One pedal at a time

By |2006-07-06T09:00:00-04:00July 6th, 2006|Entertainment|

Evidence legal pads. Check. Black, thick pens. Check. Clear, green plaid Scotch tape. Check. “When I’m writing I have very much a ritual that I follow,” says John Waters as he takes a break from settling into his summer home in Provincetown, Mass. “I get up every day at 6:15, and I read newspapers and drink a lot of tea.”
Waters starts his workday two and a half hours before McDonald’s stops serving breakfast: at 8 a.m. Over the last year, Waters, 60, has been compiling notes for a film, but he won’t reveal details.
“If you’re working on something and you talk about it before it happens it’s like trying to get pregnant when you don’t; not that I would know,” he says.
Every Waters’ film, from 1964’s “Hag In a Black Leather Jacket” to 2004’s “A Dirty Shame,” has been an originally off-kilter piece and “a satire of a particular genre film.”
“It’s my job to think up weird things,” he says.
Developing the quirky alliterated-named characters (Dawn Davenport, Penny Pingleton, Motormouth Maybelle) in hit films like “Hairspray” and “Cry-Baby” is the simple part. It’s the plot that Waters slaves over. “Unfortunately, the plot is what makes a hit movie,” he says.
From a murderous matriarch in “Serial Mom” to a young photographer in “Pecker,” Waters has crafted peculiar plots, but none that have could be labeled “gay” – not even 1972’s “Pink Flamingos.”
“You might think ‘Pink Flamingos’ started with a gay audience, it didn’t at all,” Waters says. “It started at a angry, hippie heterosexual audience that were punks that didn’t even know it. I’ve always said that my audience is minorities that don’t fit in with their own minorities.”
Even with the gay-themed films he’s seen, especially romantic comedies, he hasn’t been impressed. “Gay is not enough,” he says, laughing. “Some gay films are as bad as early black films. They’re as embarrassing. Just ’cause a movie is about a homosexual doesn’t mean it’s good or bad.”
Waters doesn’t believe, though, that all gay filmmakers just make queer-themed flicks. “I don’t think all the filmmakers I know that are gay necessarily want to be in the gay ghetto of just making gay films,” he says.
Although Waters may not shoot LGBT films, he lives in the gay ghetto of Provincetown, where he says it would be redundant to have a Pride festival. “What would be the point?” he says. “It’s the gayest town in the whole world I think.”
Waters doesn’t display the knife used to slay Dottie Hinkle in “Serial Mom,” or any other memorabilia from his movie sets, in any of his three homes. “I used to when I was younger,” he says, “but I think as you get older you don’t want your work in your house.”
Instead, his home in Baltimore, Md., where he grew up and which often serves as the location for his films, is smattered with fake food inspired by a trip to Tokyo where there’s an entire street dedicated to his collection. “I like the ugly things, like one meatball, or an old carrot, or a piece of cheese, or pickle or an egg,” he says.
In Provincetown, where he treks via bicycle, the residents are used to Waters’ presence each time he strays from Maryland and his apartment in New York. “I hear them say, ‘John Waters!’ but I’m a block away,” he says. “I’ve been coming here for 43 summers, since I was a senior in high school. They’re used to seeing me here.”
But busy bee Waters can’t often stop and chitchat, although he has taken a breather to autograph a tampon. “Oh, I’ve signed that,” he says. “I’ve signed asses, dicks, tits. Now they get them tattooed on afterwards.”
Waters points out that the first woman he autographed on a private area with a felt tip pen, and who later had it tattooed on, is from Ann Arbor and recently wrote him to affirm her presence at his one-man show, “This Filthy World.”
“People have had part of my script on their leg, like dialogue,” he says, “so they’re human scripts.”
While Waters is easily recognized by his thin, Little Richard-inspired mustache about a centimeter above his upper lip, don’t expect him to shave it off anytime soon. “I think there would probably be a mark there, it might be like white, kind of where the sun never shines,” he says. “I guess I would shave it off if I ever committed a crime and had to go underground.”
Although known for being a filmmaker – the “ultimate voyeur and control freak” – Waters also has acted. In 2003 he played Pete Peters (note the alteration), a paparazzo celebrating the death of Britney Spears, in “Seed of Chucky,” the fifth installment of the “Child’s Play” series.
In the fall he’ll film a part for the Court TV program “Til’ Death Do Us Part,” playing the Groom-reaper and also narrating the program. On the show, the bride and groom slay each other. “I’m the only guest that knows that they’re gonna do it,” he says.
With oodles of projects in the works, “Hairspray” still raking in dough in theaters (and becoming a “big Hollywood” movie starring John Travolta and Queen Latifah) and “Cry-Baby” being adapted into a musical, Waters doesn’t plan on packing up his legal pads or black, thick pens yet.
“New projects keep me jumping,” Waters says. “I think my career is going better than it ever has.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.