Tag Archives: John Waters

John Waters Hitching…. hmmm

"Camera pans right to reveal motorhome."

A slow reveal the past 2 weeks of John Waters supposedly hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco has been echoing up and down the Internet.  If this snapshot had been a little wider, it would have probably revealed a comfy motorhome with body guards, medic, and make-up & wardrobe stylist.  John hitchhike?  For real?  Right.

John Waters-Werner Herzog Video Goes Viral



This video clip of Werner Herzog was finally discovered by the Internet bloggeratti after being first posted here three months ago.  In this time it achieved a respectable 4,000 views, but but in the past 24 hours a dozen blogs linked to it and it received another 20,000+ views!

What a mystery the Internet is.  Not many comments, I wonder if book sales will spike Monday.

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.

A Rare Envelope from Divine to John Waters- 1980

Here’s an artifact.  Too bad it’s not a letter.   The envelope contained a handful of cash receipts from Divvy for reimbursement from “Polyester,”  which had just wrapped.   Since I was the line producer and had to approve all expenses, John handed them to me.  A brief note from Divine’s agent/manager, Bernard Jay, requested a check at “my earliest convenience.”

The stationary design was so hip and cool.  It’s not clear, but Divine holds a straight razor in his right hand as an icon of his “dangerousness.”  I don’t remember, but the absent-minded doodles on the stamp and around John’s address,  probably means I was on the phone with Bernard Jay questioning some of the receipts, and was constantly being put on hold.   I eventually delivered the approved receipts to New Line Cinema”s Chelsea office.  They no doubt groaned at having to reimburse Divvy for cab fare, long distance phone charges, and probably flowers to decorate the apartment where he stayed while shooting “Polyester.”

Of all the hundreds of letters I received, this one deserved to go in the permanent file.

 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.

Business Card from John Waters’ Hairspray 1987

Rummaging around old files today, I spotted this gem.  These cards, made for just a few of the pre-production staff (casting director, Pat Moran, art director, Vince Peranio,  line producer, Robert Maier, and John) were designed by Waters’ wardrobe designer, Van Smith.  They were rushed into print in February, 1987 after months of waiting for Wall Street tycoon, and hopeful executive producer, Stanley Buchthal, to give the go ahead.  With the ’87 savings & loan scandal and  stock market crash, we were very nervous about  committing to the project, until big money for the $ 2 million budget was in the bank.

Since the movie had to be shot in the summer, it was imperative to begin pre-production in early spring.  We had to push Buchthal hard for the $100 to buy the business cards to give some credibility when doing casting calls, location scouts, and union negotiations.   In a way these were little prayer cards that showed the film would go forward.  At that time, it was very unsure and stressed.  Buchthal was a complete unknown to us,  John hadn’t been able to raise money for a film in five years and this might have been the last chance.

A few weeks after these cards were made, surprising us all, New Line Cinema entered the picture and bought the whole package from Buchthal, guaranteeing the funding.  John’s company, Madison Films, handed over the production to New Line, and these cards were discarded.

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 Backstage Photo During Polyester Filming, August 1980













This photo of John Waters (middle), Robert Maier, line producer (front), and George Stover, actor (rear) was taken in the basement of the Heavitree Hill home in suburban Baltimore that was Divine’s “home” in the movie “Polyester.”

The basement served as  the low budget film’s greenroom, make-up station, break room, conference room, and production office.  Notice the coffee maker and church-supper sized cans of cheap coffee share the line producer’s desk.  Note the old white Canon calculator on the desk, which appears to be the focus of attention.

I still have the black notebook that my elbow is resting on, which has about 2″ of lined paper filled with scribbled to-do lists, phone numbers, schedules, budgets, and all the other stuff that occupies line producers.  A true artifact that I actually use fairly regularly, sometimes to help Trashy Travels in their research.

Waters, wearing an uncharacteristic blue cable-knit Baltimore-preppy sweater, appears ready to spring out of the chair, but has a fairly calm look on his face.  George Stover watches intently  over Waters’ shoulder.

Since these were pre-computer days, we were probably looking at the 5-panel production scheduling board figuring out how to deal with a change due to bad weather, need to re-shoot a scene, or an actor being unavailable.

Thanks to George Stover for the pic!

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’ Bit Player Survives Gun Shot in the Neck by Home Intruder

George Stover escorts Divine to the electric chair in Female Trouble

George Stover, who had regular speaking parts  in early John Waters films was shot in the neck yesterday in his home after arriving from a late party.  It was a minor neck wound and he is expected to have a full recovery.  George played memorable, if small roles including the minister who reads Divine his last rites in Female Trouble,  Bosley Gravel (Mink Stole‘s husband who was smothered to death by the family maid, played by Jean Hill) in Desperate Living, a reporter in Polyester, and the security guard at the Governor’s Mansion in Hairspray.

George Stover confronts Mink Stole in Desperate Living

George also had speaking parts in dozens of low-budget horror movies throughout his career.  He lives in Towson, MD, less than five miles from John Waters’ childhood home.

We have been working with George on a long interview to appear soon in this space, and wish him a speedy and full recovery.

Robert Maier Discusses John Waters with’60s Icon Bob Hieronimus on Baltimore Radio

Baltimore artist, Robert Hieronimus on his psychedelic bus at Woodstock in 1969.  It became an icon of the hippie movement. He is now Dr. Bob, an author and radio producer in Baltimore.

Robert Maier was interviewed about his work with John Waters, as described in Low Budget Hell, on the Baltimore talk radio station, WCBM 680AM.

 The show, Twenty-first Century Radio, is hosted by Dr. Bob Hieronimous, Baltimore’s premier pioneer psychedelic ’60s hippie hero. Dr. Bob has been a leading authority on metaphysics, numerology, united symbolism, UFOs, the occult, and yellow submarines– to mention a few of his pursuits. His work has been profiled by the BBC, Discovery, National Geographic, The History Channel, the Syfy Network, and Fox TV.

WCBM mostly broadcasts right-leaning commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. As a native Baltimorean who appreciates being on the edge, Dr. Bob read my book, then phoned me to say that though Low Budget Hell was a little off topic for him, he “laughed (his) balls off” while reading it, and asked me to be on his show.  He was one of my heroes in high school.  Promises to be an interesting show.

 Check out Dr. Bob’s website http://www.21stcenturyradio.com/ for more on his fascinating life as a ground-breaking artist/philosopher and listen to the podcast.

The VW Bus created by Dr. Bob Heironimus in the mid-1960s which became an icon of hippie art and lifestyle.

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’ 8th Grade Yearbook Page and Photo













ohn Waters’ 8th grade graduation photo was published in his first book Shock Value, but not much outside.  I thought this shot was especially interesting because it shows him in context with his classmates from the late 1950s (this photo was taken in early 1960). This was when the Buddy Deane teen dance show was all the rage (though John was too young to appear on the show at the time), and inspired the Hairspray movies and musical.

The Buddy Deane show played for more than two hours every afternoon six days a week and Baltimore teens and tweens were glued to their black and white TVs hoping for a clue for the latest hairstyle, make-up, and clothes from the fashionistas who made their appearance on the show their first career (unpaid).

You can see a wild variety of looks from these kids who create a great snapshot of the time.  The boys’ duck-ass haircuts were borrowed from Baltimore’s greaser “Drapes,” Elvis, and the other pre-Beatle hair-hoppers.  The girls, being products of the stuffy ’50s upper-class Baltimore suburb of Towson, would never have been permitted to fluff and spray their hair dos like the trashy city girls from the blue collar neighborhoods of Arbutus, Dundalk, Glen Burnie, and Highlandtown.

At this point in his life, John’s parents still had control of his look, so they made him leave the already slightly naughty public school system for the buttoned-up Catholic Boys High School of Calvert Hall.  The boys there wore blue blazers, white shirts, ties and grey slacks.  Any infringement of the rules like fashionable hair, sexuality of any sort, and smoking in the boys’ room were punished by the Christian Brother instructors who would throw offenders against the lockers and kick the shit out of them.  Parents paid good money to see that their kids were kept on the straight and narrow path, and encouraged the harsh discipline meted out publicly so that all the boys would get the message– or there would be hell to pay.

Naturally, quite a few rebelled, or had nervous breakdowns, and many of them were trucked off to military boarding schools, and then the Vietnam War if they didn’t learn to act right.  Like many Calvert Hall survivors, John saved his weirdness and rebellion for the afternoon Buddy Deane Show or visiting Baltimore’s few Beatnick restaurants and it’s Communist Bookstore, and pot dealer pads in Bolton Hill, waiting for the moment they could escape their parents’ clutches.

Studying this group portrait, and knowing the movies John would be making just a few years later, you can see a young man with different influences, all around him, just before he exploded into one of the most amazing cultural icons of his time.

Special thanks to George Stover who provided the image from his personal collection.

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’ “Polyester” Production Office Photo c.1980

This photo shows a dramatic situation early in the filming of John Waters’ Polyester.  It was taken in the basement of the home on Heavitree Hill in the Baltimore suburb that was the Fishpaw residence, Divine’s home in the movie.  The production office was in the partially finished basement.  Lots of players with a lot on their mind.

From left to right, Casting Director, Pat Moran, offers a tired stare. Line Producer, Robert Maier, clenches an unlit cigarette between his lips and is probably punching numbers into a calculator.  Divine leans in for a better look- could it be his paycheck?  Delores DeLuxe, from the Art Department, emphatically cajoles a stone-faced Maier.  Is she grabbing his arm, trying to get his attention?  Two bit part actors, who are good friends of Waters watch intently.  Drinking from a cup in the back is the film’s editor Charles Roggero, who doesn’t know that Polyester will be his third and last movie with Waters.  An unknown visitor completes the tableau.

This photo was taken in late 1980, well before computers when low-budget filmmaking was a blizzard of paperwork .  Working with a $300,000 budget on John’s first 35mm movie made for many intense meetings like this one.  It is a rare photo of Divine out of costume and very serious indeed.  I love the dramatic wedge composition and 3D feel.  Could be a Caravaggio painting.

Photo copyright by George Stover, used with permission.

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 from Amazon.com and booksellers around the world.

John Waters’ Business

On Desperate Living's Mortville set with Kevin Weber (l), John, Richard Ellsberry (r) c. 1975

Up until Hairspray, John Waters’actors never signed releases or contracts, and no commercial entity permitted in writing its products or names to be used.  I just recently read a piece by James Egan, author of John Waters: Interviews, who first met John during Female Trouble after John had called his company to purchase a liability insurance policy.

It was a shock to me.  I had no idea John had insurance, and even though I was production manager for the next film, Desperate Living, John never told me he had liability insurance for it either.  I understood that there was no money for insurance, and like a band of hippies, we were on our own.  I don’t know if the production was covered, or just John.  Looking back, as production manager, I could have been sued for millions of dollars if something bad happened.  Fortunately, my net worth was probably less than $5,000, and at 24 years old, managing my first movie, I had no clue about liability and torts.  In later movies, I made damn sure I was named as an “also insured.”

This was indicative of John’s compartmentalizing his affairs.  He didn’t want people to share too many details of his business.  His father owned a very successful fire extinguisher company in Baltimore, so John had an astute advisor in his business dealings—thank-you very much.  He preferred that people just follow his orders and not ask questions that couldn’t have a cocky, outrageous answer.

John led a charmed life with his movie business affairs in the early days.  Considering the risks taken in his films: car-driving shots, guns on the set, Divine swimming in a freezing river, the Pink Flamingos trailer bursting into an out-of-control inferno, nothing bad ever happened.  From working on dozens of films, I know bad things happen: broken bones, electrical shocks, lawsuits from angry neighbors, car wrecks, drug busts, thefts, statutory rape, large runaway animals, disturbing the peace violations, air-space violations, child labor violations, even people dying on set.  These things happen with frightening regularity, and are why movies require tens of millions of dollars of property and liability insurance.  But not with John—at least until Hairspray, when we were insured for everything, even rainy days, and were glad we were insured on several rough occasions.

Early in the production of Female Trouble John signed formal agreements giving a generous-looking 25% of all of his films’ profits through Pink Flamingos to be split among the original Dreamlanders.  All films after Pink paid a flat rate, with no ownership or royalties—backed-up by a thick contract.  The hope was that if Female Trouble was a success, John could raise real money, and pay everyone a decent day rate—on the next one.  In the movie biz, sometimes it happens, but usually not.  The royalties helped those who were nearly destitute at the time—but it wasn’t a living.  The contracts pointedly did not include other income from John’s appearance fees at college screenings and film festivals, which increased steadily, and for years dwarfed what he earned from the movies.

Speaking of taking care of people down the road, when Hairspray the musical became a Broadway hit, and John’s celebrity and success reached a new high, New Line released a fancy boxed set of his re-mastered films.  Though it had been more than twenty years since I had had contact with New Line, I received a copy in the mail one day, with a personal thank-you message signed by Bob Shaye.  Bob had sold New Line to Time Warner/AOL for millions of dollars where he continued as the executive producer of the hugely-budgeted Lord of the Rings films.  I would have preferred Bob’s autograph on a $10,000 check, thanking me for the thousands of hours worked on New Line’s pre-big budget movies, when we squeezed every penny until it bled.  Ah showbiz!

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.