John Waters : Still filthy after all these years

John WatersJohn Waters may use his native Baltimore as the setting for all of his films, but San Francisco is where “The Pope of Trash’s” cult status was born. He returned to the city that first embraced the sublimely filthy Pink Flamingos to perform John Waters LIVE! This Filthy World – Dirtier and Filthier at the Castro Theatre. 

The one-man vaudeville show was a benefit for Frameline, sponsor of the SF International LGBT Film Festival, and the event’s presenting sponsor was Steamworks. In our recent chat, Waters agreed that it’s somewhat ironic that a show about filth should be sponsored by a bathhouse.

“I’m the only gay man who has never been to the baths,” he says. “Me walking around in a towel is not the best way for me to get laid. I’d hate to be walking around and have someone come up and say ‘I just loved Female Trouble!’ The bad thing about being a celebrity is that you can’t have public sex. And I’m also 62.”

I assure him that in San Francisco, regardless of your age, there’s always someone who has a fetish for you. “You mean wrinkle queens? I know there are guys who have a daddy complex, but they tend to be people who hate their fathers, so you get that part too,” he laughs.

William Burroughs dubbed him “The Pope of Trash” and the Baltimore Sun once called him “The Prince of Puke,” but Waters currently favors the title “Filth Elder.” The show is a variation of a live act he’s been doing since the early ‘70s.

“Divine and I first did it at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco before Pink Flamingos. We were on the bill with The Cockettes. I’d do my part then Divine came out with a shopping cart and threw dead mackerels into the audience. It ended with [faux] policemen coming out to arrest us, and a lot of violence.”

Since 1972, when Pink Flamingos was the filthiest movie ever made, we now have reality TV and X-Tube, while two of Waters’ films (Hairspray and Cry Baby) have become Broadway musicals. This begs the question: has John Waters become less filthy or has the mainstream world become more filthy?

Pink Flamingos is still as filthy as it ever was,” he assures me. “Teenagers see it today and are still shocked by it [most likely due to Divine’s infamous dog poop eating scene]. But now it plays uncut on the basic cable Sundance Channel!”Hairspray

“The musical version of Hairspray was really my most subversive work. It tricked families into embracing two men singing a love song to each other, and believing that it’s a great thing for your daughter to fall in love with a black guy.”

Although the mainstream media has caught up with Waters’ filthy sensibility, he has mixed feelings about some of the results. “I’m not crazy about the big gross-out Hollywood movies, but I am jealous of their box office grosses.”

“I heartily approve of the Jackass movies. Johnny Knoxville is our best working anarchist — and he’s the most gay-friendly straight man I’ve ever met. He’s a big bear hag; he has tattoos of bears and he hires them to dance at his parties.”

Knoxville appeared in Waters’ 2004 film A Dirty Shame and is set to star in his upcoming film Fruitcake, which is still in development. “I’ve been trying to make it for a year but it’s not a good time for independent film. It’s a Christmas film set in Baltimore so we need to shoot it there in winter. We don’t have enough money for fake snow.”


John Waters & Adam Sandel

John Waters & Adam Sandel

Waters is reluctant to discuss his upcoming projects too early in the process: “When you’re pregnant you don’t want to tell anyone until it’s definite.” But he does confirm that he’s writing a treatment for Hairspray 2, a sequel to last year’s smash hit movie musical. “I am pregnant,” he admits.


What are the Filth Elder’s favorite websites? “Let me look in my bookmarks,” he says, pulling up a list that reflects his eclectic film and filth pursuits. “Variety, The Drudge Report, Gay Porn Blog, AWOL Marines, You-Tube, Fleshbot: Pure Filth and Manson Family Today.”

“My burning desire to share my personal life is coming to an end,” Waters tells me. But when pressed for details on his romantic life, he replies, “I’m single and loving it. I live in four cities [including San Francisco where he has a Nob Hill apartment], I travel constantly, and I have absolutely no desire to be married to a gay man.”

He does however have an image of his ideal man: “A blue-collar closet queen in Baltimore. They don’t want to go to premieres, or be in my movies or meet my family – they just want to come over and be with me.”


For more of Adam Sandel’s “Happy Hour” celebrity interviews on Energy Talk Radio, go to:


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