| John Waters/Redd
Beyond the Valley of the Pulsating Colostomy Bags!
Interview by Jeff and Steve McDonald
Operator: Please excuse me, Steve McDonald is now in conference
John Waters: Why does she keep saying excuse me? (laughs) I think she's farting or something. Where are you calling from?
Steve McDonald: We're in Madrid.
John: Madrid? Oh God. Are you having fun?
Steve: We're slap happy. We just got in at eight o'clock.
John: So you're jet-lagged -
Operator: Please excuse me everyone... Jeff McDonald is now in conference.
Jeff McDonald: Hello.
John: How are you?
Jeff: I'm very good, actually. We're in Madrid and I just turned on the TV and there's a Charles Manson documentary in Italian.
John: Oh my God! With him dubbed?!
Jeff: Oh, I was just going to tell you, Sandra Good was dubbed!
John: Oh God. Well, that's merciful. I actually saw all of my movies dubbed recently in Spanish. Someone sent all of them to me. They are so much fun to watch. It's like the only way I can watch them now, to see them in foreign languages. Sometimes people rant for an hour and then they dub in "yes." One word, you know?
Steve: Sometimes you'll pick out words you know, like "fromage."
John: Exactly. What's that other word that sounds like "fromage?" Frottage!" That means when you rub your dick up against someone on a subway. That's what it's called. When people get off and it's just like, "Excuse me," and they're like grinding on you for like a second. I love that word. But it's "frottage." It's a good one . . .
Steve: Robert Hecker (former Redd Kross guitarist) used to always say "frottage."
Jeff: We'll have to use that when we go to France.
John: Are you going to France? I'm going to Cannes next week.
Jeff: Yeah, we're just going to be in Paris one day.
John: What's the rudest thing a fan has ever done to you?
Steve: Nothing too horrifying. I remember one night this 4th grade school teacher who weighed about 600 pounds got topless and jumped on-stage and grabbed onto me and wouldn't let go.
John: Uh oh. God . . .
Jeff: That's pretty Motley Crue. She wrote me this incredible letter about how she loved me and she was a school teacher. She was huuuugely overweight.
John: I had a girl actually pull her Tampax out and ask me to autograph it recently, and I had another girl ask me to sign her colostomy bag that was on her, pulsating!
Steve: Was she wearing the colostomy bag?
John: Yeah, it was on the front, which - I thought they were on the back, but they're not.
Jeff: Was it full?
John: It was pulsating, so I made sure I had a felt tip rather than a Sharpie! I felt bad for her, 'cause it was real. I thought, "Oh my god!"
Steve: She has a sense of humor about it, though.
John: Sort of. Her face looked like something kind of weird had happened to her. She didn't look like a Breck girl, I'll tell ya. She was only 20 years old.
Jeff: But you did sign the colostomy bag?
John: Oh yeah, sure. She paid her money to get into the lecture, I'll sign what they want. (laughs)
Jeff and Steve: Oh my God!
Jeff: What an honor.
John: What's the best country for you?
Jeff: I'm really into Germany; not because it's the best for us, but because I'm into the whole vibe there.
John: It's so different than the first times I used to go there with my movies. Well, it's like America: all of the fanatics are right wing in America now. When I started, all of the fanatics were left wing. And I think it's the same way in Germany.
Jeff: I found Audrey Lander heavy metal records in Germany. I kind of like the whole ya-ya aesthetic.
John: The weirdest thing is German rap, because their words so don't work for rap. I bought a bunch of German rap when I was there, and it really clears out my house! People run out of my house when I play it.
Jeff: We discovered the first Spice Girls knock-off in Germany called Funky Diamond. They're pretty amazing. So I haven't had a chance to see the new Pink Flamingos, but I have to tell you that I saw it for the first time when I was 15, like pre-video -
John: I think that was illegal.
Jeff: It was illegal. It was so strange to identify so closely with something that was so scary. I mean, it really did feel like a snuff film.
John: But nobody actually got... we really didn't eat the policeman - Divine really did eat shit, but she didn't eat the policeman.
Jeff: But it felt so real.
John: It was real, 'cause it was filmed with this kind of camera that they used... it was before video, so it was a newsreel camera and it recorded the sound right on the film, so you couldn't ever make the sound better. Well, we did make it better with digitalizing and all, but it was filmed so primitively that it almost looked like a bad documentary, which I think worked even though I didn't plan on that. I thought the movie looked slick when I made it, because it was the most money I ever had at the time.
Jeff: I snuck a tape recorder and we taped the film, we used to tape your movies and just listen to them all of the time.
Steve: On tour.
John: Oh that's great. Well, you know the guy that had the Singing Asshole? He's probably in his late 40's now, and he went to where it was playing, and I said to him, "Well, did they like it?" And he said, "Listen!" He had taken a tape recorder and played me over the phone the audience laughing at his asshole! And then he told me that he turned to the stranger sitting next to him in the theater, right after the scene, and said, "Recognize anybody?" And the guy's face - and then the Singing Asshole just left the theater and the guy was like, "Ahhhh!!!" It was like the worst "Candid Camera" sequence!Jeff: Oh my God! What is Pink Flamingos like to you right now? John" It's like looking at my high school reunion pictures from reform school. I'm proud of it. It looks as best as it could ever look. They spent a lot of money to, like, digitalize it. It still looks terrible, but you can hear all of the dialogue now. You'll like the scenes at the end. It's like Edie and Divine; there's a lot of new scenes in it. It's like 13 minutes at the end. The movie's over and then I fade up and go, "Hi, I'm John Waters. I'd like to show you some scenes that were cut from the movie." I think you'd enjoy it if you liked the movie, 'cause you'll see like Edie telling sex stories to the eggs, and Divine having Cookie murdered and then cut off her ear and then eat it. And they sing "We're the Filthiest People Alive" in piglatin.
Jeff: You know the filth scene where they're licking all the furniture? Is that a gypsy curse?
John: No, there's more of a curse in the new footage where they take their feet off and rub it on the floors and start chanting, "Rub, touch, and feel! Rub, touch, and feel!"
Jeff: What's your thing with feet? Because, I mean, "shrimpjob," I'd never heard that before.
John: It's 'cause I like the word so much. I thought it was so funny. Sex always looks kind of surreal to me. . . that was the first safe sex movie, when you think about it. It is ludicrous now to see people like . . . especially in the scene where the marbles are shrimping each other, and that's rare. I don't think anyone only shirmps with no other kind of sex. No one's ever really done that. But I think it's funny. I don't know. I always just thought it was the most peculiar sex act. Now I see in New York these magazines that the whole magazines are just pictures with personal ads with peoples feet! It is so ludicrous, but they're dead serious about it. At least it's safe sex. I certainly did it just because it would look so surreal.
Jeff: We did one of the most evil things to our mom, 'cause our mom gags very easily. We told her that we were going to show her our new rock video or something like that, and we cued up the dog shit scene from Pink Flamingos and just turned it on -
Steve: She hears the song and goes "Oh, I like this song," and then she almost vomited -
John: A lot of people say "Oh, that isn't real!" But you can see that it's real if you look.
Jeff: When Divine gags, that's when you know it's real. That is the most effective little nuance in that scene.
John: I can only look at that now and to me it doesn't have that power. I could feel the waves of shock over the audience in a crowded theater today, but to me it just seems like surrealism because it's so ludicrous. Babies do that. And Divine knew the dog! You know, it wasn't like it was a strange dog. Then I would think it was repulsive.
Jeff: I still can't watch the chicken scene. I've never been able to watch that scene.
John: At the end of the movie I address this issue on the film, and I say today, "Look, I eat chicken; I don't think it had a heart attack and landed on the plate. We got the chicken from a farmer that had a assign that said, 'Freshly Killed Chicken,' so we made the chicken's life better. It got to be in a movie, it got fucked, and then we ate it!" Danny Mills ate the chicken after the scene, and you can see in the new footage where that happens. So, to me, I think that's socially okay. I always say that I wouldn't want to hurt a chicken, but I eat a chicken. It's ludicrous. Eating a chicken is hurting it! But chickens don't have great lives. What else are they gonna do? Write a novel? I mean, they don't even find happiness with each other in a pen. I'm not for hurting animals at all, but I eat them and think it's so ludicrous to think that eating them isn't hurting them. It is.
Jeff: I would have to agree. I'm sorry, but I'm a vegetarian myself.
John: Well, that scene will probably reinforce that forever!
Jeff: Yeah, it doesn't make me crave chicken. Can I give you a brief list of celebrities and can you say the first things that come to your head?
Jeff: The first one is John Saxon.
John: John Saxon. . . hmmm. . . he made some good movies, but I don't have any overpowering thing. I just remember him when he was young and in a lot of good exploitation movies.
Jeff: Okay, Madame Alex.
John: Boy, some bad outfits and a bad hairdo! What did she do with her money?
Jeff: Jan Michael Vincent.
John: Well, when he was young he was an incredible beauty, and let's just say that I hope he's following all of those steps.
Jeff: Okay, the Olsen twins.
John: Who are they?
Jeff: they are two mutant child actors who are on the show "Full House."
John: Oh, see, if it's about television I've never head - the last television show I watched was "The Fugitive," and then I took LSD and never watched television again in my life. Sometimes I'll do these talk shows with these really famous TV stars and I've never seen them in my entire life.
Jeff: Okay, one more, 'cause I think we're mutual fans: Ike Turner.
John: Well, have you seen Ike Turner's new wife?
Jeff: Steven almost got into a head-on collision in LA with Ike Turner!
Steve: He had several women in the car.
John: He has a new white wife. I always try to picture - I would love to make the "Diane Linklater Story," an instant movie about when she brought home her new husband to her parents. "Dad, I'm going to marry a black man." "That's okay, who is it?" "It's Ike Turner." "Ahhhhh!" What could she have possibly said to her parents when she announced that? Did Ike come over and ask for her hand in marriage? I must admit that I love Tina Turner's singing waaaay more when she was with Ike. It makes me mad. I get why she hates Ike, but I don't get why she hates the music she made with Ike.
Jeff: She re-sang all of those songs for What's Love Got To Do With It.
John: Which were terrible! She's Jackie Kennedy now in her mind - which I get, however, I liked her better when she wore a ratty mink coat and had a mustache!
Jeff: Speaking of strange accents, did you ever have to deal with Kathleen Turner's Armenian accent?
John: Oh, I used to have to whisper to Kathleen when we were making the movie, "Remember: America! America!"
Steve: What is that all about?
John: Well, I'll tell ya. Her father was in them military and she grew up in South America, Europe. . . she moved to a different country every year. It really is how she talks.
Jeff and Steve: Wow.
Jeff: She's very, very cool.
John: I love her. I had a great time with her. I think she had the humor, she had the anger; she understood Serial Mom perfectly.
Jeff: Okay, here's a scenario: say you meet some Swedish billionaire who wants to finance your next film -
John: Is there such a thing as a Swedish billionaire? I think they have the highest tax rate in the world.
Jeff: That's true; okay, Swiss billionaire.
John: Alright, yes, there are plenty of them.
Jeff: And this person is willing to give carte blanche, but the only stipulation is that you have to hire Prince as your leading man. What kind of role would you write for him?
John: Well, maybe I would re-make the Liberace story with him as a black Liberace. I think, musically, he is very talented. I don't care for the movies he's directed. I've softened on Prince. I just wish he would not have those plunging neck lines. I'm not interested in his hairy body!
Jeff: But you have to admit that Under The Cherry Moon was genius.
John: Oh, I thought it was true torture.
Jeff: Yeah, it's pretty great. Okay, Ricki Lake, you don't watch her show then?
John: I watch it when I'm in hotel rooms. I was on it recently for Ricki Lake's surprise birthday show, but she couldn't believe that I - she said, "I can't believe that you're hitting on the guests that are coming on the second show: 'Addicted to Porn'!" I was talking to them the whole time and she couldn't believe her eyes. I kept saying, "Which one's your favorite?" They were so stupid, they kept saying, "We liked them all!" But I was very interested in meeting the guests that were addicted to porn.
Jeff: Did you read the Jerry Butler book?John: Yes, of course I did. The Joey Stefano one is real good. Did you read that?
Steve: I've read parts of that one.
John: It's real good. Especially at the funeral, when they have all of these pictures of him and the family thought he was a model.
Jeff: What about that book, Steve, that's only available in Chile?
John: Oh! Michael Jackson Is My Lover! I've given it to hundreds of people for Christmas.
Steve: I haven't read that. How is it?
John: Oh my God! There's a chapter, "Michael Jackson's Uses of Tampons!" According to this book, he wears a tampon in his ass daily! I believe it!
Steve: Aren't there pictures of Michael lounging with no nose?
John: Well, he doesn't have a nose. I've seen him. None of the family has a nose anymore.
Jeff: But apparently he literally does not have a nose. When he takes the tape off there's no nose.
John: I don't know that. I have the book. You can get it now everywhere, and it's really a shocking book. It says in this book that - or libel reasons, I didn't say this - but it says that right before he would have sex with the children they would go down to his zoo and throw stones at the animals! (big laughs)
Jeff: Oh my God. Female Trouble. I think it's your most quoted movie -
John: It's the best one of the old ones, definitely.
Jeff: I think so. How often do you go out to dinner with people who you don't really know are fans that order two chicken breasts?
John: I don't think that has ever happened. I can think of the most annoying thing that happened: once I gave a college lecture and the person that picked me up at the airport only would talk to me in lines from my movies - and for about five minutes it was funny. The next day at breakfast I wanted to strangle him! He's say, "I'll have an extremely large glass of ice water." "Oh, shut up!" (laughs) After a day of it, he was really on my nerves.
Jeff: A friend of mine told me that you met Jeff Stryker and went to his house.
John: Well, Jeff Stryker I do know, Jeff Stryker came to the premier of Pink Flamingos and the person who took him wrote me and said that he was shocked. I loved that. I think Jeff is great. I'm a big fan of Jeff Stryker. I think he's the Cary Grant of porno. And in person he looks great, he looks real, he has a great car, like a muscle car. I mean, he's perfect. I think he's the perfect porno star. He does gay and straight, too. He's all-purpose. But I went to Greg Gorman's house and he showed us the new movie that he was in, and it was kind of weird sitting next to him on the couch, 'cause it was just him jerking off for 45 minutes. This was not sexual at all; it was just Jeff, an actor showing you his new work, saying things like, "I have to correct the color here." And then he said about his penis, "That's the thickness I was talking about." (laughs) I didn't quite know what to say and I couldn't look over because I was afraid I would start laughing 'cause it was so weird! But I really respect him. I think he's great. He came to the premier of Pink Flamingos in Los Angeles, too.
Jeff: That must have been a very uncomfortable screening.
John: Well, it was just weird. I didn't quite know how to react. What are you supposed to say? "Yeah, your dick looks great!" I don't know. When he came, I applauded. It seemed like the only appropriate thing to do.
Jeff: Would you ever consider casting Elizabeth Berkley in a film?
John: Yeah, I would. Todd Oldham is a friend of mine and he used her as a model and he lover her and I think she survived that very well. I think she showed a great sense of humor. Gina Gershon didn't get mean press; Elizabeth did.
Jeff: Showgirls has become a comfort movie for me. If I'm on the road and it comes on the television or something, it makes me feel very comfortable.
John: Oh, I understand. To me another movie like that is Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I think that would make a great double feature.
Jeff: I would have to agree on that. What's happening with Russ Meyer these days?
John: I don't know. I haven't seen him.
Jeff: Anymore prison stories? Have you been to prison lately?
John: All of the prisons where I talked got rid of the schools. I can't teach in prison anymore. Taxpayers won't have it.
Jeff: What are you working on now?
John: I have this movie called Pecker. The script is done. It's about a kid who lives in Baltimore and he works in a sandwich shop and he takes pictures of his family with a camera he found in a thrift shop and he accidentally gets discovered by a New York art dealer and he turns into a giant art star in New York against his will.
Jeff: Wow. Have you cast anyone yet?John: No. I can't talk about it yet, because I don't have the final green light and it's all up in the air. I hope to make it very soon, so it's bad luck to talk about it before you do it.Jeff; Okay, now, what about tea bagging? We heard that this is like the new rage.
John: It's not a rage. In Baltimore they do it in this one bar where, if you tip them, they tea bag you: they dance on the bar above you, they lean down and hit their balls on your forehead. I was shocked the first time I saw it. I thought, "What the hell was that?" And I love that it's called "tea bagging."
Jeff: What are three things that are shocking to you right now in 1997.
John: Oh, I guess the fact that all terrorists dress bad 'cause they're right wing now. Bad sentimentality in movies really, really gets on my nerves. I mean, when Forrest Gump started running I felt like stabbing people that were sitting around me. What else shocks me? I'm not that shocked. I'm usually just shocked by stupid things that aren't that amusing or funny. I'm shocked that New York looks like a mall now. Every store is a chain store that we have in Baltimore.
Jeff: I heard that Times Square was going to be purchased by Disney.
John: It already has. Times Square is like . . . there's no hookers in Times Square! It's families. Families on the loose. They've ruined it.
Jeff: It's so weird, 'cause Pink Flamingos - I know every word and nuance by heart and it's so hard to talk about something you're so close to.
John: Well, there's one new line that you may not have ever heard that people tell me they can understand now. When Crackers, Divine and Cotton race back up to see their trailer on fire, they fall to their knees, and Mary Vivian Pearce says, "A priceless theatrical wardrobe!"
Jeff: Oh no, no, no!
Steve: We've been quoting that one for years!
John: Well, you'll be able to hear it better and there's new lines at the end.
Jeff: How's it doing?
John: It's doing great. The per screen average was good and it's going now deeper in America. I'm waiting now to see how deep it can get without trouble.
Jeff: I remember when Polyester came out, it was such a thrill to see one of your films in a shopping mall.
Steve: Have you ever seen one of your films at a drive-in?
John: In my life I never did, but they did play in drive-ins. It never worked.
Jeff: We saw Polyester at a drive-in. We had to to go see it at a drive-in after we saw it at the mall.
Jeff: We were only able to see your earlier films at the Nuart (in Los Angeles).
John: That's where Pink Flamingos opened again. That's where the premier of it was.
Jeff: We saw it at the Southbay 6, which is this multi-plex in Carson, just borderline to Compton. It was the kind of drive-in where people always got shot and killed all of the time.
John: Oh my God.
Jeff: It was an amazing experience. Well, thanks so much, John.
John: Okay, thank you. I'm flattered you all did the interview.