I heard John Waters speak at the Pyramid Club in New York’s East Village on December 4, circa 1983. He was there to support a gay men’s magazine called Straight to Hell, published by Boyd McDonald. He spoke after showing his short film The Diane Linkletter Story in the club’s main space.
Waters, who was born in 1946, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 18, 2023. This text of this speech originally appeared in Terminal! magazine.
I’d love to do the Tina Onassis story. Divine and I are very big fans of hers. The Enquirer recently had the meanest thing about her. She’s very fat, and they had a picture of her getting out of her private helicopter. The headline was: “Tubby Tina, Whale of a Gal.” The copy said, “Thunder Thighs waddles to presumably her next square meal.” Divine really loves her. He wants to marry her. He said they could just eat and he’d leave her alone. Everybody’s so mean to her.
People magazine had a story where Tina took her best friend, supposedly, on this tour for six weeks. They ran around with her yacht and everything, and they came right back and called People magazine and gave them really embarrassing pictures of her in bathing suits doing cannonballs. People said stuff like “Oh, she’s so unhappy, she was drunk all the time.” I mean, what kind of friends does she have? No wonder she drinks.
The Enquirer’s been really good about Grace Kelly lately, too. There’s a serious movement in the Catholic church to make her a saint. And the Enquirer has uncovered her first miracle. Supposedly, she cured a blind girl. I think that would be a great movie, like The Diane Linkletter Story.
I like instant movies. Every morning I read the New York Post, which is my favorite newspaper in the world. Every day there’s something in it that would be a good movie. But even if you could put the film out that day, it would be dated. This thing about these Cabbage Patch dolls: A woman actually stabbed another woman over one. I was thinking about that all day yesterday. Was it first-degree murder or second? And did she actually sit home thinking, I’m going down to Toys “R” Us with a knife? I mean, it was a crime of passion.
I have lots of dream projects, movies that I’d like to make. But I know that no producer in his right mind would ever give me the money. I’ve always wanted to make Divine Meets Francis, the Talking Mule, a wonderful movie. I’d like to do something with the Manson family. I think the best documentary would be of all thirty-five members of the Manson family reunited in a room together. A lot of the Manson children were taken away when they were three or four years old, and they’re teenagers now. But they were placed in foster homes, and none of the parents know that they have little Manson kids. I think that would be a good movie.
I have a real movie, not a fantasy, that I’m making in the spring. It’s the sequel to Pink Flamingos, called Flamingos Forever. I think it’s time to finally do it. I enjoy sequels because they’re so shoddy, and I think it’s a genre I could satirize well. It’ll be the same characters, what happened to them ten years later. It’ll be The Big Chill for Lunatics. When I’m not making movies, I stay in Baltimore with my obsessions. I think life is nothing if you’re not obsessed.
I wrote an article recently about William Castle for American Film magazine. He’s really one of my favorite directors. He did movies like The Tingler, where he had buzzers that went off under your seat. For one film, he had the Chicken Corner; you had to follow yellow footsteps to a cardboard box where they gave you your money back. I wish all movies would do that today. I mean, think of the possibilities. For Ghandi they could close the concession stand and starve the audience. I think the producers of Porky’s would be honest to admit that their movies are for dirty, filthy little twelve-year-olds, so they should sponsor circle jerks for Cub Scout troops.
The possibilities are endless. When Ciao! Manhattan opens up and Edie Sedgewick’s film doesn’t do well, you should have the top hag in each community OD in the theater. If you wanted to get community support when you put in new handicap ramps, you could show The Crippled Masters, which is a karate movie about two men. One has no legs; the other has no arms. Everybody picks on them until they jump on each other’s back and become a killing machine.
Recently I went to the White House. For some reason I was invited. Not by Reagan, but by one of his top aides. And I said, “Well, God, can I bring a date?” And they said, “Well, certainly.” Then I showed up with a man. That threw them right there. The fellow who invited me is a really big fan of my films. I’m so politically confused. I thought, “Why am I going to the White House? I mean, fifteen years ago I was out front, and now I’m invited inside because of my films? It seemed very peculiar. Right after that I was a guest of the Communist Party in Italy, which was even more confusing. There, the Communist paper had a headline: “Filthy People of the World Unite.”
The people in Baltimore are so eccentric that you can’t believe that there are people like this who exist, and I get a lot of my ideas from them. I go to murder trials all the time still. That’s my hobby. That’s how I relax. The last big one I went to was the John Hinckley trial, which was pretty good. I went to another trial recently. It was a nurse accused of stuffing turds down a patient’s throat. I was the only person who showed up for the trial. The district attorney thought, “Oh, God, you’re here?” The nurse’s defense was, it was her period. Her lawyer said, “Well, you know, a woman did die from this, but not because of the nurse.” I thought, “Well, I’m sure the nurse didn’t help.” All she got was eight weeks in jail, and she kept saying, “For what? What did I do?” I couldn’t believe it.
There’s a new one that just happened in Baltimore. I’m going to go. This one was a man in a market who was accused of giving people sandwiches with rats in them. He’d stand there while they ate, and he’d go, “Huh huh huh huh huh.” He finally got busted when he gave the sandwiches to retarded children. This guy was really a monster. When the kids were spitting out the rat, he was saying, “Good meat! Finish that!” I’m going to go. I can’t wait.
I followed my father’s advice. He always said, “You can never depend on show business. Get a job.” So I actually have a job. I’m in rehabilitation, which I think is really a hoot. I always really enjoyed the company of murderers. That’s why I got the job. But I couldn’t tell the warden that when I applied, you know. He’d think it was kind of peculiar. I went in there as a guest teacher, and I showed all my films, which were very strange. The prisoners really liked them. They’re really the best audience I ever had. They put me in the prison paper. They did a Wanted poster of me. It said, “Wanted. For crimes against middle-class values.” At the end of the year they gave me a Professor of Bad Taste Award. They all signed it with their name, their crime, and their time. My class is serving 720 years in jail, when you add it all up.
I finally got hired as a full-time teacher. I told the prisoners, “Look, these films are my crimes. Next time you want to murder somebody, don’t do it. Write about it. Paint it or something.” And they looked at me kind of confused. This jail has 40 percent sex offenders, 50 percent murderers, and 10 percent “mixed.” It’s a nice crowd of kids.
–John Waters & Thaddeus Rutkowski