John Waters earned his lifetime 99-percenter cred the moment he had Divine eat dog shit in Pink Flamingos. The Baltimore-born filmmaker and artist has been making subversive, gloriously gross work for over forty years. Digging into the disturbing weirdness that lurks just below suburban complacency, movies like Female Trouble, Desperate Living, and Polyester don't merely poke fun at the status quo, they explode it in a cloud of bad taste. He's been occupying our video stores for years, and this winter, he's feeling festive.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Waters is something of a connoisseur of Christmas kitsch, and thus an invaluable resource for the Phoenix's holiday guide. And for those needing a little bit of extra yuletide guidance, he'll be performing his annual holiday spectacular, A John Waters Christmas, at the Berklee Performance Center on December 10th. We talked to the sometimes-Provincetown resident about gift-giving tips, masturbation, and Justin Bieber.
I THINK DESPERATE LIVING WAS THE FIRST R-RATED MOVIE I EVER SNUCK OUT OF THE VIDEO STORE AS A KID. Oh, I don't think it was R-rated. That was X-rated. We couldn't even get an R-rating on that.
I WAS CONFUSED, I THINK, BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE ADULT SECTION. SO, YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW BEWILDERING IT WAS TO SEE SUSAN LOWE'S FAKE PENIS GET CUT OFF WITH SCISSORS AND THEN EATEN BY A DOG. I WASN'T SURE IF ALL ADULT MOVIES WERE GOING TO BE LIKE THAT. Yes, if anybody is masturbating to Desperate Living, they are in deep trouble.LET'S TALK CHRISTMAS MOVIES. YOU'RE A BIG FAN OF CHRISTMAS EVIL. Oh, yes. That's my favorite one of all. That's the only Christmas movie I really, really love.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT? It's about a man who is so obsessed with being Santa Claus that he gets a job in a toy factory, he starts spying on little boys and girls to keep a book of whether they are good or bad, he starts crossdressing as Santa, and then, on Christmas Eve, gets stuck in people's chimneys. He's insane. I think it's a great, very funny Christmas movie.
AND, CONSIDERING HE'S ALSO A SERIAL KILLER, IT HAS A GREAT HAPPY ENDING. Well, yes, I don't want to spoil the ending, but it has a surreal ending that is really beautiful. I know, because Lewis [Jackson], the director, told me that audiences hated it. It's so surreal and arty and beautiful, it's like the Rapture.
IN TERMS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON, I ASSUME YOU SEND OUT CHRISTMAS CARDS. WHAT DOES A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS CARD LOOK LIKE? I've been sending out cards that I designed for 35 years. I'm not going to tell you what the new one is. It's printed, and I've signed about half of them. There are about 2000 of them. They go out December 5.
WHAT DID LAST YEAR'S LOOK LIKE? Last year's is exactly the ad for my Christmas show this year. The painting of me with the grills that say "Merry Christmas," with the hat, have you seen it? That was my Christmas card last year.
DO YOU LIKE GETTING OTHER PEOPLE'S HOLIDAY CARDS OR DO YOU DREAD THEM? Oh, I like getting them. I just hate it when they sign "Bill." Bill who? I know a lot of people.