John Waters, The Joy Theater, New Orleans
March 18, 2017
It was just after 7pm on a Saturday night and the Joy Theater was slowly filling with a jolly crowd. From the looks of it, this crowd could have been gathering for any show. Nothing about them gave a hint of the famously twisted filmmaker scheduled to take the stage. When you go to a show featuring the director of Pink Flamingos, you kind of expect the crowd to be a bit outlandish. But some sequins and colorful hair were about as wild as it got that night.
There was a pre-show playlist, curated by the man himself, featuring old country songs, along with an Elvis Costello tune, and an Eminem song sped up to sound like the Chipmunks. It was a nice eclectic blend that suited the mood perfectly.
Waters came on with no warm-up and very little in the way of an intro. If you come to a John Waters show, you don’t need someone to tell you about Serial Mom or Polyester. He was a bit older, which he himself acknowledged. “Older chickens make better soup,” he quipped. He also wore a suit that was almost like the pelt of a patriotic couch made in 1973.
On stage, Waters was a machine with zingers and biting commentary flying out to a very receptive crowd. It felt a bit like a party where the host just got on a roll and started riffing on politics or sex or just whatever came to mind.
A few of my favorite lines of the night (that are fit for publication):
“Necrophilia is love, too.”
“Pink Flamingos is the film that will be in the first paragraph of my obituary.”
On Hairspray: “I’ve seen it performed in high schools…gender and race swapped. You can’t kill it! It will go on forever.”
Waters took the audience on a stroll through a loose biography and shared plenty of hilarious anecdotes about making his films, working with Mink and Devine, living in New Orleans, and films and filmmakers that influenced him.
He answered a few questions from the audience at the end of his set. People asked about certain actors he had worked with and his relationship with Manson Girl Leslie Van Houten. They also asked which film he would most like to remake.
“They remake the good ones, but really they should remake the bad ones,” Waters said. “I’d love to remake Ice Castles.” And I think we’d all love to see that!
On his favorite bar in New Orleans, Waters quickly answered The Corner Bar. “Hell, it’s probably my favorite bar in the country,” he said.
If there was a lesson to be learned or a message to take away from the evening it would be this:
It’s okay to have negative role models and to spend time pushing boundaries and exploring things that make other people uncomfortable.
That’s certainly a worthwhile takeaway from an evening of laughter and obscenity. Kudos, John.