Photography by Danielle Levitt
“I was raised to be a square,” says Waters. But in completely defying his parents’ fondest wishes for his life, he became the least definable of shapes: He’s simultaneously “The Pope of Trash” for his Baltimore-based films Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Polyester; a darling of Broadway for the stage adaptations of Hairspray and Cry Baby; an X-rated holiday tradition for his traveling show A John Waters Christmas; and the unlikeliest Justin Bieber fan. (He told the Hollywood Reporter, “I loved [Bieber] from the beginning, without irony. Honestly, I screamed like a girl. But I want to enlist him for a special Christmas edition of To Catch a Predator.”)
He still has a taste for filth, and his targets never cease to surprise.“I think Nancy Grace is the filthiest person alive,” Waters says. While he’s now a household name, his signature taste level — or lack thereof — means he doesn’t always get his projects made: He still can’t get Fruitcake, his Christmas movie for kids about meat thieves, financed, despite how “commercial” he thinks the concept sounds.
Photographed at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on September 12, 2013