John Waters reiterates his fascination with all things garrulous and gross in his new memoir “Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder.”
Out-filmmaker turned author and public persona will be at Parkway Central Library on May 23 to talk beyond the reels of early-mondo trash classics “Pink Flamingos,” and “Female Trouble” as well as latter-day flicks such as “Serial Mom” and “Cecil B. Demented.”
“My specialty is making things that other people hate,” said Waters from his office in Baltimore, his longtime home. “My gross ideas are not what most people think. My idea of gross is the very predictable romantic comedy or a $100-million dollar science-fiction story with no dialogue and all special effects. They’re gross because I have no interest in them — they almost sicken me. Even gore is old hat these days.”
It’s been a while since the iconic auteur’s movies have been in theaters — the last was “A Dirty Shame” in 2004. Still, Waters said that his writings are cinematic exercises.
“At the very least, I want people to make movies out of my books. At one point, with “Carsick,” someone wanted to make a movie of only the fictitious parts. So in this new book, there is my death chapter. I just read a review that says I turned my own death into a zombie horror movie —which is kind of true. Everything I write, in a way, is cinematic.”
Perhaps true, as many cameos are found in this new memoir. Along with an appearance from fellow filmmaker and Pop-Art icon Andy Warhol — “Andy was more important than Thomas Alva Edison and D.W. Griffith” — is Kathleen Turner who told Waters “pay attention to your stars as if your life depended on it, and Joey Heatherton “who spoke in tongues convincingly as the script called, but seemed unable to stop.”
One of the more humorous stories in “Mr. Know-It-All” involves Waters’ experimentation with LSD again at age 70.
Waters, now a model of decorum, an old-world gentleman in expensive suits said, “That’s why I took it again — I wanted to feel what it [LSD] was like at 70, since I took it very successfully when I was young and never had a bad trip. Now I had a lot more to lose, and basically a lot more to fear. I was reckless when I was young. At 70, not so many people are reckless.Including me. It was a dare
I gave myself, but I had to be careful. I bought the very best acid and did it with someone I was close with, which would be Mink Stole. I was glad to not be in control. I didn’t know what was going to happen, If I had known how strong it was going to be, I wouldn’t have done it. I wanted it to work. And it did.”
While Waters’ depiction of LSD might have most readers laughing out loud, of equal resonance is the way he speaks of Mink Stole — with such incredible sentimentality. Waters is able to move in and out of humor and vulnerability effortlessly.
Waters is hilarious when discussing speaking engagements he calls “gay for pay” in his new memoir.
“Usually what people want to do is ‘honor’ you which means they want to use your name to sell tickets and raise money – which is fine. I’m flattered and always willing to do whatever. But I have a spoken-word show and none of the other people you’ve honored do – so that’s how I make sure we discuss payment since this is how I make my living. I’d be honored too if you write me a check to do the show. So I’m gay for pay . . . I say it with humor hopefully. If I did that one for no money, I’d just be on a free-lecture tour my whole life.”
When asked about his talk tours, and a gay version of “filthier and dirtier,” Waters said, “I do a John Waters’ Christmas: filthier and dirtier, a horror one I do at horror conventions, a gayer one I do a at gay events. I’ve done them for the United States Conference of Mayors and the librarian convention of America. I played Coachella and Bonnaroo. I have a version that I can change for every occasion, but they’re all pretty gay. I don’t have a straight version, though. Maybe, that’s what I should do next – have a hetero version, Now that would really be funny.” n
John Waters in conversation with Jason Freeman begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through the Free Library and cost $32.