It was strange. Not the kind of strange that careens along the coroded edge of outrageous, not mondo bizarro, just a little weirdness in the darkening Georgetown night. It was the gala opening for "Polyester," a movie that features a 300-pound transvestite, and it was only appropriate to look for oddness out there in front of the Key Theatre in Georgetown.

"Don't ask me why they like me so much," Divine said last night as the limousine bore him/her to the waiting throng from the theater's offices nearby. "There must be some need out there." Sweat rolled down Divine's makeup and dripped from his spiky black eyelashes onto the iridescent striped mini-dress that stretched from here to eternity. "You look like Annette's beach ball," said John Waters, who wrote, produced and directed "Polyester."

But Divine has heard such flattery before. "I try not to let them down," he said, in his soft breathy voice. "You owe them something. I hear that a lot of stars say they don't owe them anything, but I don't feel that way." He sighed, and his spiky white wig brushed the top of the limousine. "It's not easy being a woman," said Divine. "Especially when you're a part-time one. You never really get used to it."

The crowd went wild when the door finally swung open and Divine emerged to accept a bouquet of roses in the best movie-star tradition. He vamped. He camped. He smiled his come-hither smile and batted his eyelashes and wiggled his hips. No, it doesn't sound like much, but apparently if you'd seen some other examples of the Waters/Divine oeuvre, epics like "Pink Flamingos" and "Desperate Living," it was enough, bringing back as it did fondly remembered scenes of bestiality, sodomy and other perversions. "Divine!" they cried. "Divine, you're beautiful!" "Divine, do you believe in God?" "She's all woman."

Those who had come to pay homage were young and fair and the tides of their sexuality seemed to respond to the promptings of more than one moon. They were there, said David Grinnell, an art student, "because it's so 1980s, it's so unnatural. Everything is so weird because there's nothing else to do. Everyone's bored, they need something like this."

Bill Williams agreed, sounding his own version of an anthem for the '80s. Divine, he said, "does all these things and gets away with it. And some of it is really strange. But if you are whatever you are, then people will appreciate it and they'll respect you for it. I like movies to have an effect on me. That's what the '80s are all about. Shock."

"Divine has the best qualities of Dolly Madison and Mae West," said Carl Sferrazza. "I admire a lot of different kinds of people, like Teddy Roosevelt and Jackie Onassis. Divine just sort of fits in. But it's kind of hard for me to think of her as a man." His eyes flashed as he caught sight of his idol. "Look Divine," he said, "I wore my Nancy-Reagan-red jacket just for you!"

Divine made his entrance into the packed theater and the crowd went wild, jumping up and down, whistling, straining for a glimpse. Divine took a deep breath and looked around in amazement. "There's some need here, I'm telling you," he said, and sashayed down the aisle.