John Waters On The Colbert Report
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard John Waters described as the Prince of Puke, but that’s how Stephen Colbert introduced him for the interview segment of The Colbert Report on June 28. The Prince was there to plug his new book Role Models, a book actually about Waters’ role models, including — as he says in the segment — Tennessee Williams.
In the interview, Colbert alludes to Waters’ shocking films, but never gets into the details of them, except for his most mainstream one, Hairspray. Instead, Waters gives personal anecdotes, particularly a very funny one about guest teaching a first grade class recently.
He says he played “plane crash” with the kids, which they loved. But, that’s also a step-up from his own personal childhood obsession with car crashes. Also, in his film Female Trouble, he has the child character Taffy (played by the adult Mink Stole) play car crash in which she douses herself with ketchup and wails in agony.
Waters also alludes that he used to teach in prisons, which is something he goes into detail about in the book Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters.
The story about the “meat men” in his hometown of Baltimore, who are men who take “orders” for meat in the neighborhood then go shoplift those items, isn’t one I’ve heard him tell before. However, it did remind me of the one scene in Pink Flamingos where Divine shoplifts a raw steak by stuffing it up her skirt.
Plus, Waters says he’s trying to get a new movie get made called Fruitcake, a childrens’ Christmas story. The last holiday movie Waters was associated with is he did the DVD commentary for the cult classic Christmas Evil, aka Terror in Toyland, directed by Lewis Jackson. This was a film I hated the first time I saw it, but have grown to love its demented charms.
Whether or not we’ll ever get to see Fruitcake is up in the air, but Waters has a string of films that he’s never gotten off the ground. The most famous of those is his Pink Flamingos sequel Flamingos Forever. The script for that film is included in his book Trash Trio and it includes several big budget stunts that he says nobody would fund. Then, after the death of Divine, it was clear that film would never get made.
The Waters film I’ve always wanted to see is Dorothy, the Kansas City Pothead, which is possibly one of the best movie titles I’ve ever heard. Although, that was just a “fake movie” Waters pretended to film when a local reporter was profiling him back in the ’60s or ’70s. You can read about it in Shock Value.
Lastly, Colbert introduces Waters by calling him a “cult movie” director. But what does Waters think of being called that? He actually writes about that in Shock Value:
Cult is an odd word to me. They always refer to my films as cult movies and I’m never quite sure what they mean. Sure, I’ve seen audiences who’ve seen the film fifty times and can shout out the dialogue, imitating each actor perfectly at the exact moment he or she appears on the screen, but would this same audience wash and dry my laundry for me? If I put a split-second subliminal message in my films saying, “Send John Waters a thousand dollars,” would it work? My idea of a cult audience would be one that would follow my orders if I suddenly appeared on screen and said, “Hello, I’m John Waters. I want you to go home and burn down your own house. Find Katharine Hepburn and cut off her head and bring it to me on a silver platter.” All cult really means today is that something is popular and no one foresaw its success. Some people get it. Others are assholes.
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“Find Katharine Hepburn and cut off her head and bring it to me on a silver platter.”
I recall (but I am not certain) that “Dorothy, the Kansas City Pothead” was actually an attempt at a real movie, but Waters’ camera and tape recorder wouldn’t sync up correctly so he stopped the project. But the profile came after he stopped that and before he started whatever his next film was, so he said he was still making that one. There are a few clips in “Divine Trash,” so I don’t think the footage is lost or anything like that.
I live in Maryland, and my Baltimore friends tell me there are no “meat thieves” in Charm City, although a quick Google reveals that they exist in the UK and other places.
You could be right about the Dorothy situation. I might be mis-remembering the chapter on it in Shock Value. I’ll have to look it up later.