Today is the 74th birthday of The Pope of Trash John Waters. I had a poster for his film Polyester on my wall in high school, and rented Pink Flamingos, Mondo Trasho, and Female Trouble from the local video store. They were messy stories told and performed by misfits and I was an immediate fan. His films introduced me to Divine, so The world is a better place because he was in it.
NAME: John Waters Jr.
DATE OF BIRTH: 22-Apr-1946
PLACE OF BIRTH: Baltimore, MD
EDUCATION: Boys’ Latin School of MarylandMaryland Institute College of Art
BEST KNOWN FOR: John Samuel Waters Jr. is an American filmmaker, writer, actor, and artist. Born and raised in Baltimore, Waters rose to prominence in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films, including Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, and Female Trouble.
At 12, John Waters subscribed to Variety, mastering its lexicon of filmmakers’ language. He staged bizarre but hilarious puppet shows at children’s’ birthday parties. Inspired after reading Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and armed with an 8mm camera, Waters and several high school weirdoes formed a repertory troupe called the Dreamland Players, and began filming the most vile crap Waters could imagine. He has said that his goal was to smash every middle-class value that good citizens hold dear. His early works included Hag in a Black Leather Jacket and Eat Your Makeup, in which models are kidnapped and forced to, yes, eat their make-up.
Waters was expelled from New York University for smoking marijuana. In the school’s official letter of expulsion, they told Waters’ parents that he needed extensive psychiatric therapy, but Waters resumed making movies instead. In 1969, borrowing $2,000 from his father, Waters made his first full-length feature film, Mondo Trasho. In one memorable scene, the big-boned female impersonator Divine crawls through a pig wallow wearing a gold lame dress, while pigs copulate on camera. It got Waters arrested for conspiracy to commit indecent exposure. His other early films include hard-to-find gems like Multiple Maniacs (in which Mink Stole gives “rosaryjobs” to strangers in Catholic churches) and the scratch-and-sniff classic Polyester.
In Pink Flamingos, his 1972 classic about the battle to be named “Filthiest person alive”, Divine is asked to describe her political positions. Scripted by Waters, her answer is often quoted as the director’s manifesto: “Kill everyone now. Condone first degree murder. Advocate cannibalism. Eat shit. Filth is my politics — filth is my life!” William S. Burroughs once called Waters “the pope of trash”. Hairspray, his 1988 rock’n’roll comedy starring Ricki Lake, was his first film to play outside of art house cinemas and midnight showings. It became a Broadway show and was remade with John Travolta reprising Divine’s roll. Waters’ other moderately mainstream films include Cry Baby, Pecker, and A Dirty Shame.
Now mostly retired from movie-making, Waters has referred to himself as a “filth elder”.
FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
A Dirty Shame (12-Sep-2004)
Cecil B. DeMented (17-May-2000)
Serial Mom (13-Apr-1994)
Desperate Living (27-May-1977)
Female Trouble (4-Oct-1974)
Pink Flamingos (17-Mar-1972)
Multiple Maniacs (10-Apr-1970)
Mondo Trasho (14-Mar-1969)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (18-Dec-2015)
I Am Divine (9-Mar-2013) · Himself
Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film (28-Apr-2012) · Himself
Mansome (21-Apr-2012) · Himself
These Amazing Shadows (22-Jan-2011) · Himself
Blank City (15-Feb-2010)
Beautiful Darling (12-Feb-2010) · Himself
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (22-Jan-2010) · Himself
Guest of Cindy Sherman (Apr-2008) · Himself
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (8-Nov-2007) · Himself
Obscene (9-Sep-2007) · Himself
Jackass: Number Two (22-Sep-2006) · Himself
This Filthy World (14-Sep-2006) · Himself
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (25-Jan-2006) · Himself
Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream (13-May-2005) · Himself
Inside Deep Throat (11-Feb-2005) · Himself
Seed of Chucky (12-Nov-2004) · Pete Peters
Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (31-Mar-2002) · The Reverend
The Cockettes (16-Jan-2002) · Himself
Welcome to Hollywood (27-Oct-2000) · Himself
Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story (8-Sep-2000) · Himself
Sweet and Lowdown (4-Sep-1999)
Divine Trash (18-Jan-1998) · Himself
Family Album (23-Oct-1994)
Homer & Eddie (17-Aug-1989)
Something Wild (7-Nov-1986) · Used Car Guy