One director that I have always wanted to meet is John Waters. I admit that I found him through his later work first. Some friends introduced me to the movie Pecker, which I found to be charming and quirky. It made me laugh, but I didn't think that much more about it.
When I returned Desperate Living, I grabbed the film Waters is most known (reviled?) for: Pink Flamingos. Once again Mink Stole was there as Peggy Gravel. She, along with her husband, attempted to steal the title of "Filthiest People Alive" from the movie's star: Divine. I couldn't believe what I was watching. The film, shot on 16mm, was gritty and poorly edited. It had a very amateur quality; these were definitely not professional actors. However, none of that mattered. The story and the characters were so alive and so different. I was amazed.
At some point, I decided to stop renting Waters' movies and bought them for my own. It was then that I discovered one of my favorite aspects of his films: his commentaries. Listening to him talk about the insanity that played on screen was a terrific experience. He is so charming, full of life, and has a love for everyone on camera. I quickly learned how obsessive he can be, and how real life events inspire him. His love of crime, fashion, art- he discusses all of this in great detail. Mainly, what I took away from these tracks was that these weren't only movies to him. They were time capsules of an era that he shared with his friends. That really stuck with me.
Carsick, like all of his books, is really an excuse for Waters to delve into the celebrities and music that he loves. The fictional sections are filled with obscure pop culture references, B grade entertainers, and each lists the best and worst playlist of songs that Waters can imagine. I can only dream of the script this could have turned into, had someone been willing to pony up the money.
These days, Waters spends his time writing and doing his one man show, This Filthy World. Last month, the show came to Little Rock, Arkansas for their annual literary festival. A couple of weeks previously, he had been signing books in Oxford, MS. I was not able to go, and feared that I had missed a chance to ever meet him in person. Luckily, my girlfriend surprised me with tickets to the show in Arkansas.
We drove two hours away, and spent the day walking around downtown. Unlike the book festival in Nashville, this one was inside various buildings with no real central hub. Frankly, it was difficult to find events that were happening. We spent most of our time sight seeing and getting food.
We found the Ron Robinson Theater as soon as we arrived to make sure we wouldn't be late. The theater is smaller, seating around 350 people. Every seat was a good one, ensuring an intimate experience. We took our seats, and patiently waited for the show to start. The stage was empty, save one pot to stage right of pussy willows. Great touch!
While we waited, we made friends with a drunken lesbian couple who also happened to be from Memphis. They were funny and chatty, and very excited to see Waters. They even looked us up on Facebook and "friended" us while we waited!
Before we left the house, I had thought about bringing my copy of Carsick for him to sign. I had also thought about bringing a copy of The Check Out to give to him. I decided against it, since I wasn't sure he would actually do a signing afterward. Of course, in the first few minutes on stage, he announced that he would sign and take photos after the show. Luckily, there were copies of his book on hand. I had gotten Carsick as an ARC, so it hadn't cost me anything. I gladly bought another.
The line was insanely long, but everyone was in good spirits. Waters had a table set up and an assistant that took photos for the audience. He was very nice and spoke briefly to everyone. He did seem a bit worn out by the end of the night. I imagine he arrived that morning and was probably leaving that night. I thanked him for allowing us to have that moment. To him, it was just another gig. To me, and the rest of the crowd, it meant something more.
Thanks, John Waters! You'll never be convicted of asshole-ism!