Tag Archives: John Waters

John Waters’ Infamous Roach Xmas Tree Ornament


The roach is lying feet up in the bottom of the ball.  These were sent before John Waters had 2,000+ on his xmas card list (and I was still on it).  I don’t get xmas cards from him anymore, because I was naughty.  Imagine that.

P.S. not for sale.

John Waters’ Cry-Baby Main Location “Milford Mill Swim Club”- Up For Auction in Baltimore

milfordmill3900_quarrylake1The Swim Club used as the primary filming location for John Waters’ Cry-Baby is up for auction.

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. milfordmill3900_sign

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.

milfordmill3900_office_pavillion1The 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!

“Hairspray” 25th Anniversary Slide Show

Divine and Ricki Lake in John Waters’ “Hairspray” released Feb 25, 1988

Marking the 25th anniversary of John Waters’ original “Hairspray,”  Moviefone’s Gary Susman put together this interesting “where are they now” slide show of the films cast and director.

Sussman:  “The story of a plus-sized teenage girl in early 1960s Baltimore who earns a spot on a local dance TV show, “Hairspray” was only a modest hit at the box office, earning just $8.3 million upon its release 25 years ago this week (on February 26, 1988). However, it has had a tremendous afterlife.”

 Not to mention launching a struggling underground filmmaker into a multi-millionaire celebrity artist/performer/author.  Hairspray’s budget was about $1.5 million, including music, stars, choreography, hefty director, production company, and related above-the-line costs.  According to Waters, he received his first royalty check from the original production just three years ago.  Ah showbiz! –R. Maier


John Waters American Catholic Crackpot vs. John Waters Irish Catholic Crackpot

John Waters Irish Crackpot Celebrity

John Waters American Crackpot Celebrity

One of my favorite ironies is that there exists a writer/speaker celebrity in Ireland named– John Waters– who frequently pops up in my Internet searches.  The comparison with our American John Waters brings frequent laughs, like they are from similar, but warped universes.

The Irish Waters is known for his own fringe ideas that include things like refusing to use email, the dangers of the Internet (because it’s 70% porn), and the under-appreciated problem of physical abuse of men  by women.

Here’s a notice from Ireland’s Kerry Times for an upcoming appearance. :

“Author and columnist John Waters is to give a public  talk in Kerry tomorrow night (Monday) on the subject of faith.  This is the Catholic Year of Faith and the talk has been organised by the Diocese of Kerry.  It will take place in the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney at 8pm, free of charge. John Waters has been giving public talks on spirituality for the past two years.  He finds that people are often relieved when they are offered a different way of looking at things.”


“Waters (Irish) voiced his opposition to gay marriage stating that it was “potentially destructive of the very fabric of Irish society.”  He was also a fervent supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq because there was so much proof of Saddam Hussain’s possession of  WMDs.

Two areas in which the Irish John Waters and the American John Waters differ greatly are that the Irishman speaks for free in Catholic churches, and had a daughter with Sinead O’connor.  These are things the American Waters would never do in your wildest dreams.

I wonder if they’ve ever met.  Oh, to be able to see them on stage together!

John Waters’ advice to young filmmakers today

Low-low budget filmmaking c. 1975 with John Waters on “Desperate Living”  l-r Tom L’oizeaux, John Waters, Robert Maier

“Now the studios are looking for the John Waters that made Female Trouble,” he said. “They want a film that you made for $50,000 that’s at Sundance.

They buy it for $200,000, they add $300,000 of bad pop music, $500,000 to make it look worse technically than you had it before, then release it as a found-footage movie and make $70 million.

They’re looking for it. It’s the best time ever to be a young person making movies.”

from: Boise Weekly interview by Josh Gross


John Waters’ Roach Christmas Tree Ornament


I was X-ed off John’s Christmas Card mailing list for being too naughty by publishing Low Budget Hell, but I still treasure his old cards.

This is not exactly a card, but an actual, full-size blown-glass working Christmas tree ornament, with a rubber roach inside.  It’s the only non-paper card  greeting he ever sent.

Now that his mailing list tops 2,000 names, of course it would be too expensive to send such a wonderful trinket.

I haven’t seen photos of it published , but it should be admired by the world, so here is a Christmas gift to all the fans.

Photo by Robert Maier

1984 John Waters Interview on P-town Cable Access







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.

John Waters’ Net Worth $38 Million?

A website claiming to know how much money a select group of celebrities have or make says Mr. Waters makes $38 million,  putting him on the “World’s Richest Celebrities” list.

Is that a year, a lifetime, or a complete fiction?

The website, celebritynetworth.com, claims to have been around since 2009 and  “has since grown to become one of the most popular and influential celebrity finance outlets on the Internet.”  With 18,000 facebook likes, who could argue with that?

I doubt if anyone really wants to be on that list.  Think of all the long-lost relatives, friends, and people who once did you favors who will line up at your door (or doors– depending).

A funny comparison is Waters’ discovery and ’80s TV celebrity, Ricki Lake who rates a paltry $15 million.  Needless to say, yours truly doesn’t appear on that list, but is occasionally referred to in articles on the site, apparently for at least rubbing shoulders once or twice with the those living in high cotton.  Check it out, maybe you’re on it too!


John Waters’ Crybaby- Artifact Alert– Swag Comb

Once again, rummaging through my drawers, I found this piece of Waters paraphernalia.  Even though “Crybaby” was a Universal Picture produced by Brian Grazer, the $9 million budget was cheap by Hollywood standards.  Of course taking away studio overhead, the executive producers and Mr. Waters’ nice high six figure salaries, music, choreography, and other name stars, in some areas the cheapness showed.

As location manager, I can attest they strained to save a bundle in that department, but never mind.  Swag for the crew consisted of ten-cent combs.  No t-shirts, no mugs, no fancy pens– a few plastic combs.  Again, as location manager, they were pretty much the extent of my “thank-you” gifts to cooperative location participants, as I mumbled our deep appreciation and here’s a comb with a misspelling of the film’s title to make up for the grips trampling your prize-winning rose bush.

Toward the end, crew morale sank lower as hours got longer, scheduling became hopelessly chaotic, and the gap between the haves and have-nots grew; a pretty common thing on many films, especially in the lower budget realm.

One particularly abrasive day the producers showed up with a van load of spiffy Hollywood- film crew style baseball jackets with a huge, beautiful likeness of Johnny Depp and the actual Crybaby logo on the back.  They gave one to even the lowliest PAs.  It did the trick.  The crew cooled down, and proudly wore them even in the 95 degree dog days of a Baltimore summer.

I still have my jacket, on extended loan to one of my sons who wears it to many hip events.  Of course I still have a few combs, but with a haircut very similar to John’s (e.g. no hair left), I haven’t been able to use them for years.

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.

Crybaby #001 – Artifact from John Waters’ Crybaby Jail Scene

Found this ID card in some old papers today.  It was required of all cast and crew by the Maryland House of Corrections (MHC), where we shot Crybaby’s prison scenes.

MHC, in Jessup, Maryland, was selected because it had a working prison license plate factory.  It was famous because Maryland bad boys were threatened by the juvenile authorities with a career making license plates at “Jessup” if they didn’t straighten out.

We shot on a Sunday because that was a day off for the prison workers.  All the working plate-making machinery and thousands of plates-in-progress made it a priceless location.  Without the card, the prison authorities joked we might never get out.

As location manager, I was responsible for getting the 100+ cards from the prison office for those who worked behind the locked gates, including Johnny Depp, who had spent several days with us shooting behind the bars. As first in line, I got #001.  I put on my best Elvis Jail House Rock face and glared into the camera.

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.