The blog of author Dennis Cooper

John Waters Day


‘John Waters is a filmmaker, author and visual artist. He was born April 22, 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently based in Baltimore and New York. John Waters became famous as “the pope of trash” (William Burroughs) and the “king of suburban exploitation” Waters’ work shows “gleeful irreverence and appreciation of the American grotesque.” His films, photos and writings make the transition from underground to mainstream without losing their aesthetic integrity. Among his best known films: Mondo Trasho, Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Divine, Serial Mom, Pecker, and Cecil B. Demented. Author of Shock Value; Crackpot (recently reissued); Trash Trio; Director’s Cut; Art: A Sex Book.

‘John Waters is the son of Patricia Ann (née Whitaker) and John Samuel Waters. His father was a manufacturer of fire-protection equipment. John Waters grew up in Lutherville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. At the age of seven, Jeff was inspired by the movie Lili, the movie grew his love for puppets. As a child John Waters would stage violent versions of Punch and Judy for children’s birthday parties. He was a child obsessed with violence.

‘As a teenage boy he received his first 8mm film camera from his grandmother. John Waters was also inspired by the B-Movie films shown at a local drive-in, which Waters watched through binoculars. John and his friends were anti mainstream culture, during the 1960’s him and his friends began shooting films in Baltimore. These films were screened to small audiences in the Baltimore area. John Waters went to Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Baltimore but later graduated from Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.

‘John Waters first short film was Hag in a Black Leather Jacket the film was shown only once in a coffee shop in Baltimore, although in later years he has included it in his traveling photography exhibit. John Waters enrolled at New York University (NYU) but later left the academy after Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the grounds of NYU. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he completed his next two short films Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup.

‘John Waters takes inspiration from all areas in the spectrum from “low” to “high” art. He has been influenced by such figures as: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman. John Waters first film, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964) starred John’s childhood friend and collaborator Mary Vivian Pearce. According to John Waters, the film is about a white woman and a black man’s wedding on the roof of John’s parents home. The man woos the lady by carrying her around in a trash can and chooses a Ku Klux Klansman to perform the wedding ceremony. John Waters first success came when Pink Flamingos (1972) debut in 1973. The movie is infamous for leading actor and long time companion of John Waters, Divine, and his performance which includes an unforgettable dog poop eating scene.

“I believe life is nothing if you’re not obsessed. I only think terrible thoughts, I do not live them. Thank God I am not my films. If audiences can laugh at my twisted ideas, what’s the great harm? I had a goal in life — I wanted to make the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history. Thanks so much for allowing me to get away with it.”‘ — The European Graduate School





Welcome to Dreamland
John Waters @ Marianne Boesky Gallery
Podcast: John Waters interviewed @ Bat Segundo Show
Where to send John Waters fan mail
John Waters interviewed by DC
‘The Grave John Waters: Still Laughing’
The John Waters Baltimore Tour
John Waters’ books
John Waters’ favorite films of 2012
John Waters interviewed by Drew Daniels
‘John Waters Picked up Hitchhiking’
‘John Waters’ Guide to Hampden’
John Waters interviewed by Gary Indiana



Werner Herzog discovers John Waters is Gay

Coming Out Is So Square

John Waters reads from ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’

The Wizard of Oz – commentary by John Waters

John Waters Misses Perverts

John Waters on “Free Speech”



‘I never call what I do art. I think that’s up for you to tell me. When people say to me, ‘I’m an artist,’ I think, ‘Yeah, I’ll be the judge of that. Let’s see your work.’ History will be the judge of it. However, I’m very serious about my career and everything I do, but I make fun. Hopefully in a joyous way. I love the seriousness and elitism of the art world. I think art for the people is a terrible idea. I did a piece that said ‘Contemporary Art Hates You’ [… And Your Family Too, 2009]. And it does. If you have ‘contempt before investigation’, which most people do, then it does hate you and you are stupid. I like that idea: you are stupid, because you won’t think to look in a different way. Seeing and looking are different. Real life is seeing and art is looking. If you’re successful, it’s a magic trick: you take one thing, and you put it in here, and it changes in one second, and then you can never look at that thing again the same way. That is what art is to me. If I go to galleries in New York, London or wherever, on the way home you can name an artist for every single thing you see, if you’re with somebody that knows art. If you don’t go to galleries as much, it’s not as easy, but art trains you to see. So, if you’re open for that, then art is the greatest magic trick of all. If not, you’re stupid.’ — John Waters



Divine Mini-Concert

‘I’m So Beautiful’

‘You Think You’re a Man’

‘Jungle Jezebel’

‘Walk Like a Man’

‘Shoot Your Shot’


John Waters on Denton Welch
from ‘Role Models’


Maybe there is no better novel in the world than Denton Welch’s In Youth Is Pleasure. Just holding it in my hands, so precious, so beyond gay, so deliciously subversive, is enough to make illiteracy a worse social crime than hunger. Published in the UK in 1945, ten years after the terrible accident in which the author, riding his bicycle, was hit by a car and permanently injured, this amazing (and thinly disguised) autobiographical novel is the graceful and astonishingly erotic tale of Orville Pym, a creative child who has lost his mother to some mysterious disease and “has not yet learned to bear the strain of feeling unsafe with another person.” Hating “other people” who imagined “that they understood his mind because he was a boy,” our elegant but damaged little hero, “longing for escape, freedom, loneliness and adventure,” wanders around the grounds of a hotel where he has been taken by his father to vacation with his older brothers.

Have the secret yearnings of childhood sexuality and the wild excitement of the first stirrings of perversity ever been so eloquently described as in this novel? When Orville discovers an old book on physical culture and begins frantically working out to improve his body, he worries that he isn’t sweating enough. Determined, he locks himself in the small bottom drawer of a dressing chest and, immediately “overcome with the horror of being a prisoner,” innocently fantasizes that he is in a dungeon he remembers from one of his aunt’s mid-Victorian novels. Orville instinctively welcomes the guilt of these thrilling, vaguely sexual yearnings, but he is just a child-how can he yet understand the friendly feel of future fetishes? He knows he is not like other boys, but the wonders of deviancy far outweigh any desire to fit in with his peers.

Orville yearns to be butch. Endlessly experimenting with fashion and different looks, he finally paints the toes and heels of his white gym shoes black, hoping to appear “daring and vulgar.” While he leaves his hair “rough” and appears in his new, supposedly masculine outfit, his brother humors him by saying, “My God you look tough.” But little Orville can’t help his feminine side. He has always been obsessed with broken bits of china he collects at thrift shops (“No one ever wrote more beautifully about chipped tea services,” a writer for The New York Times would comment decades after the novel was written). When Orville felt these girly items “pressing gently against his side” as he carried them in his pocket, “it gave him a sudden and peculiar pleasure, a feeling of protection in an enemy world.”

It isn’t easy being a creative child. As happy as Orville is when he’s alone, he still feels the urge to create his own drama. When he sneaks into an abandoned ballroom at the hotel and finds himself onstage (my parents actually built me my own little stage at the top of the stairs in our first house, where I performed endless indulgent “shows” for my very tolerant Aunt Rachel whenever she visited), our little master of masochism uncovers a musical instrument enclosed in a case with a broken strap. Suddenly inspired, Orville runs to the musician’s cloakroom and locks himself in, strips off his clothes, and starts whipping himself with the strap. In his furtive imagination, he was “Henry II, doing penance, at Beckett’s tomb . . . a convict tied to a tree in Tasmania. A galley slave, a Christian martyr, a noble hermit alive in the desert.” This kid knew how to play. God, I wished he had lived in my neighborhood. We could have really put on a show on my little stage!



13 of John Waters’ 17 films

Mondo Trasho (1969)
‘After an introductory sequence during which chickens are beheaded on a chopping block, the main action begins. Platinum blond bombshell Mary Vivian Pearce begins her day by riding the bus and reading Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon. Bombshell is later seduced by Danny Mills, a hippie degenerate “shrimper” (foot fetishist), who starts molesting her feet while she fantasizes about being Cinderella. She is then hit by a car driven by Divine, a portly blonde who was trying to pick up an attractive hitchhiker whom she imagines naked. Divine places her in the car and drives distractedly around Baltimore experiencing bizarre situations, such as repeated visits by the Mother Mary (Margie Skidmore) – during which Divine exclaims, “Oh Mary … teach me to be Divine”. Divine finally takes the unconscious Bombshell to Dr. Coathanger (David Lochary), who amputates her feet and replaces them with bird-like monster feet which she can tap together to transport herself around Baltimore.’ — Wiki




The Diane Linkletter Story (1970)
‘A loose, hypothetical reenactment of the final moments of radio and tv personality Art Linkletter’s daughter, made just days after the actual event. Two parents (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce) wait for their daughter Diane (Divine) to come home, and discuss what kind of trouble she could’ve gotten herself into. Once she arrives, they fight, and then Diane jumps out the window and kills herself. Pearce and Lochary are pretty funny as the concerned parents, but Divine is surprisingly bland as the hippie daughter. It’s enjoyable enough, but certainly not great. There’s really just not much to it.’ — letterboxd

The entire film


Multiple Maniacs (1970)
‘Multiple Maniacs includes one of my favorite Waters’ scenes. Divine, the leader of a renegade band of freaks, is visited by the Infant of Prague after being raped. She is led to a church where Mink Stole gives her a rosary-job – bringing her to orgasm right in the church pew! There’s also the Cavalcade of Perversions, the infamous and inexplicable rape of Divine by Lobstora, and a re-enactment of the stations of the cross including a pig-out on Wonder bread and canned tuna. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you! John Waters: “I made this film, which glorified violence, at the peak of the hippie love generation. But hippies liked it. Part of its success was to offend my target audience in a humorous way. Of course, now that sounds much more calculated than I was.”‘ — Dreamland




John Waters On “Multiple Maniacs”


Pink Flamingos (1972)
‘For the few who haven’t memorized every nuance of this seminal camp work, Pink Flamingos follows the adventures of Babs Johnson (Divine), a fat, style-obsessed criminal who lives in a trailer with her mentally ill mother Edie (Edith Massey), her delinquent son Crackers (Danny Mills), and her traveling companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). Their little dream life of shoplifting, egg-sucking, and chicken-fucking is threatened when an eccentric couple, Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole), “two jealous perverts” according to the script, try to seize Dawn’s title of “filthiest person alive” by sending her a turd in the mail and burning down her trailer. The Marbles kidnap hitchhiking women, have them impregnated by their servant Channing (Channing Wilroy), and then sell the babies to lesbian couples. As Raymond explains, they use the dykes’ money to finance their porno shops and “a network of dealers selling heroin in the inner-city elementary schools.”‘ — Bright Lights Journal





Female Trouble (1974)
‘Made a year before I was born, I didn’t actually see Female Trouble until 1988. I was 13-years-old. Browsing the shelves of the local video store, I was drawn to the video because its cover art announced “Warning: This movie is gross”. Accompanying this “warning” on the video box was a caricatured drawing of Female Trouble‘s two stars, Divine and Edith Massey. While watching the film later that day, I discovered that both Divine and Edith Massey were every bit the grotesque caricature suggested by the video’s cover design. How I managed to sneak the R-rated film out of the video store, I’ll never comprehend. More importantly, the impact the film had on me during this very pubescent time in my life is even harder to comprehend, because it changed the way I consumed film from that moment on. I remember watching the film with a mixture of horror and morbid fascination: never before had I encountered such a freakishly queer ensemble of characters and situations on screen. Upon viewing Female Trouble at such a young age, I could sense some weird awakening where all of a sudden it felt as if someone had flicked the queer switch in my head.’ — Daniel Cunningham





Desperate Living (1977)
‘Everyone in Desperate Living‘s Mortville has some horrible secret to hide. The mentally unstable Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole, in a superb display of overacting) and her 300-pound-plus maid Grizelda must take it on the lam after Grizelda smothers Peggy’s husband under her elephantine buttocks. They find themselves in Mortville, a shanty fiefdom ruled by the grotesque Queen Carlotta (the incomparable Edith Massey). The evil queen delights in tormenting her subjects, but Peggy and Grizelda soon team up with a pair of lesbian outcasts, and a rebellion is in the air. Notable for the absence of Waters regular Divine, this movie pushes the rest of the cast to their over-the-top best. Nasty, shabby, gross, and hilarious, this is John Waters at his best.’ — collaged




Polyester (1981)
‘Ordinarily, Mr. Waters is not everyone’s cup of tea – but Polyester, which opens today at the National and other theaters, is not Mr. Waters’ ordinary movie. It’s a very funny one, with a hip, stylized humor that extends beyond the usual limitations of his outlook. This time, the comic vision is so controlled and steady that Mr. Waters need not rely so heavily on the grotesque touches that make his other films such perennial favorites on the weekend Midnight Movie circuit. Here’s one that can just as well be shown in the daytime.’ — Janet Maslin, NYT




Hairspray (1988)
‘Set in Baltimore circa 1962, HAIRSPRAY joyously details the last days of 50s-era American naivete, as the country moves from postwar complacency to massive social upheaval. Cult filmmaker John Waters enters the mainstream with surprisingly little fuss. John Waters finally hits his commercial stride in this film, parlaying his keen social observation and great compassion for society’s outsiders into a colorful and engaging comedy full of dancing, music and heartfelt nostalgia. Unfortunately, what should have been a celebration turned into sadness when Waters’s longtime friend and collaborator Divine, who was poised on the edge of stardom, died of a heart attack a mere two weeks after HAIRSPRAY opened nationwide.’ — TV Guide




Cry-Baby (1990)
‘Thanks to the success of Hairspray, John Waters was a hot property for the first time in his career. Everyone wanted to make his next movie, but it was Universal Studios’ Imagine Entertainment who ponied up the 12 million dollars it took to create this over-the-top movie musical. The cast of Cry Baby is absolutely outrageous. No one will ever top this bizarre combination of stars, punks and legends. Featuring former teenage porn star Traci Lords, punk progenitor Iggy Pop, a very large Ricki Lake, a rough and raunchy Susan Tyrell, prim and proper Polly Bergen, and everyone’s favorite Kim McGuire – better know to Dreamland Fans as HATCHETFACE! Those are just the major roles. The supporting cast boggles the mind. Patty Hearst, David Nelson, Mink Stole, Troy Donohue, Joey Heatherton, Joe Dallesandro and Willem Dafoe as a perverse prison guard. “Stunt casting is used a a negative term, but with Cry-Baby I certainly helped invent it. I had David Nelson married to Patty Hearst, with Traci Lords as their daughter,” said John. Unfortunately this was the first movie he made after the passing of Divine, and she is sorely missed in this misfit cast.’ — Dreamland


John Waters Behind the Scenes of Cry Baby


Serial Mom (1994)
‘There was one person who came up to me at the end of one shooting day. Right when they said ‘Wrap,’ he was standing right there – which is always kind of scary. And he said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but listen to me for a minute. My mother is a serial mom, she killed my father and my brother.’ He started giving me specifics, details, and I remembered the case. It was in Baltimore, eleven years ago. I remember the names and everything. And he said, ‘Would you sign a “Serial Mom” banner to my brother and myself and put her name on it?’ I think he was telling the truth, but I don’t know. If not, he was incredibly ahead in his acting. It really seemed – and while he was telling me this, I could see one of the crew looking at us, not knowing what to do and wondering if he should get this guy away from me. But I was kind of interested. They couldn’t believe it. Their eyes were like – ‘Oh no!’’ — John Waters





Pecker (1998)
‘If you didn’t see the movie when it came out back in 1998, the film follows 18-year-old amateur photographer Pecker (Edward Furlong) (so named because he pecks at his food, also because it’s funny) on a rags-to-riches adventure in the world of high art. Pecker is just a blue-collar kid in Baltimore, with a mom who runs a thrift shop where she offers fashion advice to the homeless, a sister (Martha Plimpton) who recruits go-go boys to dance at the local Fudge Palace, and a grandmother, Memama (Jean Schertler), who is the “pit beef” queen of Baltimore when not conducting prayer meetings with her talking statue of Mary. Pecker’s snapshots of family, friends, and laundromat-owning girlfriend (Christina Ricci) catch the eye of hip Manhattan art dealer Rorey Wheeler (Lili Taylor) who becomes fascinated with Pecker’s photos and offers him a big exhibition in the offing, followed by overnight fame as the young man becomes the new darling of New York. Soon Pecker discovers that fame has its price.’ — IFC





Cecil B. Demented (2000)
‘CECIL B. DEMENTED is a celebration of anarchy, rampant immorality and anti-Christian bigotry imbued with a self-righteous philosophy favoring total artistic freedom. Although it shouldn’t be taken too seriously, the self-righteousness of this movie comes through loud and clear. The excesses of Hollywood and the vacuity of many mainstream movies, including some family movies, are certainly ripe for some good satire, but CECIL B. DEMENTED takes it to the nth degree while pushing a nihilistic pagan worldview. Not only that, but the movie’s unrelenting sexual crudities, foul language and homosexual attacks on Christianity and traditional family values are absolutely abhorrent, if not dangerous to the minds of everyone.’ — Christian Movie Review





A Dirty Shame (2004)
‘Imagine Russ Meyer remaking “Night of the Living Dead” with an everything goes all out orgy at the end and ending it all with one gigantic cumshot. Well, if you can imagine that, you’re probably on medication, but for the rest of us, the closest thing is John Waters taking the piss out of “Night of the Living Dead” and ending it all with everyone headbutting each other into orgasm just before everyone is covered in one gigantic cumshot, aka “A Dirty Shame”. “A Dirty Shame” is John Waters resurrected. While “Hairspray”, “Crybaby” and “Serial Mom” are great films, they lack the radical hysterical uproar against decency. One thing is making fun at suburbia by having fun not saying the F-word (or the brown word), another thing is having a housewife forcing her husband to “discover the oyster” at 9 am in their car in the middle of their neighbourhood. One thing is having a good soundtrack, another is playing an oldie where they sing “My pussy is wet and sour.” Not since “Polyester” has Waters been so fun to watch. Honestly, who else than Waters would have cameo David Hasselhoff to do nothing but take a shit? It will shock you, it will teach you new ways of play spin the bottle and it will make you feel normal once again.’ — DVD Beaver






p.s. Hey. ** H, Hi. Thank you about the trailer. Well, I can easily restore the Harrington post, but if you want make one, I can just as easily hold off. Thank you very much for offering! ** Tomk, Hi. I thought the excerpt was really exciting. I’m very curious to see where it falls and how it functions within the rest. Thank you! Thanks a lot about the trailer. Well, yes, the extremely carefully modulating of emotional expression is very key and huge in the film work. It’s something we think about fundamentally and work on a lot. We selected the performers mostly based on what they naturally exude, how their emotion gets displayed, how they could and couldn’t contain/control what they were feeling and thinking, and so on. In the auditions, it was mostly a matter of keeping them themselves and curtailing their natural feeling that they should act out what we wanted them to radiate. It was work, but it went very easily. The cast is an amazing bunch of people. I know only the very basics and most outlying info about what’s happening in Peru with Fujimori, etc. It’s not easy to get the details given that the world media seems to think every detail of the Trump nightmare needs 24/7 coverage. Thank you for the Guardian link. I’ll go there. Everyone, the superb writer and dude Tomk has an alert/suggestion: ‘The quipu project is drawing to a close but they released a short with the guardian a little while back. I think it’s still possible to leave a message of support to the sterilised women and men if anyone feels like it but it is closing down soon.’ Timothy Morton … no, I don’t think I know his work at all. Huh. Great, I’ll go collect what I can of his. Thanks, pal! ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I was a lucky dog when I lived in Amsterdam in the mid-80s and was able to catch a stellar line-up gig there: Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Eric B and Rakim, LL Kool J, Grandmaster Flash. I’ll check out the McEntire/Merge stuff, thanks. Well, AFA’s office manager is an extremely cool guy with superb taste, quite clearly. Thanks very much about the trailer. Our producer loves the trailer. It’s one of the film’s sales agents who thought it was too not ‘normal’, but the trailer has gotten such great immediate feedback and buzz that he is coming around to the wisdom of our approach. PGL is in French. We didn’t avoid talking in the trailer to hide that the film is in French, but rather because the film’s dialogue is so interconnected that it doesn’t lend itself to sound bites. I’m curious to read this complicated interview. Everyone, Steve E. has an interview with THE FINAL YEAR director Greg Barker here ** James Nulick, Hi, James. Thanks about the trailer, man. The music in the trailer is by Thomas Brinkmann. It’s one of three pieces of music in the film. All of the music in the film is heard by the characters. I think that’s going to be our rule of thumb when using music in our films from now on — the idea that if the characters can’t hear the music, that’s cheating them. For PGL to plays screens in Seattle would mean it would need a US distributor. I don’t know how that goes, but I’m suspecting PGL might be too odd to get much wide distribution in the US. Well see. Otherwise, it might play at a festival there, or we might arrange a screening there, or at some point it’ll be available for streaming, I’m sure. Love, me. ** Jamie, Hi, pal. I’m good. Snow, sigh. I’m sorry, but lucky you. I feel very deprived of the white stuff here in globally over-warmed winter Paris. The pooh-poohing sales agent seems to be coming around on the trailer because it’s being very well-liked and doing the ‘buzz’ thing that trailers are supposed to do and that he thought it wouldn’t do initially. So I think we’re okay. Friday was swamped by work on the ‘mysterious’ project, writing, meeting with Zac, writing. revising, etc. to get it ready to be sent to Gisele in a few minutes. That was the day in toto, I think. How was the weekend on your lovely end? Ooh, you know the way to my heart with that snow globe thing. If I was a billionaire and just a little more nerdy, I would be among the world’s premiere snow globe collectors. May each flake of that snow falling over you be carrying on its wee back a golden doubloon. Rip-roaring love, Dennis. ** David Ehrenstein, The Cats! Wow, thank you! There is no higher compliment. ** Tosh Berman, Thank you a lot for the good words to Hector. I’ve been forgetting to say that to the people who have praised his post. He did send me a happy email expressing joy at your and others’ great responses. ** Kyle Kirshbom, Hi, Kyle, welcome! Good to meet you! And thanks about my work and the blog. Sure, do you mean sharing your story on the blog as post? I used to do these posts called ‘Writers Workshop’ or something where people from this blog’s ‘community’ shared a piece of their writing for commenter feedback. I haven’t done one of those in a while, and that might be nice. Write to me at, and we’ll figure something out. ** Count Reeshard, Hearty greetings, Count! Thank you for the wonderful post response and the awesome, surprising confession. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Good work there, pal, on the driving lesson. Le Mans, here you come, I swear! ** Bernard, Hi. Super great response with wisdom and scoop to Hector’s post. Thank you, B-man. ** Cal Graves, Hi, Cal! Yes, I saw your email this morning. The post is really great! I’ll probably put it up here sometime next week, and I’ll write to you this weekend with the coordinates. Thanks a whole lot! Cool, thanks, about the trailer. We were hoping. I think one can enter the Cycle with any of the novels and read them in whatever order one wants. The important thing is to know the order because the progressive structure of the Cycle is very important and key to what it is. The structure of the cycle was literally devised over many years before I even started writing it. I made complicated graphs and notes and things in advance until I found an overall structure that was, on the one hand, quite strict but also allowed for a lot of movement and intuitive/spontaneous things within each novel because I also wanted each novel to reflect where I was as a person and where I was as a … thinker/viewer of the material at the time I wrote each novel because I knew I had no idea where I would be in relationship to the material at the time I as writing the successive novels. And it took me a long time to figure out a structure that was strict and overriding, and that predetermined the formal structure that each novel had to follow, but that allowed me a fair amount of freedom within each one in terms of its characters, narrative, style, etc., etc. So, yeah, it was a lengthy process figuring that out for me in the Cycle’s regard. That’s exciting: your thought to break up your novel into a cycle of novels. What are you thinking? What are your thoughts at this point about how to do that and keep the process of writing the cycle vibrant and exciting for you? ** Armando, Hi, A. I’m good, pretty good. Thanks about the trailer. Well, I guess I just don’t feel any need to talk about the WA stuff here. From my side, this isn’t a place to just talk about everything that crosses my mind. This is a place to share things that interest me and respond to what people here want to say in whatever way I want to and can. And I’m not a person who takes pleasure in arguments, and when things get stressful here, it just makes doing the p.s. much harder for me, and it’s already a lot of work as it is. I don’t know, I just thought the new Blade Runner was just a hollow, superficial, fake, excessively drawn out style exercise that wasn’t interesting to me at all. Look, you can talk about the WA here thing if you want, I’m just going to skip that stuff on my end. I have a feeling this weekend’s post is not going to be your favourite post ever. But please, since John is friend and hero of mine, as I told you, try not to tear him to pieces, okay? ** Okay. To those of you who are wondering why there’s not an asterisk after the weekend’s post name, yes, there was a John Waters Day on my dead blog, but, as was the case with the Karen Black Day a while back, that post got complexly mangled and destroyed in the data transfer from Google for whatever reason, so, in fact, this is a brand new John Waters Day, although the law of averages says it probably shares some stuff with the murdered version. I hope you enjoy it. See you on Monday.


  1. Wolf

    Hahahaha Holy Shit Dennis! That PGL trailer! What sick genius put it together? It’s already got my Wolf d’Or for Best Trailer of the year! Fucking love it.

    That was a very cool cigarettes day – great job Hector Bannister and thank you!

    Ah. I was on yesterday’s post again – just found my way to today’s.
    ‘Mmh, I wonder what Dennis put on for the week-end’… YES! John Waters!!
    Oh boy oh boy. Well, it’s hard to think of new or interesting things to say about John Waters, isn’t it? He’s just the perfect embodiment of ‘a wonderful human being in every respect’.
    I’ve always believed Herzog was hilarious and somehow that never seems to be the impression that people have of him but this ‘I realised after 35 years that my dear friend John was gay’ video of him confirms it. The Daddy of Deadpan.
    Oh, speaking of (Herzog), I just saw Embrace of the Serpent, which had a very herzogian quality (as well as many other things), and it was a real winner. This new DVD rental-by-post thing is great, we’re getting brilliant films from there (saw Catch Me Daddy last week, which was also fantastic, and harrowing: I strongly suggest you get hold of it if you have a chance and have not seen it).
    Embrace of the Serpent is shot in B&W and that got me waxing poetic about all the fantastic space that shooting in B&W opens up and how much freedom it allows, and then Marc said you weren’t too crazy about it: is that true? If so, what gives?
    Well, in any case, slithery snake-hugs my friend.

  2. Armando


    “I have a feeling this weekend’s post is not going to be your favourite post ever. But please, since John is friend and hero of mine, as I told you, try not to tear him to pieces, okay?”

    ^ There’s really no need at all for you to ask that of me. I apologized and said I was sorry for everything I said and that I’d have never said it at all to begin with had I known you’re such good friends. You really think I’d post here to insult him after all that? Wow, you must really have a very low opinion/perception of me, not to mention I get the feeling talking to me is like a chore to you… Guess I deserve it, though. Oh well.

    I’m sorry to be so insistent, but, again, you didn’t answer my question about whether or not you’ve seen my email already or not. I really, really needed to know. I’ll just assume the answer is no and that’s that.

  3. Steve Erickson

    Re: Seattle screenings of PGL, I know that the main Seattle Film Festival shows more than 200 films over several weeks, but it has a reputation for being aesthetically conservative. However, there’s another festival called Seattle Truly Independent Film Festival (STIFF). I don’t know how many foreign-language features they show, but I’m on their mailing list because I submitted a short to them, even they rejected it.

    I am listening to the Brandi Carlile album and trying to write a rough draft of a review, but it’s a chore because this is so mediocre even though I like a few songs. Writing about music I dislike is torturous, and I knew almost nothing about her except that she’s lesbian and I liked the first single from this album, “The Joke,” when I pitched this to Gay City News. This is like a mix of Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, k. d.. lang, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow, but unfortunately closest to the latter two, and Carlile never heard a bombastic piano/strings/backing vocals arrangement she didn’t love, as though she’s trying to drown out her own vocals and guitar. (There are a lot of strings on H.C. McEntire’s album, and she has a somewhat similar aesthetic, but they are arranged a lot more tastefully.)

    Tonight, I’m seeing MOM AND DAD, a sci-fi/horror film about a 24-hour plague that makes parents want to kill their children directed by Brian Taylor (one half of the team behind the awesome CRANK movies). It stars Nicolas Cage in a reportedly totally bugfuck performance, and theorist Steven Shaviro loves it. I can’t wait.

  4. David Ehrenstein

    A film festival is the best launching pad for PGL stateside. Making films is easy these days. Distributing them is getting increasingly impossible. I was talking about this the other night with Willem DaFoe. I asked him about Abel Ferrara’s “Pasolini”. He’s very proud of it but like so many of Abel’s films it hasn’t found a U.S. venue. Not even on cable!
    As I said in my rave of “Hairspray” (which appears in “Playing the Third String”) John Waters is a National Treasure. He completely erases “High” and “Low” cultural distinctions. His ability to find actors in places n one would look (Divine, Edith Massey, Mink Stole) is matched by his skill at working with “pros” (Johnny Depp, Kathleen Turner, Tab Hunter) He’s more than a writer-director or “personality. He’s an entire sensibility. Whenever anything “Big” happens my first thought is what John Waters might have to say about it.
    I’m on one of the special features of the “Cry-Baby” DVD, btw.

    • Steve Erickson

      I don’t know what happened with Ferrara and US distribution. He seemed to be doing fairly well in the ’90s until THE BLACKOUT and NEW ROSE HOTEL (coincidentally, I believe this was the peak of his drug problems.) Since then, he’s been cursed and with the exception of 4:44 LAST NIGHT ON EARTH, I think all his releases in NYC have been one- or two-week runs at non-profit venues like Anthology and BAM. For a while, Showtime constantly showed the edited version of WELCOME TO New York, which he’s disowned, but why can’t IFC Films issue a DVD/Blu-Ray of his cut? PASOLINI is now 4 years old and remains undistributed. I hope he has better luck with his documentary about Rome, which premiered at last year’s New York Film Festival.

  5. Count Reeshard

    A wonderfully revivified John Waters Day, this post. Part of me thinks that JW, like any noisy precocious brat (an analogy that I’m certain Mr. Waters would confirm), has already received far more attention than he deserves . And, more, that his filmmaking career might be viewed in hindsight as the steeping stone to a loftier goal, that of JW’s path to becoming an inexhaustibly quotable, pop-savvy Quentin Crisp for the present day. Certainly, whenever JW got off an especially good quip in the filmed stage presentation ‘This Filthy Life,’ one sensed his satisfaction at a well-rehearsed line, delivered as extemporaneous thought, landing well. Those who knew Crisp well commented on a comparable sub-text to the latter’s bon mots. But what kind of party-poodle-pooper would I be to deny the joy that most of his films have given me and so many others? ‘Pink Flamingos’ manifested concurrently with the Glam era, the only subculture I truly felt comfortable within — both film & sartorial/musical movement devoted to shoveling dirt on the whole bogus (& badly attired) hippie thang’s grave in the early ’70s. Mr. Water’s essays are great fun as well and continue to reward multiple visits. He certainly spurred my interest in Baltimore with lurid, frightening descriptions of Fell’s Point bars. A dirty shame that gentrification has erased much of the fun Baltimore of his youth…but today’s NY Times tells me that the Charm City’s murder rate is through the roof at present, so perhaps not all is lost. Again, thanks for the memories D.C.. Now, on to mounting this evening’s episode of ‘No Condition Is Permanent.’ Anon, R.

    • Count Reeshard

      P.S. Whoever thought to have Mr. Waters provide the commentary track accompanying ‘Mommy Dearest”s DVD release was a genius and should be awarded one of those goofy MacArthur grants. And not just for the obvious camp connection — JW says much that is sensible about a film whose reputation has been twisted and inflated beyond recognition since the week of its release. “I think the drag queens felt manipulated.” Fantastic.

  6. Armando


    Hey, George,

    I sent you this through twitter; maybe you didn’t see it:

    Take care,

    Good day; good luck,


    • Misanthrope

      Armando, I had another friend send it to me too, so I saw it. Like I told Dennis, I see a young guy getting pressured into things and trying to make everyone happy. I think it’s really unfair. I saw CMBYN again last night and like it even more now. I know your feelings about it regarding Chalamet’s thing with his salary, but I still think it’s something you’d enjoy.

      Frankly, if he were to come out and say anything less than “I believe Dylan 100%,” he’d never work again. Totally fucked up.

      • Armando

        Hey, George,

        I actually do wonder what John Waters (a life-long Woody fan) thinks of all this insanity…

        I’m torn about ‘CMBYN’. Part of me does want to see it, but a very, very big part of me, the one who loves and adores and worships *WOODY* and is EXTREMELY grateful for *EVERYTHING* he’s given us/me and has done so and felt that way for over a decade and a half now is very very very angry towards this actor and sees the act of seeing that movie as a betrayal and wants to boycott anything and everything he does (I mean I grew up watching the *MARVELOUS* *WOODY* movies and I obviously know he’s innocent (OK, 99.99% sure)!!!).

        I apologize if this sounds too insane.

        Best regards,


        • Misanthrope

          Armando, It does not sound insane. I get it. Like I said, I really think this is a young guy who’s very new to fame who is getting pressured all over to do something he probably wouldn’t otherwise do. Maybe if he were a more established actor he’d stand up and talk about these things in a way he probably really feels. But if he does nothing, he’s toast. He knows that.

          Look at how Matt Damon was excoriated for saying, “And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

          Suddenly, he’s the worst person in the world. He’s more equipped to deal with it, though. Mr. Chalamet, having just turned 22, really isn’t.

          But yeah, as far as seeing the movie, it’s your choice. Though I wonder, will you watch “A Rainy Day in New York” when/if it comes out? It’s a Woody movie but stars Chalamet. That’s a tough one, no?

          (It seems it won’t be released in theaters now, maybe just straight to Video on Demand or something. I think that’s fucked up.)

          • Armando

            Hey, George,

            “Look at how Matt Damon was excoriated for saying, “And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

            Suddenly, he’s the worst person in the world. He’s more equipped to deal with it, though. Mr. Chalamet, having just turned 22, really isn’t.”

            ^ I know; it’s disgusting and makes me so fucking angry. Love Matt.

            “will you watch “A Rainy Day in New York” when/if it comes out? It’s a Woody movie but stars Chalamet. That’s a tough one, no?”

            ^ No, not really at all. You said, it’s a *WOODY* movie; so that automatically means I *WILL* see it (if it’s released at all in any way). I mean, I haven’t stopped seeing any of the more than 10 movies he made with the cunting evil lying witch at all. That’s no problem for me at all. If it’s *WOODY* I’ll see and love it.

            “maybe just straight to Video on Demand or something. I think that’s fucked up.)”

            ^ Totally fucked up and insane and stupid and deranged and unfair and hypocritical, but what you gonna do, right?…

            All the best,


          • Armando

            I also think it’s very curious how people seem to have totally forgotten about spacey; who *IS* guilty… I wonder if it’s because all his victims were males…

  7. Ferdinand

    John Waters for president! I just love listning to the man talk and his artwork is also pretty cool. Great sence of humour.
    I asked a graphic designer whos artpiece I thought really fit with a short story of mine, if I could use it as the cover of a short story collection when I complete one in the future and after a long time and one more try he said yes. I got some work to do.

  8. Have ANiceLife

    Y’know, almost no-one my age has actually seen a John Waters film (or has seen bits of crybaby and not known it was him), and mostly know him as that guy with the pervert moustache who was on the Simpsons once. Weird. They’re missing out, obviously, though I imagine a lot of them wouldn’t “get” most of it, even if they did see his stuff.

  9. Kyler

    Hi Dennis, I love the sense of humor in John talking about coming out, tops and bottoms, etc. I totally relate. That video gave me big smiles. I never had to come out either…it was all very natural for me. But then I’ve always enjoyed being weird or different, so in high school I liked being gay (while I was screwing a girlfriend at the same time ). I was glad when he listed LCTG as one of his favorites. My one Jewish boyfriend I ever had (we were in Fiddler on the Roof together – he played Motel, the tailor, and I was Mendel, the Rabbi’s son) – named his dog Divine after Divine. I used to enjoy saying, “I went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine!” – and every time I said it, the dog swirled her head at me, hearing her name. My own personal memory of Divine. But ya had to be there, I guess.

  10. Bill

    Great to see John Waters renewed, Dennis. I still have to see Cecil B. Demented and Dirty Shame.

    You probably know this already, but Waters organizes a little weekend indie rock festival every summer in Oakland. I still haven’t been able to make one, but the lineups are always fun.

    That’s a mighty fine trailer for PGL! Hope it comes this way soon. Any bites from the SF Cinematheque guys?


  11. Cal Graves

    Hey Dennis,

    Yeah! John Waters! I love JW. Maybe one of my favorite people on the planet.

    That’s reassuring to know it took a long time to reach that structure re: the Cycle. I never actually read them in the intended order (of course knowing about the structure) which i’ve found to be fun/enlightening in its way. Lately when I work on my project i’ve felt daunted, preemptively exhausted by what I want to do with the overall thing. I set out with it being a long long novel broken into five sections, each representing a phase in the main character’s progression. Now im considering breaking those sections into stand-alones to allow for the same type of spontaneity that you were speaking of for the Cycle. I wanna have fun w the thing overall instead of it being this giant fucking opus. My main concern is how to handle the plot: the main character, Poz, has a direct deliberate goal and im not sure how to convert that into a cycle. How did you approach George as a character? that might help. idk. this is hella ramblingy. the project is very driven by torturing/following Poz thru epiphany.

    I keep thinking about the ending of Period. it felt like falling, slowly like the speed of a lazy elevator.

    thank you so much for your advice and help. Talking/Rambling this out helps a lot.


  12. h

    Dennis, I don’t think I saw your post on Mr. Waters before, so it’s very resourceful and nice. Thank you. Were (and/or are) you very close to him? I admire his work and cultural presence and supportive commentaries on fellow filmmakers.

    Things have been a little stressful here, but I’m entering a good kind of fuzzy state for working, so it’s good. I couldn’t manage to travel, but no complaint. I hope we will have snow soon though. Snowed streets are medicinal for me — strange, maybe? Please keep us posted about everything in the festival.

  13. tomk

    Hey Dennis,
    Great John Water’s day, I’ve seen a fair few of his films and they never fail to crack me up but there’s significant gaps in my knowledge that I should attend to i.e Pink Flamingoes etc.

    The Fujomori pardon…in a nutshell..there’s a huge corruption scandal spreading throughout latin America about a construction firm called Odebrecht who bribed many, many high ranking officials in Brazil, Peru, Chile…other places too. Keiko Fujimori is also under investigation for taking money but it doesn’t seem to have affected her too much. Go figure. Anyway PPK lied about having associated with Odebrecht in the past. Odebrecht said that they knew each other but hadn’t done anything illegal. Which is maybe significant because his testimony in regards to other politicians since he has been caught has very much been: ‘I gave them X for Y’. Anyway, the congress (dominated by Fujimoristas) went into overdrive claiming PPK was unfit to be president. Within a single week an impeachment vote was put together that would have opened the door to the presidency to Keiko and a narco state. BUT…. it seems that PPK did a deal with Kenji (Keiko’s brother…they allegedly don’t get along) to have their father released in return from abstaining from the vote and allowing PPK to continue as president. Now it seems Kenji, who is also a drug trafficking criminal, is going to run for president next election. PPK has lost all respect, has no power and the country is pretty bitterly divided. It’s like a telenovela but all too sadly real.

    Timothy Morton…i really can’t recommend it enough, he’s kind of related to the OOO philosophers but doing something different with it. He’s immensely entertaining to read as well i think even when occasionally the stuff doesn’t fully hang together maybe.

  14. Wolf

    Wait wait Dennis! One last thing. Do you have a numbered and signed print of JW’s wonderful boundary-crossing, genre-(re)defining, paradigm-shifting masterpiece ‘MY ASS IS HAUNTED’ in your flat? Enquiring minds want to know. For, truly my friend, nary has a 4-words-sequence ever seemed so Cooperesque both in scope and design.

  15. Thomas Moronic

    Dennis – Hey! Hope all is good with you. What a thoroughly lovely tribute to one of the coolest people on the planet. My love of John Waters knows no bounds, as I guess you know already. Cool to see a bunch of his non-film art on display as well, which I love. His London show in 2015 was a total beauty. It had a load of his sculptures and then the screening of Kiddie Flamingos. Obsession worthy as ever. I love him. Thanks for putting it together.

    The PGL trailer is so good! Jeez!!!

  16. Jamie

    Bonjour, mon ami!
    My first proper encounter with JW came when I woke up one evening after having ingested lots of ecstasy the previous night. I turned on the tv and there was this film which so perfectly matched the mangled state of my mind it was like meeting a lifelong friend for the first time. It was Serial Mom and I have indeed loved John Waters ever since. I think Pecker might by my favourite of his films, cos it’s so charming. Also, I love whenever I find a list of his fave books. He’s pointed me in the direction of some of the greatest things I’ve read and seems to have impeccable taste. Great post, thank you.
    How was your weekend? It’s been snowing like crazy here. We went out for a walk in the local park today and it was crazy beautiful. Apart from that I’ve been writing and staring out the window.
    For a Writing Gang prize I bought a little snowglobe that you can insert an image of your choice within. So not as good as some lovely ornate landscape inside, but I am going to buy one for every single one of my friend’s upcoming birthdays, with a suitable pic stuck inside. Damn, I could’ve got you a Bresson one. Next year.
    May your Monday contain a beautiful blizzard.
    Sequined love,

  17. David Ehrenstein

    Latest FaBlog: Penis Uber Alles

  18. Sypha

    It seems I’ve read a lot of John Waters interviews over the years but I’ve yet to see one of his films. Weird, no? One of these days… he certainly seems like quite a character.

    I did manage to drag my disintegrating carcass to the movies this weekend (and as you know, I don’t go to the theaters very often) to catch “Call Me by Your Name.” I know it isn’t too popular in these parts but I don’t know, I liked it… maybe I’m just easily pleased or something. Like Misa I’ve jumped on the Timothee Train, though unlike him I’m not claiming he’s my boyfriend, ha ha. There were only 15 people in the theater (well, it was 12:50 in the afternoon), mostly older married couples, though a few teenage girls as well. Later on my mom asked me if she’d like it. I told her there were some racy bits, to which she replied she wasn’t a nun! But it’s true, I mean a typical episode of “Game of Thrones” is much more explicit and she’s seen all of those… I didn’t tell her about the peach-fucking scene, though, ha ha. Dennis, I think I can hear you sticking your fingers down your throat at this point, so I’ll clam up now!

    I recently finished reading the new Denis Johnson collection. I liked it. It’s sad to think he won’t have any new books coming out from this point on, though.

    • Steve Erickson

      I know I’m a weirdo, because I find Michael Stuhlbarg way more attractive than either Chalamet or Hammer. And he’s pretty close to my own age and ethnicity, for whatever that’s worth.

  19. _Black_Acrylic

    I’m a longtime JW fan so this Day is manna. He gave a talk in Edinburgh for a festival that screened This Filthy World and I asked him a Q in the Q&A, something about how trash is now an acceptable part of pop culture so where do we go from here… and his reply was effortlessly charming IIRC.

    The weekend’s Yuck ‘n Yum meeting with the Generator was delayed as Hari from their committee lives in Fife and she’s completely snowed in. We’re having some severe weather in Scotland and I hope it’ll not disrupt our Compendium plans too much. Anyhow we’re doing Wednesday instead now, and more on this story as it develops.

  20. James Nulick


    How was MOM AND DAD ??

    I’m visiting friends of mine in Phoenix this weekend, first time I’ve been back in 4 years, since I moved to Seattle. Phoenix is a spooky town, but at least it’s winter here right now.

    My friends Victoria and Miguel, both of whom I’ve known since forever, have two teenagers, a 14 yo girl and a 16yo boy. Known them their whole lives. Me and the son were in his room watching dumb videos for hours. He edits these videos on his computer to death metal bands like MIW.. I was cracking up at his cruising around picking up hookers and killing them in a badass Impala videos that he makes with some kind of PS software..

    Always good to be around friends to remind you that life isn’t always horrible.

    Much love to you Dennis, just wanted to say hello!


    • Steve Erickson


      I had an emergency with my toilet Saturday night and couldn’t get out to see MOM AND DAD then. I now plan to see it Monday evening.

      • James Nulick


        Oh no Steve, I sincerely hope your toilet issue has been resolved. Nothing like the failure of plumbing to remind us that, at any time, we’re just a moment away from chaos.

  21. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Yay! John Waters!

    We got through 14 of the 20 pages of tables Friday in a couple hours. If this shutdown continues, I won’t be able to go into work and won’t get paid. Just like last time. Because my group of contractors isn’t deemed “essential” -our supervisor tried to get us deemed as such, but the higher-ups said no way- we won’t get paid retroactively either. Even if it last 2 weeks again, I’ll be okay. No worries.

    Emergency dental appointment at 7 a.m. Monday. I might’ve already said that.

    The Senate is supposed to have another vote at 1 a.m. tonight. If it passes and Trump signs it (I’m sure he’ll be up then, hahaha), then I’ll just go into work after my appointment and get paid for the whole day (by using a few hours of leave).

    Of course, if this thing lasts, I’ll be writing furiously.

  22. Bernard

    It’s so great to see all this–and recognize how much more there is. Like Herzog says, “He’s the boldest of the bold of filmmakers.” I think John Waters is to our age what Oscar Wilde was to his, and we need his sensibility really badly, when we’re just drowning in self-important, self-justifying good intentions and responsible art. “I think art for the people is a terrible idea.” It’s so simple. I kind of take Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented as the masterpieces.
    We actually went to the John Waters Christmas show this year. It was very, very weird. He was saying stuff that outraged people, yeah, but it was perfectly sensible; just seeing through the regular bullshit of American life. It was one of those things where people could laugh at this trashing of their values–with the sanctity of Christmas at the center of it all–so they could pretend they were in on the joke.
    One of my favorite JW stories: When he was on Fresh Air once, talking about how terrible and dishonest mainstream American movies were, Terry Gross pressed him to give some examples. He said, “I work with these people!” But she pressed on, playfully, and finally he said, “OK, ‘Shaving Ryan’s Privates.'” And it was obvious it was completely unintentional. (I’ve done the same thing; I end up referring to “Bareback Mountain.”) He had to explain to her how pornos parody titles of popular films like “Saving Private Ryan.” Then he said, kind of under his breath, “Actually, ‘Shaving Ryan’s Privates’ was probably a better film.”

    Bob Smith died yesterday, and lots of people including me were hit pretty hard by it. He was the very openly gay stand-up comic to appear on the Tonight Show and also to have an HBO comedy special; he wrote funny books and contributed to a bunch of TV series; he was an incredibly sweet and generous and supportive guy, and since the early Bush administration, he was kind of bursting with rage about the terrible direction Americans and their government were going in, and it showed in his comic writing. About 12 years ago, he developed ALS–Lou Gehrig’s Disease–being a comic, he said, “But I don’t even like baseball!”–and his physical powers deteriorated badly, but for years he continued writing, controlling a laptop even when he was almost entirely immobilized. People who know me can find something I wrote about him on my FB page. He always meant a lot to me.

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