Director’s vacation show arrives in Austin
John Waters is like Santa Claus. Even if you are not personally familiar with his work, you know what it is. This is good news for a purveyor of shocking moments like Waters, the iconic Baltimore filmmaker and writer affectionately known as “the pope of the trash” by his followers.
This is especially good news when he shoots an annual Christmas show across the country.
“They know what they’re getting into,” Waters told the American-Statesman of the audience on “A John Waters Christmas,” a solo show now in its 25th year and set to perform at the Paramount Theater in London. ‘Austin December 6. “I don’t think anyone expects to see Peter Pan and talk to me about reindeer blueberries.”
You heard the man. Waters, 75, has gained a reputation for pushing the boundaries of bad taste over the decades, primarily through films like “Female Trouble”, “Hairspray” and “Pink Flamingos”. The latter, a 1972 underground film that has become one of the director’s biggest cult thrills, features an infamous character – played by the late drag queen and frequent Waters collaborator, Divine – eating a substance we don’t. are still not comfortable printing in 2021.
You know. What. You obtain. In.
We spoke with Waters on the phone before his Christmas tour stopped in Austin. This interview has been edited for length, clarity and taste, but you know. There is not much we can do.
American-Statesman: You’re on a tour of the country, and I’ve seen an event planner call it “the boost you need”. Is going out after pandemic containment a boost for morale?
John Waters: I lost 50 speaking engagements to COVID last year, and they’re pretty much all back. Now I’m on the road more than I’ve ever been. It’s a little scary because all the planes are crowded.
But it was great to go out with an audience and see people, how happy they are to be again. You know, just kidding, I’m addicted to shots. I have had each of them 50 times. I got them main, I popped them, I even got this pill and I stuck my (expletive) in a suppository.
Speaking of our current disease dystopia: Did that provide you with any creative inspiration for this show?
I knew the Christmas show, everything is different. COVID has infected every part of every person’s life. The amazing thing about it: It’s the same, all over the world. It is a universal thing that certainly cannot be ignored, and at the same time, has been joked to death. But in other words, I’m trying to think about how it’s affected things we don’t talk about like sex, Christmas, porn.
Sex, Christmas and porn, the holy trinity. What can people expect from the show?
If you’ve never been there, you don’t have to have seen my films. It helps. I’m only talking about them in a way that matches COVID or what’s going on, or at most, obscure jokes about details of them that I’ve never shared.
It seems to me that these movies keep coming back – Criterion, God bless them, keeps republishing them, so they’re easier to see than they’ve ever been. Granted, all of my movies are pretty much, starting with “Pink Flamingos”, they’re pretty easy to see. They weren’t when they came out, and they’re still there.
I think the best review you can get is that young people are always interested in it. They seem to be, so thank them for letting me get away with it for 50 years.
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I mean, I just saw a repertoire screening of “Polyester” the other day.
Great. Did they have the Odorama cards?
(Editor’s Note: The 1981 Waters movie “Polyester”, starring Divine and Tab Hunter, was originally released with scratch and sniff cards that synchronized with the action of the film, with smells of roses and flatulence.)
They didn’t have the Odorama cards, no, unfortunately.
They have them in the brand new DVD that Criterion has released. … Maybe they should do older films and Odorama. Imagine, what would the smell of suicide be with Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries”?
We can only guess. What is the format for the Christmas show?
It is a man, me, who speaks for 70 minutes without notes, completely written, completely memorized. And then about twenty minutes of questions, which believe me, my audience comes up with lulus, I promise you.
I can imagine.
I couldn’t even imagine some of them. A girl once said, “My dad told me he almost walked into a bar with you. What do you say to that? I said, “Say hello to him.”
You were very close to being his mother-in-law, maybe.
(Laughs) Oh my God.
I know you have a real love for the holidays, and you dedicated a chapter to your 1986 book “Crackpot” to it.
That’s how it started, really. “Why I love Christmas,” that essay in “Crackpot,” is really what led me to do a Christmas show first. It was the drug of entry.
Tell me a bit about the origins of this show, then.
First of all, I grew up watching vaudeville … I’ve always liked personal appearances. And then I used to travel with Divine all over the country to colleges and I introduced myself. It really was the only place you could see bizarre art films (at the time). … We sometimes caused riots in the colleges.
I am still a writer. I wrote all my films. I would never make a movie that I didn’t write. I write all my books. … I just need to tell stories, and that’s one of the ways I do it.
Do you find new things to enjoy or denigrate about vacations every year?
Oh, I hope so. I’m trying to imagine how that affects things, like how does COVID affect sex on Christmas? And what are you allowed to do now? You know when I grew up people had sex with someone different every night. Now you need five lawyers to make a date with someone. Things are very, very different. I always think I don’t care about the rules of people I agree with, so maybe that’s why I get away with it.
I believe you have brought the tour to Austin before.
Oh yes. … The very first time I went to Austin was to put on a show, and I met Tobe Hooper. It was right after he filmed (the 1974 horror film “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). He gave me a skull that I still have on my desk here.
Does he have a name?
No, it’s like a small animal skull. But it was on set.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is our genre of national Texas Halloween movie.
I think it’s the best horror movie I’ve ever seen, and I think it continues to be.
Coming back to Christmas, how do you remember the holidays growing up? It’s such a nostalgic time.
It was functional and everything. I mean, I’ve often said the joke: The Christmas tree fell on my grandmother (like a scene in Waters’ 1974 movie “Female Trouble”), but it wasn’t that traumatic. She didn’t go to the hospital or anything. She thought it was funny later that I got her in the movie.
But other people have told me that it happens a lot. It is usually alcohol, or the dog is involved. I have heard horror stories about it and then some fall and catch on fire. … I think you should rig yours to drop right when everyone opens their main giveaway. … put everything away and move on to Valentine’s Day. In fact, what comes next is the feast of circumcision, which is January 1st.
Is it really? I did not know.
I talked a lot about the Feast of Circumcision on my show.
I do not know all the feast days.
Well, I’ll give you more than you want to know.
I was raised in a very evangelical southern way, and we don’t really do that.
So evangelicals don’t get circumcised?
We are circumcised. We just don’t have feast days.
I think this is extreme, whatever your religion.
Well, are there any characteristics of a vacation that you find less healthy than we are led to believe?
On my show, I go over all the vacations, how I want to reinvent them. I think most of them all need to be reinvented. How can they still have the day of Christopher Columbus? I mean, he was a racist monster, exploited people. They would demolish the statue for him, but yet people quit work for it? I do not know.
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What about Santa Claus at the mall? What is your opinion on this?
Children are probably the biggest spreaders right now, as many of them have yet to receive the vaccine. Basically I’m sorry for Santa (with) the thousands of little spreaders blowing all over him. Maybe the alcohol will kill some of it. Don’t complain if Santa is drunk in the mall now. It tries to get rid of germs on your children.
I know you organized the album “A John Waters Christmas”, a musical compilation. Do you have any news from fans who say this is a norm for them?
They usually play it before my show. I could do another one, but I wanted to do all the vacations, like Groundhog Day, and it would be really dark. I mean, that would be easy to have a super Halloween, but you know, Thanksgiving – are there any songs about (raise your hand) the turkey? I do not know. I mean, it always gave me goosebumps, stuffing.
It seems unsanitary.
And sexual in a way I never wanted to try.
For this tour, you are touring the United States on all of these dates in December. Do you feel like you are missing the holidays with friends?
It’s strange. I mean, I always had a Christmas party. I don’t have it this year, because I’m not going to have 200 people here without a mask drinking.
When I’m in malls and hotels and I’m like, “Oh, that’s really is Christmas ”- to me it’s just food for the show I’m doing. … When do I do my Christmas shopping? It’s almost impossible, and I can’t lug gifts with me in 16 cities. I guess I notice it, and it makes me even weirder. I still love Christmas, and I always do it when I get home. I have Christmas morning and I see my family and all that.
But I don’t really have time at Christmas. I’m like a drag queen on Halloween. I work.
If you are going to
“A John Waters Christmas”
When: Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. on December 6.
Or: Paramount Theater, 713 Avenue du Congrès.
Tickets: $ 20 to $ 48
More information: ausntheatre.org