Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Cult film di­rec­tor John Wa­ters cruises the high­ways of Amer­ica

In Car­sick, armed only with wit, a pen­cil-thin mous­tache and a card­board sign that reads “I’m Not Psy­cho”, cult film di­rec­tor John Wa­ters hitch­hikes across Amer­ica from Bal­ti­more to San Fran­cisco. His book de­tails a real ac­count of what hap­pened as well as his fan­ta­sises of the very best - and the very worst - pos­si­ble ver­sions of the trip. In his un­ortho­dox odyssey across the USA, we get to glimpse con­tem­po­rary Amer­ica through the unique prism of John Wa­ters’ de­li­ciously twisted mind.

PL: Mr Wa­ters! How are you do­ing?

JW: I’m well. How are you? PL: I’m good. I’m over-the-moon to be talk­ing with you. So, John Wa­ters, has a gay man ever gone fur­ther just to get picked up?

JW: You mean as in hitch­hik­ing? Um, well I didn’t get picked up. You know, in the fic­ti­tious part where I imag­ined the best and the worst I had all sorts of good and bad sex. But in real life I don’t think a gay per­son picked me up to be hon­est. So I didn’t get laid hitch­hik­ing; I imag­ined it. There is hitch­hik­ing sex in the book in the non-fiction part. But get­ting laid wasn’t the main rea­son. If I was gonna do that I would hitch­hike in Bal­ti­more. They would think I was the old­est hus­tler. I would go to Pat­ter­son, to East­ern Av­enue which used to be where all the hus­tlers where and it was a world fa­mous place. There were li­cence plates from ev­ery state in the coun­try that would come there for that. But there is none of that left now. PL: The world has changed… So, we typ­i­cally see peo­ple hitch­hik­ing in movies when they are run­ning away, like Dawn Daven­port (played by Divine) in Fe­male Trou­ble, or des­per­ately try­ing to es­cape the clutches of per­verts and psy­chopaths. We’re told not to get in a car with a stranger. Is that partly what at­tracted you to this project?

JW: Well, I hitch­hiked a lot when I was young and it was not thought of so badly then. My par­ents ex­pected me to hitch­hike home from pri­vate school. It wasn’t thought a bad thing to do. But then there were per­verts out and I was

look­ing for them. More so than now.

PL: And then you did get laid?

JW: Oh, when I was young, of course! That’s part of the ben­e­fits of hitch­hik­ing home. Of get­ting blow jobs. You know, it was part of the… I mean, you could say yes or no. Ev­ery­body that’s ever hitch­hiked, male or fe­male, has had some­body com­ing on to them. You just say no, you know? Although I do know a man that was raped by a truck driver. Hor­ror sto­ries can hap­pen and they do hap­pen. I just didn’t think that many se­rial killers types were 68-year-old film direc­tors. That why I wrote my death in the book where I imag­ined a se­rial killer who only killed cult movie direc­tors. PL: Would it be fair to say that you are a pretty metic­u­lous and well or­gan­ised per­son and was the process of giv­ing your­self over to the un­pre­dictabil­ity of the road a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge?

JW: Yeah, that’s the rea­son I wrote the book. My life is so sched­uled and it is so or­gan­ised and ev­ery­thing. Could I give all that up? Can you be a con­trol freak and hitch­hike? It’s im­pos­si­ble al­most to be a con­trol freak when you are hitch­hik­ing be­cause you have no con­trol over what is go­ing to hap­pen. So that was the ex­per­i­ment for me. To see if I could give up all con­trol and sched­ul­ing and to see how far does the shabby fame re­ally go. PL: The book is struc­tured with two novel­las imag­in­ing your best and worst pos­si­ble jour­neys, and then a third ac­count of what re­ally hap­pened. Good Ride is laced with plenty of homo wan­der­lust: bums, out­laws and rene­gades. What’s the at­trac­tion?

JW: Well, what can I say? My type is the hitch­hiker with the birth­mark across his face in The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre. I like some­body with a past and a lit­tle edge. Although in my book all the peo­ple I imag­ined hav­ing sex with, whether a de­mo­li­tion derby driver, a bank rob­ber or a door-to-door knife sales­man, they were all kind to me - and lov­ing. They didn’t mis­treat me in any way. They might be out of their mind but, as I say in the book and in one of my favourite lines, we ex­pe­ri­enced an “af­ter-glow that few could un­der­stand.” PL: And then we are treated to the real jour­ney. And it was real tough at times. But peo­ple were also in­cred­i­bly kind, lit­er­ally go­ing out of their way to help. What did you learn about your­self and about peo­ple dur­ing this ex­pe­ri­ence?

JW: Well, I don’t know that I learnt it ’cause I al­ways be­lieved in the ba­sic good­ness of peo­ple. I’m an op­ti­mist. But that was re­ally con­firmed. Peo­ple were kind of great. Even if I didn’t agree with their pol­i­tics, the peo­ple that pick up hitch­hik­ers are kind peo­ple. They are peo­ple that are try­ing to help peo­ple. I was amazed that peo­ple would try and give me money. A lot of peo­ple didn’t be­lieve that I was a film di­rec­tor; they thought I was a home­less man that was crazy. But they were still nice to me and I just think that the kind­ness of strangers that Ten­nessee Wil­liams ob­vi­ously made so fa­mous was re­ally, re­ally proven by this trip. PL: Peo­ple love to be out­raged, and this was es­pe­cially true when you were do­ing your early films and butting up against the re­pres­sive­ness of 50s’ and 60s’ sub­ur­ban at­ti­tudes. But now ev­ery­thing is so out there, ar­tis­ti­cally are there any taboos left to break?

JW: Well, there are taboos that no one should break. I mean, who wants to see a com­edy about child mo­lesters? Or racists, you know? I mean, to me it is not about break­ing taboos. It is sur­pris­ing peo­ple and I’ve al­ways said if you want to re­ally cause a sen­sa­tion then make a movie that gets banned some­where but that has no sex or vi­o­lence. That will be the most bril­liant new, most trans­gres­sive movie that a young per­son makes: a movie that has no sex or vi­o­lence but that scan­dalises the world. PL: I wanted to ask about the con­struc­tion of Divine’s iconic look – the make-up and cos­tume by Van Smith. What were the in­flu­ences behind the look?

JW: I think I re­mem­ber I just said to Van, “do some­thing weird with his hair­line” and he just shaved it off to give more room to the eye­brows. We wanted a look that scared hip­pies. And that’s kind of what it was. That fish­tail red dress. Def­i­nitely, I be­lieve, The Girl Can’t Help It, with Jane Mans­field, that was an in­flu­ence. We al­ways like the one who comes in sec­ond-best. I like The Three Stooges bet­ter than Char­lie Chap­lin. I like Jane Mans­field bet­ter than Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. I like The Chip­munks; they are my favourite singing group. So I kind of al­ways root for the one that is ex­ag­ger­ated, that isn’t as orig­i­nal. PL: Is it true you’ve said that you don’t mind dy­ing alone, just so long as you have your mous­tache drawn on straight?

JW: We’ve al­ready bought my burial plot, where Divine is buried. Mink Stole bought one. Pat Mo­ran did. We’re all go­ing to be buried there. We call it Dis­grace­land. And I’ve al­ready got it in my will: I want a closed cof­fin ’cause I don’t want peo­ple to be look­ing at me when I’m dead, es­pe­cially with my mous­tache drawn on wrong. I’ve al­ready got all that planned. PL: Wil­liam Bur­roughs canon­ised you as the Pope of Trash. Did you ever meet him?

JW: Oh yes. I even did an open­ing show for him in DC. I met him and we were friends and I smoked pot with him. I went to his house when he lived in The Bunker. PL: Mr. Wa­ters, it has been a to­tal plea­sure talk­ing to you.

JW: Oh, thanks and good­bye.

John Wa­ters’ book, Car­sick, is pub­lished by Cor­sair


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