Halifax
5 min

An open letter to John Waters

This letter was inspired by my previous
open letter to Scott Thompson
and a recent interview with Waters published in
Slate
, written by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

Dear John,

            I
won’t start this letter with a thank you or a fuck you. I’m sure you’ve
received lots of letters that start off with both of those. So how about “Howdy”? Now that the
greetings are over with, I will, if you will permit me, praise you. Just a
little bit. 

            I
think the best way to tell you what I think of you is to tell you a few
anecdotes that involve you and your films. First, I used to use your films as
litmus tests for potential boyfriends. If they could handle watching Pink Flamingos and laugh their asses
off, they were in. If not, I would
seriously reconsider dating – or at least fucking – them. A sense of humour is one
of the sexiest things around. By
the same token, I know that when I meet people and the subject of your films
and books comes up, if they think favourably of you, I tend to think more
favourably of them. Birds of a
feather and all that.

            A
friend of mine and I discovered your films in the early ‘90s, when Cry-Baby came out. We were degenerate teens
(at least in our own minds) and fell in love with Cry-Baby’s “drapes.” We both wanted to hang out with Hatchet
Face
and Wanda. C’mon, even gay teenage boys want to hang out with Traci
Lords! One afternoon my friend and
I were watching Cry Baby and Hairspray when my mother walked in. She sat down with us and enjoyed them as
well. She thought they were silly, mind you. My favourite memory of that day was when she admitted to having hair
like some of the girls in the movie. My own mother, a hair hopper! I gained a new level of respect for her.

I remember when I
was in my first few years of university, I had a couple friends who were still
in high school. I had told them
about Pink Flamingos – this was during the ‘90s and my high school was in a
rural area, where no video stores had a copy of it
and they wanted to see
it, so I lent them my copy. I
never got it back, but it did make the rounds of my former high school. I recently met up with an old teacher
who told me that he figured I was the one who had lent it to
his students. He applauded me for
my love of bad taste.

In a recent
interview
, you talked about your “mixed feelings about gay culture going
mainstream.” I have to say I
applaud you for asking the question, “Why can’t we be villains in movies?” I think that’s why I always liked your
movies. Anyone can be a villain,
and who cares what they put where or why or how. No one is safe, just because they’re part of a (sub)culture. They can be as rotten or as wonderful
as anyone else, just like in real life. 

            I
think you should make more movies. I understand that you’ve been having difficulties getting your latest
project, Fruitcake, off the ground. I guess no one wants to make a movie about a runaway boy who meets a
girl, who was raised by gay guys, in pursuit of her long lost mother. As Clay
Davis from The Wire (yay, Baltimore!) would say, “Sheeeit.” I’d pay to see that. Any time. I only wish I had the money to
help you with it. Maybe Kickstarter or IndieGogo? C’mon, if Mink Stole can do it, so can you!

            I’d
like to finish my letter by telling you one final anecdote. I think the best reaction
to one of your movies I ever
witnessed was when I was screening Flamingos for
a group of friends. At the scene
where Cracker and Cookie are fucking/fighting with the chicken, one girl got up
and almost vomited. She began to cry, as she found the scene repulsive and
repugnant. I couldn’t stop
laughing. Thanks for that.

Keep on doing what you’re doing. You’ll always have a fan in me.

– Simon

PS: Did you know that Pink Flamingos is on
Nova Scotia’s “banned films” list? It was banned when it was released in
the ‘70s and has never been reclassified.  Video stores here have copies of it, but if
someone makes a complaint, the province can take it off the shelves. The more things change . . . 



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