John Waters Thinks "Face-Lifts Are the New Horror"

John Waters, "Beverly Hills John," 2012 C-print Image 30 x 20 inches, Framed: 36 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches, 92.7 x 67.3 cm, Edition of 5.
John Waters, "Beverly Hills John," 2012 C-print Image 30 x 20 inches, Framed: 36 1/2 x 26 1/2 inches, 92.7 x 67.3 cm, Edition of 5.
Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York © John Waters. Photo credit: Jason Wyche

In 2007, the legendary "Pope of Filth" curated a masterpiece with his mi tape A Date With John Waters. It features such amorous tunes as Mink Stole's "Sometimes I Wish I Had a Gun" and Josie Cotton's "Johnny Are You Queer?" Given that the director, artist, writer, comedic genius, and friend of fantastic freaks has a sense of humor about romance, it's only fitting that he performs his one-man show, This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier, on Valentine's Day at Shock Pop Comic Con in Fort Lauderdale. Waters will also be signing his new best-selling book about hitchhiking America, Carsick, for which he was nominated for a Grammy. The event will also feature appearances by such frightening villains as Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (Robert Englund) and the bodacious but bloodcurdling babe Elvira.

Valentine's Day is also the final day Waters' art show "Beverly Hills John" will be exhibiting at New York's Marianne Boesky Gallery. The show offers a brilliant take on celebrity, including the arresting photoshopped image of Waters (above) with a hideous face-lift. Waters spoke with us about all that he's been up to and his excitement about attending a horror convention. And don't worry; this conversation won't make you wish you had a gun. Though we do wish we hadn't forgotten to ask a little something about heroine extraordinaire Tracy Turnblad.

New Times: You were just in Miami for the book fair. When I was reading Carsick, I wondered the process you underwent writing it. Did you take notes on the road?

John Waters: I thought up the fictional parts, the best and the worst, before I even left. I'm glad I did, because once I did the trip, I could have never imagined it fictionally, because I knew what it was like. You can only have a fantasy, good or bad, about what it's going to be if you haven't done it yet, I think.

I had a tape recorder with me. When I got out of the car, I would record everything I remembered about it, whatever thoughts I had while I was waiting there. I did tell everyone what I was doing. But I didn't want to take out a tape recorder. I just wanted get them to talk. Half the people just thought I was a crazy homeless person who believed he was a director who was writing a book.

People were fun! Anybody who picks up a hitchhiker wants to talk. And I didn't identify them by name unless they were in [the band] Here We Go Magic, everyone knew who they were, and they had tweeted something about it. I didn't put anyone's name in it.

There was nothing anybody had to hide, really.

In the prologue, you included some examples of wild hitchhiking friend dates you did. How did you decide which to put in?

I did include Patty Hearst, and I did include some of my hitchhiking dates.

I can just imagine them being so wild...

The ones you're referring to are my art dealer. I did it with a lot of different people. Some that are not famous. I did it with Kembra Pfahler, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black; she was quite something to hitchhike with.

That was who I was thinking of, because she looks crazy.

She always looks like that. She's not like Elvira, who's like Superman and puts on the character, and she's completely unrecognizable kind of in real life. It's the best kind of fame; you can put it on or take it off!

And you'll be with Elvira at Shock Pop.

I've been to horror conventions a lot. People say, how come? I say, I always wanted to be Vincent Price. Even when Vincent Price was alive, I did talk to him before, and he was great, very supportive. I would jokingly say I wanted his career, and in some ways, a little bit, I do have it. And people say. "Why do a horror convention?" And my standard answer is, "My mother thought all of my movies were horrible -- ask her!"

Is there a horror convention circuit? Do you see the same people?

I've never been a speaker at a horror convention before, but I've been before. It's great. Last time, I was involved with one of the people who did the Chainsaw Massacre. You get to meet people you've always wanted to meet.

And you're doing This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier on Valentine's Day?

It's perfect to spend Valentine's Day at a horror convention. Lots of tattoos and Bettie Page bangs. I think it'll be a perfect Valentine's Day.

I've seen you a few times, when you filmed the first This Filthy World and last time you were in Fort Lauderdale. Is this the first "Filthier and Dirtier"?

I was thinking "Filthier and More Horrible," since it's a horror convention. I'm constantly updating my show. From the original which came out on DVD ten years ago, I don't think one joke is the same in it anymore. I will have jokes in this one that I haven't done before, especially related to horror shows.

Do you have a horror Valentine's Day story yourself?

I always used to give whoever I was in love with a chicken heart wrapped in a little box, and I thought it was lovely. The people who I liked got it and were flattered.

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I wanted to ask about the exhibition "Beverly Hills John" and that image in it of the fake face-lift.

It's horrifying.

Do people think it's real?

How do you know it's fake? You haven't seen me since Fort Lauderdale!

I don't think too many people think it's real. The show is about investigating what you have to do constantly to reinvent yourself. There's also a picture of Justin Bieber and Lassie with extreme face-lifts. I guess what I am saying is, face-lifts are the new horror. But the people who get them are successful because they don't look old; they just don't look human. They don't care as long as they don't look old.

 

How do you feel like your aesthetic has changed over the years -- making art and making movies?

Making art is completely separate. I've been doing shows since 1994, so it's a bit of a long time, and I have four art books. I've kept it separate because I think the art world is separate. What I address in the show now is, the only obscenity left in the art world is celebrity. So since I bring a certain amount of that with me, I tried to humorously address that in the show.

And I also have the Kiddie Flamingo video, which is an art piece, not a movie. Maybe that's a horror film to some, children reenacting Pink Flamingos; and it's completely innocent because it's been rewritten to be a G-rated movie.

Whose kids did you use?

Just like my accountant's friends, people that were not professionals, friends of friends. They auditioned and stuff. They were great. They had a little cast screening for them, and they liked it. They've obviously not seen Pink Flamingos and certainly shouldn't for at least another decade at least. They don't know what the original is, but the audience generally does. Which makes it weird and uncomfortable yet completely innocent.

A couple of years ago, speaking of celebrity, you said, "Reality TV has ruined bad taste." Have you gotten into any reality shows since?

No, I don't believe there is such a thing as a reality TV show star. I don't think any of them can be called a real star. To me, that violates what stardom is.

I'm offended that they're asking the audience to make fun of these people and look down on them. I think I do the opposite, in my work; I hope to elevate weird taste and weird people so that we look up to them. Reality TV generally asks you to feel superior to the people. But who's the dumb one? They're getting paid, and you're wasting your time.

I genuinely liked Honey Boo Boo.

The idea of it is fine. I never saw it, but I knew who she was. Good for her, like a little redneck Shirley Temple.

John Waters performs This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier, at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 14, $75 admission, at Shock Pop Comic Con, which takes place from February 13 to 15, Friday from 2 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $30 for Friday and Saturday, $25 for Sunday and $60 for a weekend pass. Visit shockpopcc.com.

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