Is the Pope of Trash also the Count of Christmas?
This week filmmaker, author, Baltimore native and bon vivant John Waters is spreading merriment in a holiday show he’s bringing to the Neptune Theatre. Expect mischief, not mistletoe, from this famously randy raconteur, whose cinematic oeuvre includes “Pink Flamingos,” “Hairspray” and other cheerfully, flagrantly risqué and déclassé flicks.
We chatted with Waters recently, about his Christmas show, his favorite holiday slasher movie and his new book about thumbing it across the U.S.
Q: So what happens in “A John Waters Christmas”? Is it a casual, off-the-cuff talk?
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A: It’s a written monologue — every single word is written. I’m very prepared and I use no notes. I’m the only actor. I wonder, is Santa Claus erotic to people? Or in the bear community? Is Mrs. Claus heterosexual? There are all sorts of things you can imagine about Christmas, if you let your mind wander in the wrong direction.
Q: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
A: Yes, “Christmas Evil.” It’s about a guy so obsessed with Christmas … He gets a job in a toy factory, and spies on children to see if they’ve been good or bad. And then he gets stuck in someone’s chimney on Christmas Eve, and the children save him but the parents want to kill him. It’s much better than “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Q: You’ve come to Seattle on other occasions, with different one-man shows.
A: I’ve been doing my spoken-word shows for 40 years. At the beginning it was just a way to promote my movies. [Transvestite actress] Divine and I would go to a college campus, I’d have a chunk of the movie in my car and screen it at a local theater. I also used to ride the subway dressed as a character, just scaring people into being interested.
Q: Your last book, “Role Models,” was a best-seller. How did you come to write your next book, “Car Sick,” about hitchhiking across the U.S.?
A: I’m really excited about the book, it comes out next year. I imagined the very worst rides I could get, and the very best rides, and then I just did it — 21 rides, nine days. I just walked out of my house in Baltimore and ended up in San Francisco. I did that kind of thing when I was 16, but I’m 66 now and it’s a different experience now.
Q: Weren’t you afraid to hit the road alone?
A: I’m afraid to stay home! I need adventure. You’ve got to go out for adventures, no matter how old you are … People were great. When I was young, perverts picked me up. And I was looking for them! If I had to pick an average person [who gave me a lift] on this last trip, it would be a 40-year-old white, straight man who had recovered from drugs or something, and praised how much he loved his wife. I think that’s encouraging!
Q: You have a lot of fans who want to see another John Waters movie. Is one in the works?
A: The last movie I made was “A Dirty Shame” [released in 2004]. I don’t really know any director of my age and background who is making movies right now. [The studios] all want them to cost a hundred million dollars or half a million, and I don’t want to do either. I just want to tell stories. I’m lucky enough to have found many ways to do what I like to do. And I still haven’t had to get a real job.
Q: You’re touring to England, Australia, Germany with shows and your book. Do you have groupies in all those places?
A: I respect them too much to call them that. They’re my fans, and I pose for every cellphone picture and sign everything — why should I not? They’re my customers, they pay me for my work. I did a show in Helsinki, and English is not their first language, but it was sold out. It’s always amazing to me as I travel around the world how stupid Americans are because we only know only one language. Me included. It’s the one thing I’m really embarrassed by, that I can’t speak another language. And where I come from they can’t even speak English! But that can be kind of sexy.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org