Last Night: John Waters
Warning: This article contains direct quotes from John Waters. Offense is imminent beyond this point.
If there is a Hell, then the doorman has the same grin that John Waters had when he walked onto the stage. It's a sort of half friendly welcome, half double dog dare of a thing that makes you squirm. It's intentional.
Just as he promised us, This Filthy World: Dirtier and Filthier contained material roughly 90 percent different from the DVD, though the basic framework was more or less the same. The show is much shorter on details of his film career and much longer on his current work, which, in his own words, is walking around pretending to be John Waters. Nonetheless, his commentary on the stranger corners of the world has lost none of its bite and is delivered with the precision of a trebuchet hurling flaming poo over a wall.
He's still looking for an opening act; he lamented, and wished with all his heart for the one and only Justin Bieber.
"I met him on the So Graham Norton show," he reminisced. "We were sitting together and he was just looking at me. Suddenly he said, 'Your 'stache is the jam,' and since I carry eyeliner pencil with me at all times so that people can look like me if they wish, I gave him one." Waters later admitted to having seen Bieber's 3D concert film and screamed like a little girl.
As always, Waters was on a quest to be the filthiest person alive, sharing weird incidents in his life that we're pretty sure no one would believe, even in one of his films. For instance, he asserted his support of gays adopting children, save for one bizarre case he witnessed during Bear Week at Provincetown.
Bears are large, hirsute homosexual men, in case you didn't know.
Anyway, here comes this 400-pound man with all the back hair on the planet, and wearing nothing but a pair of short shorts and pushing a giant modified baby carriage. In the carriage was, as best Waters could tell, a mentally disabled 12-year-old happily waving at the people all around.
"My first thought was, 'Is this kid having a good time at Bear Week?" mused Waters. "Then I wondered, 'Oh God, is this kid a dick magnet for this guy?"
It's a filthy world indeed, and John Waters seems to love every minute of it. The show consisted a great deal of the many odd side projects he dabbles in. He teaches film to first graders, a position he got on the recommendation of a prisoner who took one of his film classes and had a young son on the outside. He'd like to invent a series of Christmas-themed sex acts. He's already sketched out something called the Snowman, where you allow semen to freeze on your face in cold weather than walk around in it. He also dreams of curating an abortion film festival.
You might notice that none of these dreams involve a new film. Waters hasn't made a movie since 2004's A Dirty Shame. The NC-17 movie recouped just $2 million of its $15 million dollar budget, and even with the notoriety of the recent Hairspray empire, he seems to be having trouble getting another film started. Too bad. His kids' film Fruitcake sounds wicked.
Honestly, after 17 films Waters seems just a little tired of them, and we're willing to bet that if he ever does make another film, he will do so only in order to create a wealth of new anecdotes for his act.
"All I want to do is tell stories," he said. "This is just another way of doing it."
You shouldn't mind, though, because what Waters is doing right now is very important. He is a bad influence in the best sense of the term. If there is any moral to his lecture, it's that the goal of a life should be to challenge the norm, to experience the new, to question the authority and to get in trouble because nothing great ever comes from staying inside the lines.
He ended on an apologetic note. He regretted that he couldn't have a nervous breakdown in front of the audience (which he told us afterward he really enjoyed, due to the intimate DiverseWorks performance space). He was saving his final madness for Baltimore, where Judy Garland famously lost her shit onstage.
He seemed to relish the idea, eagerly planning every facet of his own descent into a shattered psyche. He couldn't wait to give all he had left to give to us, his last shred of sanity. Shine on, you popper-popping, public-displays-of-scrotum-advocating, socially unredeemable diamond. Shine on.
A Final Personal Message from the Author
It was spring, I think, in 2004, and I was in a small quadplex in Montrose with my wife Lynda, visiting one of our dearest friends. Kat Cresswell was only 19 years old, and the cancer that would kill her that May had spread at an alarming rate. She couldn't go out much anymore, not even in a wheelchair.
Movies were a big deal to us. It was forbidden in our circle to attend a horror film without dressing up in zombie makeup. This was a lot of fun when Dawn of the Dead played opposite Passion of the Christ. Since going to the movies was out, we brought them to her.
Serial Mom was the last film we watched together. Kat worshipped Waters. She even had a pet rat named Cecil after the main character in Cecil B. Demented. The ability of Waters to put the most outlandish, insane, immoral actions on the screen with style and pizzazz was her personal inspiration. It's the kind of thing that made her do a striptease which ended with her ripping off huge sections of fake skin and hurling it into the crowd, or the time she had a religious figure birthday party and walked around as Jesus in a crown of pipe cleaner thorns.
Watching that film with her, I could see all the depraved and filthy things she wanted to do in the world, just like Waters, in her eyes. I could see the madness to create a twisted, beautiful art. I saw all her dreams, and for 90 minutes she forgot the disease that ensured those things wouldn't happen, and was just the energetic girl whose example inspires me to this day.
All I wanted was for Waters to sign that DVD, and he was kind enough to do so. I'll be giving it to her mom, an honorary grandmother to the daughter I named for Kat. I can't watch it, anyway, and haven't since that day. I want to thank John Waters. Not for a scribbled name at a brief cocktail meeting, but for the bad example that makes us weirdoes so damned happy and hopeful... even when there wasn't much left to hope for. Thank you, John, for this filthy world.
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