Still Waters

Offbeat director John Waters comes into Focus on the Familyís back yard.

The Prince of Puke will descend upon the roost of the religious right on Thursday, November 10, when the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center hosts John Waters, iconoclastic filmmaker of such cult-classic cinema as Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Hairspray and A Dirty Shame. The evening offers a film screening of Steve Yeager's 1998 Waters documentary, Divine Trash, and a lecture and private reception with the Mondo Trasho-man himself. But is Waters worried about a potential ruckus from the Focus on the Family faction? Not at all, he says.

"Those types seem to never come after me. I think they figure I'm a lost cause, so basically they seem to leave me alone," he muses from his office in Baltimore. "I think sometimes places that seem to have, whether it's deserved or not, a reputation as being very conservative, is why I always seem to get invited there, for the irony of the situation. You know, I've been invited to Mormontown, so maybe that's it? I've fought censorship my whole life, basically, and it always was my best press agent in the old days. So I don't expect any trouble; I think we'll have a great audience."

During his forty-year career, Waters has simultaneously been worshiped and reviled for his outrageous movies containing scenes of characters vomiting, chicken-fucking and fine-dining on doggie doo. The filmmaker found inspiration for his characters ("The Filthiest People Alive") in some of the inhabitants of his home town of Baltimore, where he still resides; he made movie stars of childhood pals Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole and a 300-pound drag queen named Divine. By casting faded celebrities such as Tab Hunter, Kathleen Turner, Sonny Bono and Melanie Griffith, Waters infused new life into their careers. Ricki Lake and Johnny Depp were among early Waters discoveries, and controversial public figures Traci Lords and Patricia Hearst also found a home in his freaky film family.

Waters has always been obsessed with abnormal psychology. One of his former hobbies was sitting in on sensational trials, including Hearst's and the Manson Family's, though that era, he says, is long past.

"I'm interested in it still, certainly, but [not] in a campy way; I wouldn't do that anymore. I guess things have changed. When I first went to trials, very few people did, but now it's on Court TV all the time. Before, there would be like ten seats in the whole world for the public to get in, so it was really exclusive, and of course, a great trial is like theater. So basically anybody can walk into any courthouse in their city every day, and it's really interesting to watch, because it's dramatic. I'm just glad I'm not on trial."

Although he might not be on trial today, Waters is still high on Big Brother's list -- now not only for his low-culture films, but also for his lowbrow art. Since the early '90s, he's been "redirecting" his "little movie" photographs by selecting film stills (his own and others') and editing them to emphasize a particular scene or to tell an alternate story.

Examples of his pastiche pieces include "7 Marys," which shows six screen actresses portraying the Virgin Mary plus a seventh photo of snarky Hollywood Squares center square Paul Lynde; "Face-Lift," in which Elizabeth Taylor's fake lip-surgery stitches morph into Waters's legendary Little-Richard-inspired mustache; "Straight," a simple shot depicting the name of notorious Hollywood homophobe Mel Gibson mounted askew; and "12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot," in which Waters explores porn's "last taboo."

Waters isn't resting on his immoral laurels, either. His new show, Change of Life, opened last month at the Orange County Museum of Art, and -- who knows? -- he may bring a few pieces with him to the Springs.

Dr. Dobson, come on down!

 
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