Originally published in the CJLO Magazine on September 27, 2016
This Filthy World: An Evening with John Waters - POP Montreal 2016
--Trigger warning: The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author's and do not reflect the views of CJLO 1690AM, CJLO's editorial board, or our partners and affiliates. ;-)
As a poor University student living in my first apartment way back in the mid-nineties, I spent many a weekend watching old VHS tapes rented from the "cult film" section at Movieland on Saint-Catherine Ouest. 'Member VHS? Anyway, one fateful Friday night I picked up a faded old box that featured a frightening woman-creature in a red dress and big bouffant hairdo on the cover.
At first glance I thought Pink Flamingos (1972) might be a Russ Meyer film, but on close inspection I noticed Tura Satana looked a bit... off. I scoffed and almost put the box back on the rack, but the name "Divine" and the tag line "An exercise in poor taste" piqued my interest enough, so I decided to give that old John Waters movie a try.
Pink Flamingos was poorly-produced, the acting was awful, the plot was absurd, and the climax of the film was quite disgusting (they used real dog faeces y'all!). And for all those reasons I loved every minute of it. Pink Flamingos ranks a solid "Sucks Backwards to the Left" on the B Movie Rating Scale for its weirdness and campy spin on the exploitation films coming out at the time. I made it my mission to see every John Waters movie I could get my hands on.
Sadly, Hairspray (1988), Cry Baby (1990), and Serial Mom (1994) were the only other John Waters films they had a Movieland, and really there are only so many times you can see those ones. Movieland closed down, and times began to change. VHS was phased out and replaced by DVD, later replaced by Blu-Ray, then illegal download, and finally Netflix. All the while my liberal-leaning friends grew up and had square babies that use blue hair dye and thrift-store clothes to disguise themselves as radical round babies, and the college kids they begat have begun to segregate and censor themselves to (I fear) the point of no return. It's with a heavy heart that I must admit I forgot about John Waters for a while. I've felt stranded and alone, the last of a dying species of people who protest what matters and are not afraid to do and say whatever the fuck they want. But every once in a while the Universe sends me a reminder that all hope is not lost...
The King of Bad Taste was in town this year for POP Montreal, and he offended the fuck out of everyone who could pack themselves into the Rialto on Saturday, September 24th. Nothing was off limits in This Filthy World, John Waters' snappily paced one-man show about his life, work, and legendary film career. Using the majority of his movies as sign posts, Waters sprinkled in social criticism, salacious anecdote, and many a sly remark about every fringe group you can imagine. From bears to the elderly, John Waters was not shy to speak his mind and riff on everyone, and what's wonderful is that he got away with it too!
But don't you worry gentle reader, I won't repeat the big bad things the Pope of Trash said about you and your kind—you'll have to go see his show for that, and read Carsick or check out the newly-restored version of Multiple Maniacs (1970) (complete with the Janus Films logo!) while you're at it. But first, check out the (somewhat) appropriate subjects he touched upon in This Filthy World on Saturday—and remember: you can't have an interesting monster without an interesting bouffant hairdo!
On the dangers of political correctness: "Liberals like me turn into fascists really easily."
How political correctness has subverted recent stage productions of Hairspray: "It's different now. No one can cast by race or weight. I've seen Hairspray performed with a skinny black girl as Tracy Turnblad, and it didn't make sense. It was so bizarre in a way, like a post-modern theatre of the absurd."
On the restored version of Multiple Maniacs: "It looks like a bad John Cassavetes film, and I couldn't be more thrilled."
On his friend, character actor Harris Glen Milstead: "People had the wrong idea about Divine. He didn't want to be a woman. Divine wanted to be a monster!"
On the fate of the Divine and Dreamlanders: "I'm still shocked Divine is dead. He was [sic] 43 years old. I bought a plot in the same graveyard, so did Mink and all my friends. We're all going to be buried together. We call it 'Disgrace Land'."
On why he never got into heroin: "Who wants to sit around and itch and listen to jazz?"
And why he won't try ecstasy: "Taking a drug that makes you love everybody? That sounds like hell to me."
On dinner guests and leaving a basket of magazines in the bathroom: "If you think you're going to be sitting on my toilet, grunting and straining while reading Us Magazine when I'm cooking in the next room, you've got another thing coming!"
On the bear community: "In Baltimore, straight middle-aged men are the new bears, they just don't know it."
His opinion of radical feminism: "I love women who hate men, but I hate men who hate women. Men don't have a reason to hate women."
The one thing we should focus our attention on: "The most important issue in America today is gun control. College kids should be protesting that!"
The reason why Donald Trump running for president of the United States: "Trump is doing the whole thing to lose so he can start Trump TV."
John Waters' biggest fear: "I have a fear of not flying, because that means I'm not working."
On receiving an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design: "I felt like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz when they gave him a brain." The Pope of Trash then demanded tenure!
A little more about his chosen path: "Show business is a life of rejection, and I built a career on bad reviews."
John Waters' dream directing job: "I want the Maybelline eyebrow pencil ad."
About the possibility of crowd funding to finance his unmade children's Christmas special, Fruitcake: "I wouldn't consider a Kickstarter for Fruitcake, I own three homes. It seems hypocritical."
His advice for the weird kids out there who wish to rebel: "Just say you don't have a phone. That's the most radical thing you can do."
And finally, a recommendation for up-and-coming artists: "Don't just try to be shocking. There are no rules left to break except the ones not worth breaking, and to break those rules would be boring."