John Waters’ mother attended the premiere of his 1969 film Mondo Trasho and called him hysterically the next day to say: ‘You’re going to end up in a mental hospital and die of drugs Overdose, or suicide.” She had reason to worry. The film is a black-and-white romp with a budget of two thousand dollars, about a naked hitchhiker, topless tap dancing in a mental hospital, and a foot fetishist who gives women the “prawn job” (sucking their toes) )s story. While filming in Baltimore, Waters and some of his troupe members were arrested for conspiracy to commit indecent exposure. Despite the chaos, his mother’s prediction proved wrong. Three years later, Waters released the naughty classic Pink Flamingos , which ended with his terrifying cross-dressing muse eating shit. Waters went on to become one of the preeminent cult filmmakers of his generation, with such honors as “Prince of Puke,” “King of Filth” and, in the words of William S. Burroughs, “the Pope of Trash” “.
A born provocateur (as a child, he designed a “house of horrors” in his garage), Waters relied solely on gumption, an instinct for what he considered “good and bad taste” and the talent of his ragtag stock company. His shocking vision was built by a group of Baltimore misfits calling themselves the “Dreamers,” including The Divine, Mink Stoll, Mary Vivian Pierce, and a chatty, tooth-stricken The barmaid’s name was Edith Massey. In films such as “Female Trouble” (1974) and “Desperate Life” (1977), he created an inverted cinematic universe in which squalor was mythical, violence virtuous, and housewives murderous. Eventually, the mainstream film industry seized on his playful charm, and in 1988 Waters released his biggest hit, Hairspray, which spawned a Broadway musical and a remake starring John Travolta ( John Travolta) focuses on dressing up. Still, with his sickly-chic pencil mustache and X-rated motto, Waters retains the joyful, deviant spirit of a perennial outsider.
Now, at age seventy-seven, Waters is finally getting his Hollywood close-up. This weekend, the Academy Film Museum opens “John Waters: Pope of Trash,” a comprehensive exhibition that explores his “filmmaking process, key themes and unparalleled style.” The exhibition features restorations of his little-known early films, including his first short film, The Witch in a Black Leather Jacket, as well as a vast collection of costumes and props, including Johnny Nook’s from A The snake that bursts out of Swale’s pants in “Dirty Shame,” Johnny Depp’s leather jacket in “Cry Baby,” and the leg of lamb that Kathryn Turner used to beat a woman in “Serial Mom.” . Best of all, on Monday, Waters will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When I spoke with Waters recently via Zoom, he was in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he is often seen riding his bicycle. (He still lives in Baltimore, which considers him an incredible hometown hero, and he has a place in San Francisco.) He refuses to turn on the camera, saying, “I always wonder how people make porn of each other when it’s so unflattering. Just use Zoom.” I reminded him that we had met several times over the years, first at the home of his friends Vincent and Shirley in the Hamptons, and later at Camp John Waters in Connecticut. , an adult-themed summer camp weekend that since 2017 has attracted a merry band of filthy superfans. We talked about shoplifting, the Manson Family, and the big confession I’d been waiting eighteen years to make. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Between the Academy Museum and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you’ll truly feel welcomed into the Hollywood establishment. You’ve used the phrase: “I’m so revered it makes me want to puke.” Having been an outsider for most of your career, does it feel strange to be crowned in this way?
It doesn’t feel weird. I’m excited about this. I wish my parents were alive to see this.But at the same time I never thought cannot occur. My parents made me believe that I could do anything I wanted to do, even though they hated what I did. No parent will be happy that their child made “Mondo Trasho.”I was even arrested while posing nude on a college campus where my dad went man rather than women. So I was born lucky. I’m not saying I didn’t have disagreements with my parents, but the things that cause you pain when you’re growing up are how you learn to negotiate. That’s how you later get through the Hollywood system.
I don’t even think you’re from Hollywood.
To some extent, I do. Hairspray was the first Hollywood movie I made with New Line Cinema, and then Crybaby was made with Universal Pictures. Every one of them, until “Dirty Shame,” was pitched to Hollywood studios. I have a development agreement. I did a test screening. I had the whole experience. Looking back, I have no regrets. If you don’t want to get hurt, just shoot a movie with your phone! I ended up making the films I wanted that are still being shown and being discovered by new generations.
Academy – that’s quite the pinnacle. Have you been to the Oscars?
No, but I’ve never not seen them in my life. I think I watched them come out of my mother’s vagina. I was born in April, so I can!At the same time, I also exist College for a long time. David Lynch is my sponsor.
Oh cool! For the Walk of Fame, do you know where your star will be?
I’m really excited because I actually said in one post that I really wanted to be in front of Larry Edmonds Bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard. They are always there. I think whoever is running it now may have lobbied them and that’s what’s happening now. After the news broke, someone commented in the comments section: “He’s finally closer to the gutter than before.”
I’m sure some of your biggest fans bring their dogs to poop on your star.
Oh, I hope not, but it’s not up to me. I’m glad it’s not near Trump’s because he always has vandalism and stuff like that. There was some trouble in Baltimore, where Holy Spirit is buried, and where I’ll be buried – Pat Moran, Mink Stoll, we’ll all be buried there. We call it a place of shame. Eulogies written on Deavan’s grave read: “The filthiest person alive” and “Dirty eyes,” a sentiment Biscuit said to Cotton in “Pink Flamingos.” Families of people in the cemetery located next to the Holy Sepulchre who went to see the “vagina eyes” on Mother’s Day may not understand the meaning, so a sign was erected at the cemetery that read “Please respect the dead nearby.”
Let’s talk about the exhibition. There are some stunning items like Debbie Harry’s beehive wig from “Hairspray” and Mink Stoll’s cat glasses from “Pink Flamingos.” The curators conducted a massive treasure hunt. What items have you donated to the museum from your own collection?
Look, all my stuff is in Wesley’s film archives. I forgot something there. I didn’t even realize Debbie Harry’s wig was there. And Mink’s glasses – I never knew she had them, and they were falling apart. They are recovering. We had a fake leg of lamb made by my friend Pat Moran’s son (the prop master).
Is this the leg of lamb that the serial mother used to beat someone to death?
Just in time for the song “Tomorrow” from Annie! Boy, do we need to pay to get the rights. That one.