“I’m here to LIBERATE!” That has been the personal crusade of performance artist David Hoyle for most of his life. Born on September 19, 1962, David was raised in the seaside town of Blackpool, England. Aware of his homosexuality at a young age, he was relentlessly tormented by schoolmates and received little support from teachers. They hoped the bullying would turn him straight. Unrealistic to assume it is just so simple as a choice. After suffering a nervous breakdown as a teenager, David found solace in attending comedy acts by the likes of Dorothy Squires and Ken Dodd when they came to town. At seventeen, he began performing his own stand-up routines at a local men’s club and eventually relocated to London. Here, Hoyle was finally free to be and soon socializing in the city’s flamboyant gay scene. He even had a brief stint as Riff-Raff in a stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but blew it due to overindulgence on drugs and alcohol.
These excesses would play a recurring role in David’s life and a source of struggle for the artist. Also, fresh on the club scene was the AIDS epidemic, a deadly virus that terrorized the homosexual community when most were still unaware and uninformed of its severity. After a few whirlwind years and witnessing friends “drop like flies” David made the conscious decision to slow his wild partying ways and settle down in Manchester. But it wasn’t long before the stage beckoned. Hosting at Manchester’s Paradise Factory nightclub while performing in art clubs and festivals, it was during this time Hoyle conceived his audacious persona, the Divine David.
Appearing something like Buffalo Bill’s Brit cousin, Divine David was the ‘anti’ drag queen, defecating "bourgeois Britain and the materialistic-hedonistic gay scene.” Incorporating painting, pole dancing, self-mutilation, and surrealism into the mix, his acts were not for the faint of heart. Hoyle claims the character “evolved from a crucible of disillusionment, disappointment and depression, distilled through humor in order to see the funny side and hear hope in laughter. Siouxsie Sioux, Bette Davis, the mythic allure of Veronica Lake, Northern pub and club humor, expressionism -- I'm sure they're all in the mix!” The brazen persona even took the public service Channel 4 by storm with acclaimed arts show The Divine David Presents (1998) and subsequent The Divine David Heals. An episode finds him posing the question “Does TV have a soul? Is it organic?” The Divine David believes we exist in a projected reality with no substance and his show set out to shatter that. On air, no topic was too taboo to tackle. “The World is burning. Let’s masturbate!” screams the makeup-smeared face as he shamelessly rattles off a roll call of those who may prefer to pleasures themselves, including members of Parliament and teenage boys.
In truth, David’s words are quite inspirational and liberating. His shrewd sense of humor combined with searing social commentary leaves no one safe. And while a strong advocate of the LGBQT community, a great deal of his material focuses towards the shallow, narcissistic gay scene of Britain. The Divine David even snagged a cameo in the humorous Todd Haynes’ glam flick Velvet Goldmine, and appeared in a Faith No More music vid. But after a decade of success as the character, Hoyle began to feel trapped in the persona and fear that he had lost touch with his own true identity. Opting for a public suicide, on ice no less, The Divine David drew the curtain on his daring act in 2000 at London’s Streatham skating rink. Declining into a bout of depression, David would spend several years out of the limelight in a period of reflection.
Re-emerging from his reclusiveness in 2005, Hoyle was cast in another Channel 4 show, Nathan Barley, this time portraying a decaying pop star loosely based on David A Stewart of Eurythmics fame. The next two years would find David touring under his real name, using material from his own personal experiences, and even filming the first nerve-racking HIV test in two decades. As a representative of the Avant Garde Alliance Party, Hoyle publicly romanticized the idea of running for Parliament in 2009, unleashing the ideas of absolute dismantlement he’d instill upon election. Advocating intergenerational, interspecies love, drug use, the abolition of traditional views on family and marriage, and the killing of all authority, Hoyle asked to “Imagine a world where boys aren’t stabbing each other. They’re admiring one another’s acrylic nails.” He felt the mundane, repetitive work world was partially responsible for a disturbed culture and urged us to drop out of the system while still contributing to society. However, his seemingly ludicrous ideas are interesting ones to contemplate. Hoyle continued his success and 2010 saw him make a directorial debut with Uncle David. He also produced his first musical Unplugged and has continued to stay busy on stage. Filming Archetype last November, this year has already featured another David Hoyle directed piece, The Psychiatrist. Luckily, David Hoyle remains a prominent figure and proud representative of the LGBQT community, promoting healthy homosexuality. Unless, of course, it’s shallowly based on “not giving a fuck about anything as long as we can listen to Kylie and go shopping."