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John Waters’ ‘Pink Flamingos’ Is Still Banned in Long Island Town 50 Years Later

"Technically, if they ever show 'Pink Flamingos,' Bob Shaye, the head of New Line, and I can go to prison," Waters said.

PINK FLAMINGOS, Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Danny Mills, John Waters, Edith Massey, David Lochary, 1972

“Pink Flamingos”

Courtesy Everett Collection

Fifty years after the release of “Pink Flamingos” and John Waters is still banned from screening the film in Hicksville, Long Island.

Waters explained to Entertainment Weekly that despite being a camp cult classic, “Pink Flamingos” was deemed obscene in multiple legal cases.

“I never won [obscenity cases],” Waters said. “Because at midnight, ‘Pink Flamingos’ is joyous, it’s exciting, the audience loves it. But if you’re sworn in on jury duty in a courthouse, sitting there next to a stranger, watching a singing asshole at 7:30 in the morning, I promise you, it is obscene. It’s all about geography. I would just plead guilty, which was a $1,000 fine, and the lawyers usually cost more than that.”

He added, “Still, in Hicksville, New York, on Long Island, technically, if they ever show ‘Pink Flamingos,’ Bob Shaye, the head of New Line, and I can go to prison, because we signed a thing saying, if it ever played there we would go to prison. And I do believe ‘Pink Flamingos’ may have played in Hicksville. I don’t know if I’m wanted by the police, but I never drive by that town in case.”

Upon release in cities other than Hicksville, New Line Cinema distributed barf bags to theater audiences, which Waters admitted was a “ripped-off idea” inspired by the ad campaign for “Mark of the Devil.”

“Did anyone ever use it? I think I saw people puking in the theater, but I don’t know if they ever used the bag or not,” Waters deadpanned. “I think most people kept the bag as swag. The Criterion DVD has a facsimile of them, so you can get the barf bag. The Criterion one is awfully little. It would be like an anorexic puke. Maybe it’s for a model.”

In an exclusive interview with IndieWire, Waters reflected on the “insane” acceptance of “Pink Flamingos” to the National Film Registry, calling the honor “pretty hilarious and great” given the film’s initial backlash.

“Here’s a movie that actually today is more offensive than it was when it came out, probably, with all the new touchiness, but at the same time, it still brings joy to people no matter what their politics are, in a way,” Waters said. “It’s in a time capsule of lunacy from somewhere. That’s what I’m so happy to be celebrating.”

Celebrating everywhere, that is, except Hicksville, New York.

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