Sensory Deprivation

Who would have even thought eighteen years ago, while I was making an insane home movie with my friends in a field, that I’d still be talking about Pink Flamingos today? I’d certainly never imagined touring Japan with it, as I did a few years back, marveling at that country’s censorship. Used to hassling over the “chicken fuck” and “dog shit” scenes with bluenoses everywhere, I was shocked to find these were okay. The only thing illegal was the showing of any pubic hair. Imagine my surprise at seeing the optical Japanese “bouncing ball” superimposed over every nude crotch in the film. Now the film was even dirtier and better than before.

Life imitates “art”? I hope not—for a while I needlessly worried over the similarities between a recent Philadelphia mass murderer and his “pit” of torture, and one of the most hideous scenes in Pink Flamingos, which it so closely resembled. Amazingly, someone seriously approached me about turning the film into an opera (still in the works), I never would have guessed that some scenes (the artificial insemination) would even offend me as I grew older. Who knows, this picture seems to  have a life of its own—maybe one day, not too far off, we’ll see Pink Flamingos on network TV.

And yes, for the thousandth time, for the millionth, for the trillionth time, Divine really did eat dog shit at the end of the film. You’ve eaten shit too without realizing it: four years of college, ass-kissing jobs—we’ve all done it at one time or another in our lives. Divine was young, he was a trouper, and he was a professional—what more can I say? It was a touch of surrealism, maybe even a little magic in our young lives. 

From the Introduction to Trash Trio: Three Screenplays by John Waters 


Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters

John Waters

Fifteen classic essays: “John Waters’ Tour of L.A.,” “What Ever Happened to Showmanship?,” “Hatchet Piece (101 Things I Hate),” “The Pia Zadora Story,” “Going to Jail,” “Puff Piece (101 Things I Love),” “Why I Love the National Enquirer,” “How To Become Famous,” “Guilty Pleasures,” “Why I Love Christmas,” “How Not To Make a Movie,” “Hail Mary” and “Celebrity Burnout.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 144 pages

Desperate Visions: The Journal of Alternative Cinema—Volume 1: Camp America—The Films of John Waters and George and Mike Kuchar

Jack Stevenson

Early in his career, John Waters was quoted as saying that if he were given a huge budget for a single movie that he would actually use it to make several. When George Kuchar was asked the same question, he replied that he would stop making movies because he couldn’t work that way. John Waters took the money, suitably tailored his product, and it can be seen at the local multiplex. George Kuchar teaches film, does the lecture circuit and is usually only screened at cinemateques and art museums. In spite of these glaring contrasts, the roots of their aesthetics are surprisingly similar.
George and his twin brother Mike were born in 1942 and have been producing films since their childhood. By their early 20s they were associating with the likes of Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith at the Charles, the Bleeker Street and the Gramercy Arts Theaters, which were then playing host to an exploding “underground” film scene. By the early ‘60s, John Waters had started sneaking up from his home in Baltimore to these screenings and, inspired largely by the Kuchar brothers, began to make films of his own in 1964. In both cases, the auteurs used repertory casts of nonactors. As John Waters has been more tenacious about publicizing himself and his efforts, much more is known to the general public about his body of work. The Kuchars have stayed very underground and prove generally more difficult to chronicle. This book has done an admirable job of presenting its subjects in a serious and scholarly light. The section on Waters includes interviews with such stalwarts as Divine, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pierce and Miss Jean Hill. Despite the oceans of ink devoted to Waters‘ work elsewhere, this is a completely fresh and multidimensional look at the man and the filmmaker.
The book’s real coup is the inclusion of lucid interviews with George and Mike Kuchar, who are notoriously elusive and playful subjects when in the wrong hands. The author gained their trust and did his homework. For possibly the first time, the Kuchars are given the opportunity to discuss their art, their craft, their influences and their lives in a way that shows how their inner machinery works. Marion Eaton, the star of Thundercrack (written by and co-starring George), provides an added dimension to understanding the brothers Kuchar and especially the perils involved when a “legitimate” actress gets stigmatized by her work in underground movies. Most impressive is the exhaustive filmography the author has assembled. Truly underground films are harder to track and catalog than are features and frequently only a single copy of a film survives in a private collection. SA

Publisher: Creation
Paperback: 256 pages

John Waters: American Originals

John G. Ives in collaboration with John Waters

Waters, charming and elegant, obviously deranged, but harmless, was labeled by William Burroughs “the Pope of Trash.” Obsessed with taboos and the ultimate extremes in behavior, Waters has had a lifelong fascination with criminals, criminology, cult leaders and followers, and criminal trials. He takes everything to its utmost edge and is the American Pop incarnation of Buñuel, Godard, and Fellini. Here he discusses perversity, religion, sex, sexual deviance, his favorite cultural icons and the lewd, disgusting, high-camp satire of his own upbringing and background. Probing questions are posed by an obviously avid admirer, with whom Waters was very comfortable, full of weird references even Waters has to think about! Includes exclusive stills and posters; an in-depth interview; production notes and set design sketches for Hairspray; storyboards for Cry Baby; flyers for his early films such as Mondo Trasho and Female Trouble; a copy of a search-and-seizure notice for the confiscation of Pink Flamingos in adherence with Arizona obscenity laws; a copy of an autobiography Waters wrote at the age of 10; and a complete filmography. CF

Publisher: Thunder's Mouth
Paperback: 176 pages

Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste

John Waters

The king of raunchy, campy B films, Waters tantalizes the reader with obscure facts about his cast of society’s outcasts. Many of Waters’ characters resemble those one might have found in the O.C. Buck shows, which toured the United States in the ‘50s and ‘60s. If only Waters had met the Alligator Man and the Bearded Lady! Waters’ descriptions read like a bastardized Lamparski’s “What Ever Happened To?” series. Consider the following: “The man with the singing asshole from Pink Flamingos is currently a married computer programmer living in Baltimore… A few years ago, a representative from a Boston rock club called me trying to find the singing asshole to hire him… I called and explained the offer to my old friend, and he was naturally hesitant. “Well, the muscles ain’t what they used to be,” he confided… But after thinking it over, the ‘Garbo of anal openings’ decided to pass.” JB

Publisher: Thunder's Mouth
Paperback: 243 pages

Trash Trio: Three Screenplays by John Waters

John Waters

Contains three of Waters’ scripts. Pink Flamingos, the original midnight movie, is the story of the filthiest people alive who strive for infamy and succeed when the outrageous Divine devours dog poop! Desperate Living tells the twisted fairy tale (even without Divine) of Mortville as ruled by Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey), her daughter Princess Coo-Coo (Mary Vivian Pearce) and Dreamlanders Mink Stole and Susan Lowe—mental anguish, lesbianism and political corruption. Flamingos Forever, the unmade sequel to Pink Flamingos, has Divine’s character and clan return to Baltimore to a horde of followers. Here she is confronted by her new rivals, Vera and Wilbur Venninger, owners of a funeral home who abduct children and force them to smoke, drink and shoot heroin. John Waters spent seven long years trying unsuccessfully to get funding for this script. In the meantime, sadly, the actors Divine and Edith Massey passed away. John Waters recommends readers to “Act it out alone or with friends—endless fun!” Includes great, never-before-published stills and the actors’ current whereabouts. CF

Publisher: Thunder's Mouth
Paperback: 259 pages