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David E. Gluck, performer of infamous and uncredited role in John Waters’ ‘Pink Flamingos,’ dies

Obit photo for David Emmanuel Gluck, age 70, of Pikesville, MD entered Eternal Rest on June 2, 2020.
Obit photo for David Emmanuel Gluck, age 70, of Pikesville, MD entered Eternal Rest on June 2, 2020. (Handout)

David E. Gluck, who had an infamous and uncredited role in John Waters’ 1972 comedy “Pink Flamingos” and later worked as a computer analyst at the Social Security Administration, died June 2 from pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 70.

“David was an unsung hero, and I’m forever grateful for his talent,” said Mr. Waters, a Guilford resident. “And I kept his name secret for 48 years, until his widow said now that he was gone, it was OK. He is now for the world to know.”

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For his only movie role and solo performance in “Pink Flamingos,” which was filmed by Mr. Waters on a farm in Phoenix, Baltimore County, Mr. Gluck joined fellow actors, some of whom included the legendary Divine, Mink Stole and Edith Massey.

Mr. Gluck’s musical number was performing The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird,” their 1963 single that hit number 4 on the Billboard top 100, and whose rights Mr. Waters purchased for the film’s soundtrack.

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“David was on a platform and was one of the three acts performing at Divine’s birthday party, and his musical cue was ‘Poppa-oo-mow-mow,‘” Mr. Waters said.

“A-well-a-everybody’s heard about the bird / B-b-b-bird, b-bird’s a word / A-well, a bird, bird, bird, bird is a word,” the song begins.

“You can see his face briefly, but no one ever recognized him, and he bent over facing the camera and started gyrating his buttocks open and closed like his anus was singing to the music. We called him the ‘Singing Anus,‘ ” Mr. Waters recalled, with a laugh. “The scene lasted a little more than a minute.”

One person who was not amused by it was the self-righteous Mary M. Avara, who as head of the Maryland State Board of Censors was the supreme arbiter of on-screen sexual mores and controlled what Marylanders saw on the screen.

Mrs. Avara, who once boasted that she had “looked at more nude bodies than 80 or 100 or 50,000 doctors,” as head of the censor board for 21 years became something of a national celebrity, while making a career out of torturing Mr. Waters.

Her powers were vast and she could compel movie producers to expunge what she thought were offensive scenes, so much so, story lines often became blurred and incomprehensible.

But when it came to Mr. Waters, she reserved a particular animus for the man and his films, many of which have since become classics. “Waters! I don’t even want to discuss him,” she told an interviewer. “Makes my mouth feel dirty.”

But this time in a showdown with the filmmaker, Mrs. Avara lost.

“As hard as she tried, Mary couldn’t cut it because there was no touching of anything and it was a correct medical term,” Mr. Waters said. “It’s the most famous scene in the movie after that of Divine eating dog feces.”

Because his parents were still living and the nature of his professional life, it was Mr. Gluck’s wish that he remain anonymous.

“But once his parents died, he didn’t care who knew,” Mr. Waters said.

“When we had the 25th anniversary and ‘Pink Flamingos’ was shown in regular theaters, he’d go to the movies and when his scene came on he’d tap the person on the shoulder in front of him and say, ‘That’s me,‘ ” Mr. Waters said with a laugh. “I always considered that an act of domestic terrorism.”

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David Emanuel Gluck, son of Dr. Julius C. Gluck, a physician, and his wife, Edna Goldstein Gluck, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Pikesville.

After graduating in 1968 from Northwest High School, Mr. Gluck traveled across Europe, doing a variety of odd jobs, working in restaurants, construction, as a warehouseman, a deliveryman and a live-in childcare giver.

In 1976 he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and immediately began studying for a second bachelor’s degree at the Community College of Baltimore and UMBC, before deciding not to pursue another degree.

He began working in 1977 as a substitute teacher and taught at Arlington Elementary School, Pimlico Junior High, Roland Park Junior High, Cross Country Elementary School and Polytechnic Institute.

Interested in languages, Mr. Gluck studied Latin, French, Spanish and German.

“In addition, I have had college courses in linguistics, logic, math and statistics, social work, education, sociology, literature and philosophy,” he wrote in an autobiographical profile.

From 1984 to 1994, Mr. Gluck worked as a computer programmer at Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland Inc., an insurance brokerage. He was a computer analyst for the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn for 19 years before retiring in 2014.

A longtime resident of Cross County Boulevard in Pikesville, Mr. Gluck was an avid reader. An outdoorsman, he also enjoyed bicycling, hiking and camping, and was a fan of organized sports.

He was a longtime Red Cross blood donor and and an organ donor, and had willed his body to the State Anatomy Board.

“David was basically a homebody,” said his wife of 36 years, Patricia Greisz-Fultz Gluck, a registered nurse. “But whenever we went to John’s parties, people always asked him to do ‘Surfin’ Bird.' ”

It was Mr. Gluck’s wish that no services be held.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gluck is survived by a stepson, Richard Greisz of Hampstead; a stepdaughter, Sheri Greisz of Columbia; a brother, Dr. Daniel Gluck of Hawaii; two grandchildren; and several nieces and cousins.

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