The Milford Mill Swim Club in the Catonsville suburb west of Baltimore City has been closed for more than a year, and is now more than bit worn around the edges. It was a favorite teen hangout in the 1950s, and a big inspiration for Waters’ comedy that pit the rival social gangs, the Drapes and the Squares, against each other.
The swim club was actually an old quarry that closed when the owners hit a spring and sold cheap to an enterprising local family made lemonade from lemons. The 18 acre site was a perfect place where teens could show off their hot rods and hot bods. There were plenty of hiding places in the woods where they could smooch and drink cheap beer and wine, smuggled in trunks of their cars.
Cry-Baby rented the swim club for several weeks in May, 1990, before opening day, but the shoot went over schedule, and the owners threw a fit when they weren’t able to open for their regular crowd after Memorial Day. They held up the very unhappy producers for big bucks to make up for their loss.
The neighbors, were at first fascinated by the movie goings on, which included frequent appearances by its star, Johnny Depp (before he was really famous). But they began to loudly complain about the 100 ft. high Musco movie lights that lit up half the neighborhood, and noise of the crew when they switched to a week of night shoots that began at 9pm and went to 6:00am.
The worst night was the staging of a hot-rod chicken race with squealing wheels and window-rattling straight pipe exhausts that eventually attracted the cops and local politicians, because there were so many complaints from neighbors.
I was the unfortunate location manager in the middle. They finally allowed us to finish the night when we promised it would be our last shoot, and we’d never come back there. Ah showbiz!