This fascinating interview is from John’s dry period, after “Polyester” floundered. New Line had told him they were finished with no-profit underground movies that bankrolled John’s growing speaking career but left them out of the Hollywood production mainstream, which was Bob Shaye’s real dream.
John appears in his pre-Hairspray, pre-celebrity, pre-psychiatric re-charge. He is so laid back in his Lutherville preppie button down shirt and naughty-but-nice- just-over-the-ears haircut. Now that New Line had shown him the door, he dressed more mainstream to meet “with thousands of businessmen” to raise money for his “upcoming movie,” Pink Flamingos II. Of course, his future took a massive u-turn a few years later with his decision to move from yet another Baltimore gross-out epic to the family-friendly sitcom world of “Hairspray.”
Long-time Waters friends and acquaintances will notice his slurred and hazy speech. It reminds me of many conversations with him in Fells Point’s Bertha’s bar, while he worked on his fifth-or-so rum and coke and his second pack of Kools. A good laugh comes at the end when he says he can’t wait for a break so he could smoke a cigarette, “one of the best reasons for living.”
John doesn’t stray much from familiar territory– sensational trials, teaching cinema to inmates in the Baltimore City Jail, his love for riots, and hate for hippies. Most fascinating is his enthusiasm for his movies that never saw the light of day. He is as hopeful and pure as Barack Obama. What a change of life he went through after “Hairspray,” and how refreshing to see him being so natural on a cheapo public access TV show– his true media roots. It’s a nostalgic experience, very different from the amped-up clown he plays on late night network TV theses days.
Read about Robert Maier’s fifteen years working with John Waters in the new book “Low Budget Hell: Making Underground Movies with John Waters.” Available on Amazon.com and booksellers around the world.