John Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1946, and spent much of his formative years in nearby Lutherville. Here he would meet Divine, and the other men and women who were eager to work in front of the camera and behind the scenes on his self-written, self-produced and independently financed movies.
Waters went from a local boy staging violent puppet shows for children's birthdays to a young adult, making cheap, underground movies by his early 20s. Kicked out of New York University for smoking pot in 1966, he returned to Baltimore and got started making his own pictures.
"I went to New York University, very briefly. I got kicked out in 1966 -- marijuana, which was a big scandal then. It was in the Daily News. I never went to classes anyway. I lived by stealing textbooks and selling them back to the bookstore. When I got kicked out, I went home. NYU recommended extensive psychiatric treatment."
After making three short films, John directed his first feature length movie Mondo Trasho in 1969. Even in this early foray into filmmaking, many of the hallmarks of his work are already present. Gore, sex, drag, fetish, blasphemy, drugs… laid bare against a blistering rock and roll soundtrack.
“Secretly I think that all my films are politically correct, though they appear not to be. That's because they're made with a sense of joy."
Of course he went on to make many more films, many of which have earned legendary status amongst fans, critics and fellow filmmakers. And over time he worked with bigger budgets and some well-known stars. But he always stayed true to his roots. Establishing his first production company Dreamland Studios in his own bedroom, since then, all of his films have been shot on location in Baltimore. And his original cast members, lovingly known to their fans as Dreamlanders, have played roles from Multiple Maniacs through A Dirty Shame.
Aside from filmmaking, John is also an accomplished writer, photographer and visual artist. He has published multiple collections of his journalistic exploits, screenplays, ruminations and artwork. And his artwork exhibits regularly in galleries and museums around the world.
These days, you can most often find Mr. Waters treading the boards at theaters, clubs and festivals around the world, performing his ever-changing one man show This Filthy World. It’s a must-see for any fan, and many of the engagements include a book signing or a meet-and-greet.
“The final irony: a creatively crazy person who finally gets power. Think about it: I didn’t change. Society did. Who would have ever thought a top college like RISD would invite a filth elder like myself to set an example to its students? See? There’s hope for everybody.”