredrick's. They was expensive. I love the feel of cold nylon on my big butt!
  • Princess Coo-coo: Herbert doesn't care if I have ears, he only cares about my mind!
  • Flipper: You lazy bitch! I'm out working my tail off all day and you're in there fucking midgets!


[a baseball breaks the bedroom window, where outside children are playing the sport]
Peggy: I knew they'd try it! Try to kill me in my own home! It's like war! Don't tell me I don't know what Vietnam is like! [opens the window] Brats! Brats! Brats!
Child: Oh, I'm sorry Mrs. Gravel. I'll pay for the window out of my allowance.
Peggy: How about my LIFE? Do you get enough allowance to pay for that?! I know you were trying to kill me! What's the matter with the courts? Do they allow this lawlesness and malicious destruction of property to run rampant? I HATE THE SUPREME COURT! [moves away from the window in a rage and throws a vase, breaking it, then moves back to the window] Go home to your mother! Doesn't she ever watch you? Tell her this isn't some communist day-care center! Tell your mother I hate her! Tell your mother I HATE YOU!

Grizelda: We killed your husband, and I ain't your maid any more, bitch! I'm yo sister in crime!
Peggy: Please, don't sit on me!

Peggy: We were raped! Please, give us shelter!
Mole: You were raped?!

Muffy: Sometimes I need a man.
Mole: I'm a man, Muffy! A man trapped in a woman's body!

Princess Coo-Coo: Herbert!
Herbert: Coo-Coo, Coo-coo! Oh, Coo, I worship the ground you walk on. I couldn't keep my mind on my work all morning. Every piece of trash I had to pick up reminded me of you! An old candy wrapper made me think of how sweet you are. A snotty Kleenex made me realize how much I'd cry if we ever had to part. An old rubber made me think of all the nights of eros we have before us. I love you, Coo-coo.
Princess Coo-coo: Oh Herbert, I masturbated fourteen times last night just thinking of you, and when I finally did fall asleep, my dreams were not exactly dry. Take me now, Herbert! Take me in front of the whole town!

Peggy: You obviously belong in a mental hospital!
Grizelda: Look who's calling the kettle black! She's just upset, now be easy on her!
Peggy: I will not! I don't want some renegade necrophile princess as my roommate!

Muffy's Friend: Holy shit Mole, what happened to you?!
Mole: Oh, Muffy just gave me an abortion.


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address