Edith Massey and Adoption

Archival footage of Edith Massey in Steve Yeager's 1998 documentary Divine Trash


1918 - 1984

American actress and eccentric

Massey was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and orphaned as a child. When she was 15 she left the orphanage and became a tap dancer. She married in 1946, but was divorced five years later. Not much is known of her life until 1968, when she was "discovered" near Baltimore by the cult film director, John Waters. He cast her in a succession of strange films, including Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974), Desperate Living (1977) and Polyester (1981), which earned Massey stardom and money as a professional eccentric.

She had bad teeth, was ugly and obese, and sang badly, but was also very kind, with a good sense of humor. In addition to being a film icon, she at one time was a waitress/barmaid, sold pencils on the street during the Great Depression, ran a brothel and opened a famous thrift shop, Edith's Shopping Bag. [Last updated: 23 January 2005]


Nielsen, Sizanne. "Never Enough Queens for the Screen". Available at: [Last visited: 30 June 2004] Kalligaro, Wieland. "Edith Massey." [Includes portrait]. Available at: [Last visited: 23 January 2005] © Roger Ridley Fenton