John Waters publishes memoir
June 3, 2010 3:03 PM   Subscribe

John Waters has published a memoir. John Waters, the cult auteur perhaps best known for his revolting epic Pink Flamingos and for the 1988 film Hairspray (which served as the basis for the hugely successful stage musical), names his role models in his new memoir, the aptly-titled Role Models. Gothamist calls the book "a slowly revealing look at what, or rather who, made him the film icon he is today, through a series of bitingly witty profiles of the people who hold his awe."
John Waters on Late Night with David Letterman to promote his second book, Crackpot.
John Waters talks to Letterman again to promote his traveling festival, An Evening with John Waters.
The Incredibly Strange Film Show with Jonathan Ross profiles John Waters: Part 1, 2, 3, 4
John Waters profiled on Night Flight.
John Waters on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to celebrate the 25th anniversary and re-release of Pink Flamingos.
Steve Buscemi talks about John Waters.
John Waters on Late Night with Conan O'Brien to promote his film, Pecker.
John Waters talks to Conan again to promote his film, Cecil B. Demented.
John Waters profiled on Nightline in light of the new Hairspray movie based on the stage musical adaptation.

And finally, John Waters reminds you that there is no smoking in this theater.
posted by Houyhnhnm (38 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
You know what would have made this post better? A giant, bold "NOT AN OBIT" at the beginning.

*catches breath*
posted by brundlefly at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2010 [23 favorites]

Oh thank god, I was afraid for a moment that this was yet another obit post.
posted by hermitosis at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2010

Can we make some sort of rule that posts about super cool people past the age of 50 must start in the following format?

John Waters, who is still alive, is a cult auteur...

Great post -- more than worth the feeling of dread I had while reading the first line of it.
posted by Shepherd at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

There was a neat interview on NPR today.
posted by HuronBob at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2010

brundlefly - I had the exact same reaction! I'm not ready to lose John Waters yet. This will be the book I take with on my roadtrip in the next few weeks.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:07 PM on June 3, 2010

AHEM. I call the first meeting of the International Sigh Of Relief Club to order...
posted by griphus at 3:11 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sorry for the obit scare, everyone.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 3:13 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Changed it so it's clearly not an obit. Chill out everyone.
posted by jessamyn at 3:18 PM on June 3, 2010

Some people would call Waters crass and puerile and fuck if we're not all better off for his contributions to our society.
posted by item at 3:30 PM on June 3, 2010

I never got over seeing Johnny Mathis in the parking lot. I'd secretly think about those thirty seconds at odd moments, like when the Acela train between Baltimore and New York would have to stop so inspectors could examine the corpses of suicide victims who threw themselves on the tracks.

posted by fleetmouse at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

There was a neat interview on NPR today.

I got into the car as that was on this afternoon and spent like five minutes thinking "who is this guy talking to Terry Gross about BDSM sex clubs?" Then they said who it was and it made sense.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:36 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you look at the comments on any website, they're snark. I mean, everybody just writes mean shit to everything!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:37 PM on June 3, 2010

MetaFilter: If you look at the comments, they're snark. I mean, everybody just writes mean shit to everything!
posted by hippybear at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2010

I may create more MeFi accounts just so I can favorite this more.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

There was a neat interview on NPR today.

You know that was the main link, right?

Anyway, he once said some nice things about a paper I wrote on Hairspray. Plus, I love him.

posted by lumpenprole at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2010

From the NPR artickeL: "I don't like rules of any kind," he says. "And I seek people who break rules with happiness — and not bringing pain to themselves."

I just keep loving him more and more. Obviously he's a great counter culture figure, which often implies cynicism, but he's always so damn passionate and positive.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:56 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

um....i have no idea how I typed "artickeL" above. Honest, I wasn't typing it how it sounded. Maybe posting from a bar isn't such a good idea after all.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2010

im posting from a bar too haha BAAAAAD TASTE

that reminds me of my John Waters story from like 2002.


My grad school friends and I stumbled into the Rendezvous Lounge on 25th Street, a notorious dive for crappy pool table gambling and drug dealers camped in the bathroom. We perched at the bar and yammered at eachother. One girl noticed the thin immaculately suited man down the line was snacking on some of the free popcorn they inexplicably had out always. Drunk, she kept declaring that she wanted some of it. Someone else noticed that it was the famous director. We speculated on why he was there in that place at such a late hour. The drunk girl meanwhile only wanted one thing. She screwed up her courage and scooted down the bar.

"Can I have some of your popcorn?"

JW took a long look at her and us. "Yes, have all of it," he said, and left.


Another time I went to a movie at the Charles Theater with my ex. We came in, and sat down in the front in an almost entirely empty room. I left to get some popcorn right at the previews started. At that theater they have a pretty ridiculous No Smoking announcement from the 70s before the films starring JW in close up smoking a cigarette ecstatically going "Ooooh nooo smoking for you, oooh you'd better not smoke hahaha". When I was gone, the sole other patron in the theater started to shout at the screen.

"Stop it you idiot, you're going to get cancer!" He bellowed, ignoring my ex's presence entirely. "CUT IT OUT UGH! YOU LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT" It was the man himself. The movie was terrible and he walked out half-way through.

Great post, almost makes me wish I still lived in Charm City.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:20 PM on June 3, 2010 [17 favorites]

My favorite John Waters quote was in talking about how he lived in both NYC and Baltimore and in NYC people would recognize him but not in Baltimore cause "..he can't be that famous if he still lives here."

Forge onwards Mr. Waters, if nothing else you introduced me to assloads of great music.
posted by The Whelk at 4:28 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I like minorities that don't even fit in their own minorities.

John Waters, a man for all seasons.
posted by rdone at 4:31 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

What a lovely interview. Charming, witty, and affable. I'd still love to have a beer with him after all these years, and how many of my teen heroes can I say that about?
posted by lumpenprole at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Big fan. Totally going to check out that book. Thanks.
People should also read Shock Value, the autobiography he wrote in 1981. Great book.
posted by chococat at 5:27 PM on June 3, 2010

And here I was thinking he was already dead. *facepalm*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:38 PM on June 3, 2010

met the guy riding on a cable car in San Francisco a month or so back. Incredibly nice and open to conversation (including the weird arty girl that could not shut up about herself). I was a bit too starstruck to do anything about it at the time other than ask to take his photo as no one was going to believe me. This was followed shortly by half of my office asking who he was /facepalm
posted by Senator Howell Tankerbell at 6:03 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

People should also read Shock Value, the autobiography he wrote in 1981.

Absolutely. And Crackpot, which features (in addition to 'Puff Piece' and 'Hatchet Piece,' the ones he mentions in his Letterman interview) a fabulous profile of Pia Zadora, an account of teaching film in prison, and an essay about attending high profile trials. Its really a hoot and still funny all these years later.

The prison piece in particular has always been a favorite.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:03 PM on June 3, 2010

John Waters, like a bodhisattva, uses his gifts to validate the less fortunate. I came of age in Baltimore (The Armpit of the Patapsco River Basin) and traveled in social circles that overlapped with his people back when his cast was his friends, and his friends were his cast.

I took a fantastic first date to the Baltimore premier of Pink Flamingoes on LSD. It was her first trip. We broke up shortly after that, but it was all my fault . The only troubling thing about that cinematic experience came at the end of it, when the actors started handing out door prizes. We were thankful to not have gotten one.

A couple of years after that my friend and I were relaxing on a couch at a new years eve party on Fells Point when John joined us. We sat there and laughed and the whole time I felt like I was talking to family or a friend.
posted by Huplescat at 6:35 PM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]

A couple years ago, he was the main speaker at Staff Development day at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. It was a bit odd to be sitting there, finishing my free breakfast, as John Waters talked about working with Divine.

The weirdest part, though, was when the director introduced him by saying her favourite Waters film was "Serial Mom." That really isn't what you want to hear your boss say.
posted by QIbHom at 7:10 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

"You know me Marge. I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals FLAAAAMING"

Homer's Phobia is single handedly my favourite Simpsons episode simply because of John Waters.
posted by Talez at 7:36 PM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I've never enjoyed a single John Waters film, I find them nasty, sneering and superior, completely lacking in human kindness; and after reading a long interview where he was slobbering about how great the Manson family was, I've made it a point to avoid his work ever since.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:31 PM on June 3, 2010

he was slobbering about how great the Manson family was

Go back and read the whole interview. You are wildly misrepresenting him.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2010

John Waters should be a Kennedy Center honoree, but there's apparently no way to nominate or suggest people.
posted by longsleeves at 9:02 PM on June 3, 2010

I've made it a point to avoid his work ever since.

...and based on how wildly innacurate that was, I'll certainly be avoiding yours.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:28 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know what would have made this post better? A giant, bold "NOT AN OBIT" at the beginning.

haha...i heard part of the npr interview's funny, he was talking about his own death, and his explicit instructions that his funeral be closed casket because 'they'll never pencil my moustache in correctly.'

here, try this experiment...go watch a dozen or so of Hitchcock's greatest films. then watch Serial Mom. i think you'll be surprised.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:03 AM on June 4, 2010

John Waters is great. I can't wait to read this book.
posted by ob at 7:07 AM on June 4, 2010

I'm going to brag now. I saw Polyester in OdorRama when it first came out. I thought very seriously about keeping the scratch-and-snif card, but seeing as how it had been scratched and sniffed, and that the odor kind of hung around, I thought better of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2010

I was having dinner at Sacha's on Charles street in Baltimore a few years back with my parents and my beehive donning grandmother. John Waters came in and sat down at the table next to us with another young gentleman. My Mom and GMom sort of knew who he was from seeing Hairspray, but didn't recognize him until I pointed him out, at which point my grandmother leaned in towards me and said in her best east Baltimore accent: "He looks like a queer!" God, I wish he would have heard her. I think he would have loved it. Probably would have put her in a movie.

Great post.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:47 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Loved Crackpot (Shock Value less so), and ever since it came out I've been mildly annoyed that he doesn't write/publish more essays. Here's hoping the bio makes up for it.

(Curiously, though, don't think all that much of his movies.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:45 PM on June 4, 2010

My favourite part of his Pinewood Dialogues interview (the whole thing is great, really) is about how his early films were financed by his conservative dad:

"The first feature I made was Mondo Trasho, which was ninety minutes and should be ten. And then Multiple Maniacs. But it was the first color one. It was certainly the most successful one. And my father paid for it. And my father has never seen it, to this day. He's forbidden to. My father lent me the money to make those early movies, and I paid him back with interest, and he was so shocked that he would get the money back. Because I would go around the country with them in the trunk of my car—this was Mondo Trasho and Multiple—during the 1960s and look and say, "Where did they just have a riot? Oh, they burned the Bank of America down. Let's go there." (Laughter) We'd go to that city. I had the films in the trunk. We'd go to whatever was the weirdest little theater and say, "Can we have a midnight show?," and rent the place for, like, $50 or something. Stand on the corner, give out fliers, show the movie, and maybe make $60. And move on to the next town.

"And I really learned from doing that. It was really hard, and it was really a struggle. But I paid my father back. And he was so shocked. And then I'd come say, "Can I have twice as much?" And finally, with Pink Flamingos, he—and these films were against everything he ever believed in. My father is like George Bush—and doesn't get mad when I say that. (Laughter) And I paid him back. And each time I asked if I could get more money. With Pink Flamingos, he said, "Well, you don't have to pay me back, but put all that into the next one and don't ask me again. You're set up in the business now." Well, I didn't realize how loving that was until I was an adult. Really. I look back and I think, "Why wouldn't he help me? He's my father." Well, I'm making movies about everything that he would be against. And there were hideous articles in the paper about me always, like—we didn't get good reviews, believe me, especially where I lived. They said, "This person is sick and needs psychiatric help..." But my father is named John Waters also. (Laughter) I'm a junior. So I had made his life hell, in a way."*
posted by hot soup girl at 5:23 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

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