Kim McGuire

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Kim McGuire
Me with Kim McGuire.jpg
Kim McGuire and Alan Light, picture by Alan Light
Born 1956 (age 57–58)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation Actress, attorney
Years active 1989–1996

Kim McGuire (born 1956) is a film and stage actress and practicing attorney who gained widespread media attention in the early 1990s following her eye-catching performance as Mona "Hatchetface" Malnorowski in John Waters' cult film Cry-Baby.

Early life[edit]

Kim Diane McGuire was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to attorney Raymond A. McGuire and his wife, the former Mary Toole. She initially intended to follow in her father's footsteps, and, after taking undergraduate studies at the University of New Orleans, completed her education at the Loyola University School of Law. However, McGuire also became interested in performing from an early age; following her casting in the film Cry-Baby, she stated that "This has been my dream since I was 3. I started off as a dancer and said I wanted to make myself as triple-threat as possible, and do Chekhov and Shakespeare... I just think it's so magical. I hate to say it, but I've always wanted to be a star."[1]

Film and TV career[edit]

Cry-Baby and its aftermath[edit]

In early 1985, John Waters announced that he was working on a script for a new film entitled Hatchet-Face, which was "about a woman and her multilevel beauty problems".[2] Although this film did not eventuate, a similar character of the same name was subsequently incorporated into the project that became Cry-Baby. It has been said that the character of Mona "Hatchetface" Malnorowski – a grotesque, loud-mouthed member of the teenage delinquent gang headed by Johnny Depp's Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker – had originally been conceived by John Waters with Divine in mind.[3] The overweight female impersonator (real name, Harris Glenn Millstead), who had been a distinctive presence in Waters' films for almost two decades, had died suddenly in March 1988, before production of Cry-Baby began.

When Waters came to cast the role of Hatchetface in March 1989, the character was described thus: "She's got the body of Jayne Mansfield and the face of Margaret Hamilton... [and] nobody, but nobody, gives her grief."[4] To find a suitable actress, Waters placed a print advertisement that simply requested: "Wanted: Girl with a good body and an alarming face who is proud of it".[1] Prospective candidates were invited to send a recent photograph to "Cry-Baby Productions, 222 St. Paul Pl., Baltimore, MD, 21201."[5] McGuire, then working on stage in New York City, saw the advertisement and was reportedly hired by Waters "almost immediately" after her audition.[6] In a 2005 documentary about the film, titled It Came From Baltimore, McGuire recalled:

I had just randomly sent my picture to six casting directors that week. I sent it to [casting director] Paula Herold who was casting for a film called Reversal of Fortune, which I had no idea what it was about. And I guess I had a reversal of fortune, because they called me in for Cry-Baby.[7]

For the movie, McGuire's naturally unusual physiognomy was greatly exaggerated through grotesque make-up so that she resembled (as one critic later put it) "a Cubist poster-child". The transformation was incredible; later, John Waters stated: "that face that she wears in the movie is certainly make-up; Kim has a very blank face in real life".[8] McGuire herself once quipped "When people see me after seeing that, they think I look really good."[1]

After principal production of Cry-Baby was completed in July 1989, a series of test screenings were held, where McGuire's performance as Hatchetface was so well received that Waters decided to insert some additional sequences involving the character. An additional fortnight of shooting took place in November, after which two new Hatchetface scenes found their way into the final cut.[9] According to Waters, the scene in which Hatchetface breaks through the screen of a 3D movie into a terrified audience of male prisoners, generated the biggest laugh of the entire film.

When the film premiered in April 1990, McGuire's eye-popping performance caught the attention of every critic who saw it. The New Yorker, for example, observed that "There's a spectacularly ugly girl called Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire), and Waters zooms in on her mug at every opportunity". Writing in New York Magazine, David Denby noted the presence of "a startlingly ugly baby tramp, Hatchetface, played, with makeup spread all over her face, by the masochistically courageous Kim McGuire".[10] Another observer wrote of McGuire, "whose screwed-up face is an object of much bad-taste-flouting hilarity".[11] Other critics were no less descriptive, and variously described her as "a hideously contorted floozy" (New York Times), "gorgeously grotesque" (Newsweek), "a character with a mug like silly putty with eyes" (The Advocate) and "a sort of junior Margaret Hamilton" (Atlanta Journal Constitution).

Many observers astutely noted that McGuire proved herself an able successor not only to the late Divine and also to another odd-looking stalwart of Water's previous films, the late Edith Massey, who had died in 1984. The Boston Globe reported that "Divine's kind of generous outrageousness comes from Kim McGuire as a tough-talking tough-looking character called Hatchet Face".[12] Another critic stated that "Divine's rubber-faced antics find a new home in the actress Kim McGuire's Hatchet Face",[13] while yet another simply noted that "the closest thing to an old-time Waters' face is Mona 'Hatchet Face' Malnorowski, as played, with twisted face, by someone named Kim McGuire".[14] Waters himself described McGuire as "a definite starlet on the rise" and, in another interview, wistfully stated that "she should have been in Dick Tracy".[15] For many months after the release of Cry-Baby, McGuire remained a prominent feature on the Hollywood social circuit, being photographed at film premieres (including Postcards from the Edge and David Lynch's Wild at Heart), parties, benefits and other A-list events.

Later film and TV appearances[edit]

In February 1990, when Cry-Baby was first screened for its cast and crew, McGuire was already working on her next film: Charles Winkler's horror flick, Disturbed, which starred Malcolm McDowell as a psychotic doctor. Soon afterwards, and without even having yet acquired an agent, McGuire signed to appear opposite James Caan in Rob Reiner's film adaptation of Stephen King's novel, Misery. However, her lead role as the psychopathic nurse Annie Wilkes was subsequently taken by Kathy Bates, who went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Nevertheless, McGuire continued to work in films over the next few years, with appearances in a TV movie, Acting on Impulse (1993) and an uncredited cameo in John Waters' next project, Serial Mom (1994). Her unusual appearance was also put to memorable use in two off-beat television series, each featuring odd characters in quirky scenarios: the HBO series Dream On (1990) and David Lynch's short-lived On the Air (1992), which was cancelled after only three episodes. Like Cry-Baby, the latter series was set in the 1950s; McGuire played the role of Nicole Thorne, a "shrewish publicist" to a television executive. Notwithstanding the quirkiness of the series, she grasped the opportunity to break away from her Hatchetface image. In one interview, she said: "After [Cry-Baby], when I went on job interviews producers expected to see this big, ugly six-foot-tall actress whereas I'm just five feet high. This series, I hope, will make people forget me as Hatchetface." She added, "I always wanted to meet David Lynch, so I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be working on the show. And there are lots of other pluses. For example, it really feels great to show up groomed with my hair in place wearing decent clothes".[16] In one episode, a magician performed a series of unconventional magic tricks, prompting one critic to describe the sequence as "a must-see, if only for the nightmarishly Fly-like image of Kim McGuire steeping out of a vanishing box with her head on the body of a skittering iguana".[17]

Later life[edit]

Life after Hollywood[edit]

By the mid-1990s, McGuire had all but given up on her film career. In December 1997, she was admitted to the California State Bar and began working as an attorney in Los Angeles, specialising in entertainment and appellate law. She and her partner, Emmy-winning television producer Gene Piotrowsky, were in New York at the time of the September 11 attacks and consequently found themselves unemployed. The couple moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, where, a few years earlier, McGuire's parents (still living in New Orleans) had purchased a seaside vacation house in the exclusive Holy Land district.[18] While McGuire thereafter concentrated on her career as an attorney, both she and her partner maintained an interest in the performing arts. In September 2002, they became members of a local theatre group, the Mississippi Repertory Theatre Company; McGuire in the capacity of legal counsel, and Piotrowsky as director of marketing and advertising.[19]

In September 2005, McGuire and Piotrowsky were rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina; it was reported that "they lost everything except for Gene’s Emmy, which was found broken amidst the rubble that was their home".[20] This moving account of their plight was later published on a social networking website:

When the flood waters began to come into their Biloxi home, Gene opened the door for them to get out and Kim was pulled by the waters outside and, consequently cut and broke her foot. Since she was unable to walk, Gene had to carry her through the water. They eventually found a covered spot out of the rising water and sat there, outside, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until a police officer found them and took them to the Biloxi Junior High School shelter five blocks away. There they were given food and some dry clothing. While at the shelter, Kim had to be taken to a local hospital to get some of her necessary medication and to have her foot tended to. When she was discharged, Gene had to push Kim several miles through the ruins of old Biloxi in a wheelchair to get back to the shelter. For three days, Gene left the shelter to walk 6 miles to and from a Walgreens to try to get Kim’s medication, but was never able to have the prescription filled. They were at the Biloxi shelter from Monday, the day of the storm, until Saturday. They then were taken to Providence Hospital in Mobile, where Kim was able to stay overnight and get the medication she needed. After the night in the hospital, she and Gene when to the Cypress Baptist Church. They are still there. "We have no house, no car, no underwear. There is nothing but a slab," said Kim. "We lost everything in the world."

On the aftermath of the disaster, Piotrowsky told a reporter: "Though they plan and equip themselves for something like this, it's never enough. We ought to know: We lived in L.A. during the 1994 earthquake, we were visiting New York on 9/11, and now we lived through this. I told a friend about all of that and he said, 'Do me a favor and tell me where you're moving to next'."[21] The couple were temporarily accommodated in a local grade school with 300 other hurricane survivors before transferring to more permanent accommodation in Mobile, Alabama.

By November 2005, McGuire had become temporarily licensed to practice law in Alabama, and subsequently resumed her career as an attorney, specialising in family law.[22] She was admitted to the Alabama State Bar in September 2006, and re-admitted to the California State Bar (after a period of professional inactivity in that state) in April 2010.

Cry-Baby cast reunion[edit]

In July 2005, McGuire's performance as Hatchetface in Cry-Baby was introduced to a new generation of fans when the film was released on DVD as a director's cut. The former actress was one of several original cast members (along with Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Darren E. Burrows and Stephen Mailer) who reunited for the filming of a short documentary, which was included on the disc as a special feature. Of the reunion, Waters quipped: "we found all the people today, including Hatchetface. I hadn't seen Hatchetface since we made the movie almost 20 years ago. She looked great, she looked like a regular middle-aged woman. But she looked very different to how she does in the movie, so it was kind of startling."[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Steve Dollar, "In Cry-Baby, Traci Lords gives her image a spin", The Atlanta Journal Constitution, April 6, 1990, p D6.
  2. ^ "Director Waters' films have a new generation to offend", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 29, 1985.
  3. ^ Dennis Meikle, Johnny Depp: A Kind of Illusion, p 83.
  4. ^ "Quibbles and Bits", Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1989.
  5. ^ Kathy O'Malley and Hanke Gratteau, "O'Malley & Gratteu, Inc", Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1989, p 5.
  6. ^ Glen Elsasser, "Still Waters has John gone Hollywood? Not so you'd notice", Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1990, p 6.
  7. ^ Kim McGuire, interviewed in It Came From Baltimore, included as a special feature on director's cut DVD of Cry Baby (2005).
  8. ^ Bob Strauss, "From Trash to Cry Baby", Daily News of Los Angeles, April 11, 1990, p L18.
  9. ^ Marilyn Beck, "Beresford slight disturbs Zanuck", Daily News of Los Angeles, February 15, 1990, p L22.
  10. ^ David Denby, "Splendour in the Trash", New York Magazine, April 9, 1990, p 88
  11. ^ Robert DiMatteo, "Cry-Baby is fairly shallow for waters", Walker County Messenger, May 15, 1990, p 4.
  12. ^ "Cry Baby sweet but sadly not divine", Boston Globe, April 6, 1990.
  13. ^ "John Waters turn Trash into treasure in Cry-Baby", The Advocate, Apr 18, 1990.
  14. ^ "Cry-Baby: Rebel without a Plot", The Virginian-Pilot, Apr 10, 1990.
  15. ^ "Cry-Baby casting creative - or is it bizarre?", Worcester Telegram & Gazette [Worcester, MA], April 5, 1990, p D1.
  16. ^ Ivor Davies, "From 'Twin Peaks' to 'On the Air' with weirdness intact", TV Times, July 3 to July 10, 1992.
  17. ^ Tim and Donna Lucas, Video Watchdog (1993), p 72
  18. ^ Margaret Baker, "Quiet living in Biloxi's Holy Land", The Sun Herald [Biloxi, MS], March 31, 2002, p G9.
  19. ^ "Theater company appoints two new members", The Sun Herald [Biloxi, MS], September 22, 2002, p J5.
  20. ^ Coastal Artist Relief Effort (C.A.R.E) "Damage Report of Mississippi Arts Community", posted Dec 5, 2005. Retrieved Oct 19, 2010.
  21. ^ Mark Sauer, "Survivors outside New Orleans feel they're forgotten", San Diego Union Tribune, September 3, 2005
  22. ^ "Announcements", Mobile Bar Association Monthly Bulletin, November 2005, p 4
  23. ^ Brett Callwood, "John Waters - King Of Sleaze", Bizarre, June 2005.

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