Arts & Entertainment
3 min

The filth and wisdom of John Waters

Our hilarious Q&A with the countercultural icon before his big show at Toronto Pride

“I walk on stage, and they applaud. They give me a standing ovation when I didn’t even say anything yet, and that’s because I’m old.” Credit: Greg Gorman

Filmmaker, author, and countercultural icon John Waters will be bringing his acclaimed lecture series This Filthy World to Toronto for Pride. Daily Xtra caught up with the fast-talking Pope of Trash to talk about his upcoming projects, Divine’s legacy and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Daily Xtra: You’re coming back to Toronto!

John Waters: I like Toronto, I’ve always had a good time there, except that I’m sad my favourite strip bar is closing.

Remington’s?

Maybe there’ll be a rallying cry; hundreds of nude men will be picketing out front so that it doesn’t close! But yes, I’ve had a great time in Toronto every time I’ve ever been there. The Toronto Film Festival has been wonderful to me.

When are we going to see a new John Waters film?

I’d love to make another movie. But my last book was a bestseller and my last movie was not a success. So, you go where they like you. All of my books are still in-print in America. I mean, I wrote all my movies, I write my spoken word show, I wrote my Christmas show, so for me, I’ve always been a writer. I just need ways to tell stories. I’m Uncle Remus! Do you know who Uncle Remus is? Young people don’t know Uncle Remus.

From Song of the South?

Yes! He’s the old storyteller. I have a TV show that might happen — I can’t talk about [it] because it’s in development. Or maybe I’ll write another book! I’m booked for the next two years as it is now — I’m trying to get a 2018 calendar. But sure, I like making movies [and] I like making books because all of it is thinking up a story to tell.

Anything you can tell us about that TV show?

Well, you never talk about something before it’s definite. Most people when they’re trying to get pregnant, they don’t tell people, and a development deal is trying to get pregnant. Well, no, a development deal is better, because if they don’t make the show, they still pay you to write it. If you don’t have the baby, you have a miscarriage. But they’re both the first step in giving birth. My other movie, Fruitcake, that I have in development, I would give birth to any way — anally, which would be video release. It’s probably the only time that I’m pro-life. I don’t want to get an abortion. I’ve been pregnant with it for six years! Let’s have this baby already!

How was being a guest on RuPaul’s Drag Race this season?

I was rooting for Ginger Minj, the one who played Edie, ’cause I think she did such a great job. I’m happy for RuPaul, it’s a big hit, so good for him. He’s had a really good career. And he’s one of the only drag queens who has an amazingly good male look. Divine was scary as a man, he looked like an insane truck driver.

How much do you think the drag queens of today owe Divine?

I think Divine did change drag queens. When I was young, drag queens were really square. They were trying to be Miss America, or their mother. Or Bess Myerson, and wear mink coats and be beauty queens and they had no irony. And now, all drag queens are kind of scary and funny and hilarious, and I think Divine did have something to do with that. When Divine came out, no drag queen would ever wear scars on her face, or carry a chainsaw.

Do you feel like you have a different role in the culture than you used to?

You mean at almost 70 years old? Yes, I am a Filth Elder! I walk on stage, and they applaud. They give me a standing ovation when I didn’t even say anything yet, and that’s because I’m old. When I made Pink Flamingos, I was an angry young man — and you should be angry when you’re young! But when you’re 70 and you’re angry, you’re a major asshole.

So, you’re not angry anymore?

What do I have to be angry about? I’ve had a great career, everything that’s happening now is gravy. My dreams came true 20 years ago that I had when I was young. I’ve been understood. I’ve never had to get a real job.

What are you looking forward to?

What I look forward to is more human behaviour that I’ll never understand, that is what amazes me. I am a voyeur, I do eavesdrop, I watch people — that’s what all writers do.

And have you observed anything amazing lately?

I’m trying to think of the tour . . . The only thing that shocked me, this girl said “Can I ask you something? Did you make Hairspray, the movie?” And I said “Yes.” And she said “Did you meet the people that were in it?” And it’s the only time I’ve been stunned in 10 years.