It seems it was only yesterday that John Waters sat down with
Isabelle Huppert for an epic conversation at Film Society of Lincoln Center.
That was only an appetizer. The main course, a fifty-year retrospective of his
entire cinematic body of work, brought Mr. Waters back to New York City for an
opening night gala including a screening of Female
Trouble, his Divine masterpiece chronicling the criminal beauty of diva
Dawn Davenport. A Q&A with critic J. Hoberman of the Village Voice followed, and it was perfect.
Waters spoke in hilarious-but-genuine sound bites, never sounding
less than authentic but consistently putting on a show. On stage and off (a fabulous
cocktail hour at the Stone Rose Lounge followed the formal portion of the
evening), John warmly greeted fans and press alike in a pink, red, and white
suit jacket and bright red pants. It was a look befitting the quirky, filthy
genius of this cinematic icon and, like everything else about Waters, it was
queer as a two dollar bill.
There was an over-abundance (if there can be such a thing) of
great material and laughter for the evening, but we’ve whittled down the
hilarity for your perusing pleasure. So, without further ado, the ten best
moments from an evening with John Waters:
On varied interests:
Hoberman: John, you write
bestsellers, you do art shows, you’re a photographer…
Waters: But I don’t have
On Joan Rivers:
Waters: Joan Rivers [was]
in Serial Mom. She said “This is the
lowest form of show business I’ve ever seen.” I wasn’t even there when we
filmed her scene! She just said, “Serial hags, women who love men who
mutilate!” That was the only thing she had to say. But she was always
supportive. She had Divine on her show!
On the perils of improv:
Waters: I’m in the writer’s
guild–I’m against improvisation. Improvisation is like a face lift: if you
notice, it’s bad.
On Divine’s criminal
Waters: Divine was not a
criminal, but Divine lived like a rich person even when he had no money. He
would shoplift and write bad checks for things that he (pause) should have had
but he didn’t. Once the cops came and he had to take a lie detector test…and
he passed! So, that is acting.
On Pink Flamingos:
Hoberman: Can you explain
the title Pink Flamingos?
Waters: I wanted to give a
plain title to a movie that was going to be extreme…There was a pink flamingo
on the front lawn and at the time that was a symbol for blue collar living. I
wanted to have a name that was not so sensational since everything else in the
movie kind of was.
Hoberman: I’ve noticed that
there has been a resurgence of pink flamingos…
Waters: And I am against
them now. Here’s why: I am for them if you are 75 years old and you have the
plaster kind, the original that you’ve had since the 40’s. I am against it if
you are a yuppie and you have the plastic kind in your front lawn to mock blue
collar people. Yes, I am against them now. I think they’ve become kind of
wearisome, you know, now they’re a hipster thing and people have hundreds of
them on their front lawn. I think it’s not funny (silence) I mean, I don’t
think they should be imprisoned! They just came too late.
Waters: I think Fashion
Week’s exciting–I think it is fun and extreme. I was the host of the Fashion
Oscars this year which was exciting. I gave a speech about how we should make
fashion cost more. It’s too cheap.
Hoberman: When you were
hitchhiking across the country (for his new book, Carsick) did most people recognize you?
Waters: Some did, some kept
driving…most people thought I was homeless and tried to give me money. You
know I was a 66 year old man standing on the side of the highway with a sign,
people don’t even know what hitchhiking is anymore. I once hitchhiked in
Provincetown, a family picked me up, and this little kid is staring at me in
the back of the car, like “Dad, why is this man in the car? Who is he? Why did
Hoberman: Did you hitchhike
a lot back in the day?
Waters: Oh yeah, totally!
My type is the hitchhiker with a birthmark in a Texas shape. I think he is kind
Waters: All my movies are
90 minutes long. I am still stuck in that 16mm, three reels: beginning, middle,
and end. There’s no such thing as a good, long comedy. Have you ever seen a
long comedy? A three hour comedy…ugh!
On Marguerite Duras:
Hoberman: After NYFF, Film
Society is doing a series on one of your favorite directors…
Waters: Marguerite Duras! I
want to come dressed as her in drag! I met her once, she was here showing her
movie at Carnegie Hall. She said, “I hope nobody comes, I don’t care if they
like my movies!” I have the Marguerite Duras cookbook; it’s really exists. It’s
written in her handwriting: “You’ll never be able to make these!” So good.
Hoberman: Had she ever seen
any of your films?
Waters: I didn’t ask her, I
was too scared of her. I’m sure not.
On Tennessee Williams and
Hoberman: I know you really
Waters: Yes, I introduce Boom a lot (at festivals, etc…). And you know,
I met Elizabeth Taylor once and told her how much I liked it and she said,
“That’s a terrible movie!” She looked
exactly like Divine–this was at her house–and she was serving hot dogs and
candy. Just like Divine did.
And one more for good
Waters: I once met Douglas
Sirk and he told me he liked Pink Flamingos. I said, “You have to be kidding! You saw Pink Flamingos?”
Fifty Years of John Waters:
How Much Can You Take? runs until September 15th. Check out www.filmlinc.com for
tickets and details.