John Waters Is Not a Poppers Pig

5.18.2010

By Aaron Hicklin

And there's one other skill that Waters has mastered: getting everyone to like him. In Role Models, he admits that his goal in life is securing himself a crowded funeral; even his shrink once told him to 'stop trying to make me like you.' But the man just can't help himself. He's likable through and through, all the while refusing to condescend to the center. 'I've never done things just to be popular, because I couldn't,' he says. 'I learned that a long time ago. I travel in two worlds -- the high and the low. The middle is where I've run from all my life.'

At the same time, he is astonished by how much the middle has come to be more like him. 'Pink Flamingos shows on television uncut on the Sundance Channel,' he says. 'How can that be? Pink Flamingos! Uncut! Singing assholes! Blowjobs! I don't have that much to complain about. I think things are pretty good in many ways.' In the book he tells a story of sending DVDs of Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble to the troops in Iraq at the request of a major stationed there. He got a note back telling him that a screening of his movies was interrupted by a mortar attack. 'That was moving to me,' he says. 'I want to do a USO tour. I want Beth Ditto to be my Marilyn Monroe, and have Iggy Pop wrestle with Bin Laden look-alikes. I want to do the 'don't ask, don't tell, we're going to hell' tour. It would be great.'

A patriotic John Waters? What next? 'Listen,' he says. 'Liberals can get on my nerves, too, with no humor. I've spoken at GLAAD events; I've given the awards. At the same time, they were against Br'no. I'm one of the only people in the world who loved Br'no. I thought it was fucking hilarious. Lighten up! When I was young, gay people had wit.

That stubborn nonconformity -- 'I don't even fit in with my minorities' -- is partly what keeps Waters in Baltimore for much of the year (he spends his summers exclusively in Provincetown, his spiritual home). He finds the city less susceptible to trends. 'I love when people there say, 'Why did you get an apartment in New York?' It's the opposite of everywhere else. And in New York everything is faux. There are no real biker bars, there are no real scary bars. Young people want to be black kids, they want to be gangsters. They don't want to be bikers -- that's a Halloween costume.'

It's no surprise to hear that Waters has already identified the plot in Baltimore where he intends to be buried. It sits next to Divine's, with neighboring plots for all his friends. As for his love life, Waters is adamantly not advertising for one. 'I have some lovely regulars that I'm quite fond of, but I don't need another person in my life to make me feel complete,' he says. 'I have friends for that, many of whom I've known for 30 or 40 years. I don't want that in a partner. I want porn sex. That doesn't last for 40 years.'

Role Models is available May 25 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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