10 Little Known Facts About Hairspray

Tell me the part about Dermot Mulroney, again!

Hairspray started as an independent film, written and directed by John Waters, in 1988 but its growth into a hit bigger than Tracy Turnblad’s beehive could never been predicted.

The story follows plus-sized teen Tracy, who gets a chance to dance on the fictional Corny Collins Show then sets her sights on integrating the show in 1960s Baltimore. In 2002, with a cult following, Waters’ film would be adapted into a Tony-winning Broadway musical that ran until 2009. The success of the stage version would lead to yet another film, a 2007 adaptation of the musical, starring movie stars like John Travolta, Zac Efron, and Queen Latifah.

With Hairspray getting the NBC live treatment tonight (12/7) with stars like Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson attached, VH1’s unlocked some little known facts about the original 1988 film, the Broadway show, and its subsequent 2007 movie remake just in time for your drinking games, screening parties, and live Tweeting.

  1. Josh Charles got his start in a small role in 1988’s Hairspray.

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    Josh Charles would find success in later years on shows like Sports Night and The Good Wife but his first role was in Waters’ Hairspray as a member of the committee. A Baltimore native, Charles told Entertainment Weekly, “I had my first line in a movie, ’Would you ever swim in an integrated swimming pool,’ and I had a cold. I sound really stuffed up, and it looks like I’m making some kind of choice to make the guy really snobby. In fact, he’s really snotty.” The actor later told Jimmy Fallon that he even got to name the part he played, “Iggy.”

  2. Pop singer Vitamin C played Amber Von Tussel.

    New Line Cinema

    Vitamin C (a.k.a. Colleen Fitzpatrick), most well known for her hit songs “Smile” and “Graduation Song (Friends Forver)” also got her start playing Tracy Turnblad’s nemesis Amber Von Tussle in Waters’ 1987 indie, opposite icons Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono as her parents. Fitzpatrick is now a Vice President at Nickelodeon.

  3. The Corny Collins Show is based on a real show.

    The fictional The Corny Collins Show within the Hairspray universe is actually based on the real life The Buddy Deane Show. The dance variety show was Baltimore’s answer to Philadelphia’s American Bandstand and like The Corny Collins Show it featured a committee that would teach viewers at home all the hip dances of the time. It aired from 1957 to 1964 but was canceled because it was unable to integrate white and black dancers.

  4. Many famous men have played Tracy’s mom Edna Turnblad.

    New Line Cinema

    Drag icon and Waters’ muse Divine originated the role of Edna, Tracy’s lovable and agoraphobic mother, in the 1988 film and the tradition of casting Edna with a male actor would continue on in every iteration of Hairspray. Harvey Fierstein famously portrayed Edna in the Broadway musical, earning him a Tony Award. In 2007, John Travolta put on the prosthetics to play mama to newcomer Nikki Blonsky in the musical film but there have been many other familiar faces to take on the role of Edna. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) played the role on Broadway, as well as Michael McKean and Bruce Vilanch. Fierstein will create the role in NBC’s telecast.

  5. Edna’s choreography was based on hippo ballet in Disney’s Fantasia.

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    Director and choreographer Adam Shankman said his specific choreography for Travolta’s Edna (2007) was inspired by the hippo ballet (Dance of the Hours) in the Disney film Fantasia. It reportedly took Travolta four hours to get into Edna mode.

  6. Jerry Stiller is one of the few actors to appear in both film versions of Hairspray.

    New Line Cinema

    Veteran character actor (and Ben Stiller’s pops) Jerry Stiller appeared in Hairspray (1988) as Tracy’s father Wilbur then cameoed in the musical film Hairspray (2007) as Mr. Pinky. Notice that knowing green and yellow palette.

  7. You can spot John Waters in both Hairsprays if you look for it!

    New Line Cinema

    Hairspray mastermind Waters appears in his 1988 film in the minor role of Dr. Frederickson who disciplines Tracy’s BFF Penny for her interest in black music and black boys. He made a blink-and-you-miss it cameo in the 2007 musical adaptation as the “flasher that lives next door” in the song “Good Morning Baltimore.” Fingers crossed he makes an appearance in the live version on NBC.

  8. The 2007 film ends with all the Tracys singing together

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    “Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now” is one of the most popular songs from the Hairspray musical but the creative team couldn’t figure out to make it work within the context of the film adaptation. In the stage version, the song is sung by Tracy, Penny, and Amber to their mothers but the 2007 movie grouped original film Tracy (Ricki Lake), original Broadway Tracy (Marissa Jaret Winokur), and Nikki Blonsky to sing the catchy three-way song for the closing credits. Harvey Fierstein even pops up at the end of the record for a cameo.

  9. Ricki Lake appears in disguise in the 2007 film!

    New Line Cinema

    Ricki Lake’s voice doesn’t just appear in the credits of the 2007 film, she’s in disguise in the big finale, too. The talk show host and actress, alongside members of the creative team, appeared in the end of the film as talent agents scouting The Corny Collins Show. In an interview with People Magazine, Lake confirmed that she and Winkour will make cameos in NBC’s live production. No word on Blonsky, who is very active on Instagram.

  10. Dermot Mulroney played cello on the 2007 Hairspray’s soundtrack!

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    If you’re into reading the CD liner notes you may recognize a surprising name on the 2007 film’s soundtrack. Mulroney (The Family Stone, My Best Friend’s Wedding) actually played the cello on the recording, and it’s not Hollywood-lore, VH1 confirmed this very important information with Mulroney’s manager. The actor is also a trained cellist who recently put those skills to use on the Emmy-winning Mozart in the Jungle.

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