I’ve never seen a John Waters movie or read a John Waters book. What I knew of him before last night, I’d picked up by way of either scandalized whispers or unbridled gushing or The Simpsons (from which I picked up that he’s gay). What I know of him after last night, having heard him speak at the Miami Book Fair International, includes the following:
— that he takes life lessons from a member of the Manson family
— that a room full of incarcerated murderers once (at least once) unanimously agreed that he is “fucked up” after seeing one of his movies
— that perfect strangers confide in him their most disturbing secrets (“My whole family fucked me on Easter morning”) because, he says, “People look at me and think, ‘Well, I’ll understand.'”
— that he considers one of his movies the perfect sex addiction flick to screen at a birthday party
— that he was, in his own estimation, “typecast” as the flasher in the remake of his 1988 film Hairspray
— and that he advocates politicians having more sex as a peacekeeping strategy.
Even without having experienced any of Waters’ oeuvre, I was hardly surprised to learn any of this, for his reputation as the “Pope of Trash” precedes him. (William S. Burroughs coined the epithet, which Waters says was “like being anointed from above.”) But if I had ever thought about it, I might not have expected these idiosyncrasies to reside in a gentleman whose gentility, charm, and easy wit won over a packed house within moments.