John Waters (filmmaker): Wikis


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John Waters

Waters at the 2008 premiere of Squeezebox!
Born John Samuel Waters, Jr.
April 22, 1946 (1946-04-22) (age 63)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Occupation Film director, producer, actor and screenwriter

John Samuel Waters, Jr. (born April 22, 1946) is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, journalist, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. Waters's 1970s and early '80s trash films feature his regular troupe of actors known as Dreamlanders—among them Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Edith Massey—often committing cinematic crimes. Starting with Desperate Living (1977), Waters began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patricia Hearst) and infamous people (Traci Lords, a former porn star).

Waters skirted mainstream filmmaking with Hairspray (1988), which introduced Ricki Lake and earned a modest gross of $8 million domestically. In 2002, Hairspray was adapted to a long-running Broadway musical, which itself was adapted to a hit musical film which earned more than $200 million worldwide. After the crossover success of the original film version of Hairspray, Waters's films began featuring familiar actors and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Edward Furlong, Melanie Griffith, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Kathleen Turner and Tracey Ullman.

Although he has apartments in New York City, San Francisco and a summer home in Provincetown, Waters still mainly resides in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, where all his films are set. He is recognizable by his trademark pencil-thin moustache, a look he has retained since the early 1970s.


Early life

Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Patricia Ann (née Whitaker) and John Samuel Waters, who was a manufacturer of fire-protection equipment.[1 ] Waters grew up in Lutherville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. His boyhood friend and muse Glenn Milstead, later known as Divine, also lived in Baltimore County, Maryland, a short distance away.

The movie Lili inspired an interest in puppets in the seven-year-old Waters, who proceeded to stage violent versions of Punch and Judy for children's birthday parties. Biographer Robert L. Pela says that Waters's mother believes the puppets in Lili had the greatest influence on Waters's subsequent career (though Pela believes tacky films at a local drive-in, which the young Waters watched from a distance through binoculars, had a greater effect).[2]

Waters attended Calvert Hall College High School in nearby Towson. For his sixteenth birthday, Waters received an 8mm movie camera from his maternal grandmother, Stella Whitaker.

Early career

John Waters at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

His first short film was Hag in a Black Leather Jacket. According to Waters, the film was shown only once in a "beatnik coffee house" in Baltimore, although in later years he has included it in his traveling photography exhibit.

Waters enrolled at New York University (NYU). The school, however, was not what Waters had in mind:

NYU...I was there for about five minutes. I don't know what I was thinking about. I went to one class and they kept talking about Potemkin and that isn't what I wanted to talk about. I had just gone to see Olga's House of Shame. That was what I was more into.

Waters has credited his influences among others as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman. He has stated that he takes an equal amount of joy and influence from high-brow "art" films and sleazy exploitation films: "I love Bergman and I Dismember Mama".

In January 1966, Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the grounds of NYU; he was soon kicked out of his NYU dormitory. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he completed his next two short films Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup.[1 ] These were followed by the feature length Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs.

Waters's films would become Divine's primary star vehicles. All of Waters's early films were all shot in the Baltimore area with his company of local actors, the Dreamlanders. In addition to Divine, the group included Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Susan Walsh, and others. These early films were among the first picked up for distribution by the fledgling New Line Cinema. Waters's films premiered at the Baltimore Senator Theatre and sometimes at the Charles Theatre.

Waters's early campy movies present filthily lovable characters in outrageous situations with hyperbolic dialogue. Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living, which he labeled the Trash Trilogy, pushed hard at the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship. A particularly notorious scene from Pink Flamingos, simply added as a non sequitur to film's end, featured—in one continuous take without special effects—a small dog defecating and Divine eating its feces.

Move towards the mainstream

Waters in New York City.

Waters's 1981 film Polyester starred Divine opposite former teen idol Tab Hunter. Since then, his films have become less controversial and more mainstream, although works such as Hairspray, Cry-Baby, Serial Mom, Pecker and Cecil B. DeMented still retain his trademark inventiveness. The film Hairspray was turned into a hit Broadway musical which swept the 2003 Tony Awards, and a movie adaptation of the Broadway musical was released in theaters on July 20, 2007.

Waters's 2004 film, the NC-17-rated A Dirty Shame, is a return to his earlier, more controversial work of the 1970s. He had a cameo in Jackass: Number Two, which starred Dirty Shame co-star Johnny Knoxville and another small role as Paparazzo Pete Peters in 2004's "Seed of Chucky".

In 2007, he became the host (as "The Groom Reaper") of 'Til Death Do Us Part, a program on America's Court TV network featuring dramatizations of real-life marriages that soured and ended in murder. As an openly gay man, Waters is an avid supporter of gay rights and gay pride.[3]

Waters has been known to create characters with alliterated names for his movies including Bo-Bo Belsinger, Corny Collins, Donald Dasher, Donna Dasher, Dawn Davenport, David Divine, Fat Fuck Frank, Francine Fishpaw, Link Larkin, Mona Malnorowski, Motormouth Maybelle, Mole McHenry, Penny Pingleton, Prudy Pingleton, Ramona Rickettes, Sandy Sandstone, Sheriff Shitface, Sylvia Stickles, Sandra Sullivan, Todd Tomorrow, Tony The Tickler, Tracy Turnblad, Ursula Udders, Wade Walker, and Wanda Woodward.

Other interests

Puffing constantly on a cigarette, Waters appeared in a short film shown in movie art houses announcing that "no smoking" is permitted in the theatres. This short spot was filmed by Waters for the Nuart Theatre (a Landmark Theater) in West Los Angeles, California, in appreciation to the theater for showing Pink Flamingos for many years. It is shown immediately before one of his movies, and before the Midnight movie showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

He played a minister in Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, which was directed by one of his idols, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and is a sequel to one of his favorite exploitation films.

In 2009, he advocated the parole of former Manson family member Leslie Van Houten. He plans to devote a chapter to Van Houten in his upcoming book "Role Models" to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2010.[4][5][6]

Recurring cast members

Waters often casts certain actors/actresses more than once in his films.

Actor Mondo Trasho (1969) Multiple Maniacs (1970) Pink Flamingos (1972) Female Trouble (1974) Desperate Living (1977) Polyester (1981) Hairspray (1988) Cry-Baby (1990) Serial Mom (1994) Pecker (1998) Cecil B. Demented (2000) A Dirty Shame (2004)
Divine X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Patricia Hearst X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Ricki Lake X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
David Lochary X markN X markN X markN X markN
Traci Lords X markN X markN
Susan Lowe X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Edith Massey X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Cookie Mueller X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Mary Vivian Pearce X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Mink Stole X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN
Susan Walsh X markN X markN X markN X markN
Channing Wilroy X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN X markN











Other appearances

Documentary appearances


Waters has published collections of his writings including:

  • Shock Value (1981)
  • Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters (1987, Revised Edition 2003)
  • Trash Trio: Three Screenplays: Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Flamingos Forever (1988)
  • Art: A Sex Book (2003) (with Bruce Hainley)
  • Hairspray, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs: Three More Screenplays (2005)

Waters has published collections of his photos including:

  • Director's Cut (1997)
  • John Waters: Change of Life (2004)
  • Unwatchable (2006)

Fine art

Since the early 1990s, Waters has been making photo-based artwork and installations that have been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums. In 2004, the New Museum in NYC presented a retrospective of his artwork curated by Marvin Heiferman and Lisa Phillips. His most recent exhibition was "Rear Projection" in April, 2009, at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles.

Waters’s pieces are often comical, such as Rush (2009), a super-sized, tipped-over bottle of poppers (nitrite inhalants) and Hardy Har (2006), a photograph of flowers that squirts water at anyone who traverses a taped line on the floor. Waters has characterized his art as conceptual, saying that “the craft is not the issue here. The idea is. And the presentation."[8]

Other works


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to John Waters article)

From Wikiquote

John Samuel Waters, Jr. (born April 22, 1946) is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, personality, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. He is recognizable by his pencil-thin mustache.



  • Animal rights acitivists always say to me, "How could you kill a chicken for a movie?" Well, I eat chicken and I know the chicken didn't land on my plate from a heart attack. We bought the chicken from a farmer who advertised freshly killed chicken. I think we made the chicken's life better. It got to be in a movie, it got fucked, and then right after filming the next take, the cast ate the chicken!
    • From the Pink Flamingos DVD interview


Mondo Trasho (1969)

Divine: Oh Mary! Oh Holy Trinity! Oh God! It isn't easy being Divine!

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Lady Divine: Oh, think of it, Mink. We can perform extreme unction nationwide - Ronald Reagan and his family, the entire Baltimore Police Department, and Barbra Streisand!

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Crackers: No one sends you a turd and expects to live!


Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste (1981)

  • To me, bad taste is what entertainment is all about. If someone vomits while watching one of my films, it's like getting a standing ovation. But one must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste.
  • To understand bad taste one must have very good taste.
  • [I] pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value.
  • "How could you think of such awful things?" liberal critics always ask. "How else could I possibly amuse myself?" I always wonder.
  • Life is nothing without a good sense of humor.
  • I'll never be able to do a sequel to Pink Flamingos because it would have to end with Divine taking a shit and the dog eating it.
  • Parents should worry if their children haven't been arrested by the time they turn sixteen. Being a juvenile delinquent is a birthright and as much a part of healthy adolescence as smoking cigarettes or getting pimples.
  • I'd never trust anyone who hadn't spent at least one night of his youth in the local jail. The more hell you raise as a teen-ager, the sweeter your memories will be.
  • I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore... It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay. No one moves here.
  • I stopped taking drugs when I realized that pot smelled bad and LSD trips were becoming like TV reruns. I had had enough inner journeys — I felt I knew myself well enough, thank you.
  • All people look better under arrest.
  • Going to a sensational murder trial is the only way I can relax.
  • Cheer up. You never know — maybe something awful will happen tomorrow.


  • Waters might, once upon a time, have been a candidate to be the American Buñuel, especially when he had the raw hatred of Divine under his command...
    • David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002, ISBN 0-375-41128-3.

See also

External links

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