SURE, HE HAD no compunction about making his best friend eat dog poop, and he loves a good murder trial, but that doesn't mean he can't be a big softie about the holidays. John Waters loves Christmas. Unironically. Unabashedly.
I spoke with the venerable Pope of Trash in October, when he'd already started his Christmas shopping. "I like Christmas for real," he says from his office in Baltimore. "I like when it gets frantic, the last-minute rush of it. I'm always doing a Christmas tour so I have to shop really early, because when I'm on the road I can't be lugging around Christmas presents."
Well, Merry Christmas, Portland! You get the delightful, mischievous, and whip-smart John Waters, reigning director of filth, as your gift-wrapped present this year. You'd be a greedy pig to ask for more than his rapid-fire one-man show, a far-roaming performance that's zippy and hysterical, covering his long-standing love of Santa Claus, terrible holiday music, and all things flocked up. I asked Waters if his show has changed much since he last brought it to Portland in 2005, when he commanded the stage at Dante's.
"Oh yeah, sure. Every year, I'm updating it and adding stuff. I'll continue to do that 'til the day I get there. I think really what I'm doing is giving you good advice on how to get through a trying time in the holidays." His first bit of advice? "Get out the verbal-abuse whistles" when you go home for the holidays, "and every time somebody says something without thinking what they're saying, blow the whistle. It'll get people's attention, and maybe they'll think before they speak."
While Waters is known for his filmography (Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Pecker), the man behind the pencil-thin mustache should be given equal credit for his bibliography. Shock Value (1981) and Role Models (2010) are comedic gems, anchored by Waters' ample wit and sardonic joy. And he's got a new book, Carsick, coming out this summer about hitchhiking across the country. His theater performances are no less buoyant. Just watch the recording of his tour from 2006, This Filthy World (it's on Netflix Instant). As a consummate showman, his enthusiasm for the weird, wild, and awful is contagious.
"I come up with lots of new ideas of how, each year, we could reinvent Christmas. And I'm really mad that for the second year in a row, there isn't going to be an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas movie, which was part of my annual festivities. I would go to the matinee, alone, on Christmas Eve and get dirty looks from parents," Waters says. He goes on to tell me about a news story he read and clipped out from a Chicago paper.
"There was a man who took his pants off in one of the Christmas Eve matinees of Alvin's last movie. A stripper told him if he took off all his clothes, she'd fuck him while they watched the Alvin movie. And he was on crack and believed it. He was arrested. Alvin brings out extreme behavior in people. 'Alvin! Alvin! Put it in!' Imagine the people screaming and covering the children's eyes. I mean, it is horrible, but it is funny. It sounds like a scene out of one of my movies."
Yes, yes it does. Expect plenty more, plus cheesy, mawkish, and downright hysterical holiday music at A John Waters Christmas. I hope you've been very, very bad.