John Waters has always had an unbridled willingness to go excavate the depths of the odd and unexpected, whether it's dominatrix sex scenes, caged pregnant women, cannibalism, egg fetishes or just the gustatory joys of dog excrement. Can anyone ever write about the Baltimore-based filmmaker without referencing that?
This past year he performed his one-man show, This Filthy World, at Bonnaroo and charmed concertgoers with his tales of crime, fashion, and the concept of self-help. If you think his appearance at the Tennessee fest was an anomaly, don’t forget get the auteur and self-proclaimed master of bad taste has released two albums, 2007’s A Date With John Waters, a collection of romantic seduction music "I would play if you were coming over,” and a follow-up to his unexpected hit record, John Waters Christmas. He still insists he wants to release a third, Breaking Up With John Waters, that is if he could find the time.
The past few months have been a blitz for the filmmaker-cum-culture maven, which has found him promoting his latest book, Role Models, being selected as one of five judges at the Venice Biennale, curating an art show for the Walker Arts Centre in Minneapolis, filming a small role in an independent movie, then speaking at the National Convention of US Mayors. He has done everything this year BUT make a movie or have a social life. But since this elegant well-dressed roué is an expert on so many things, we thought perhaps we should grill him about relationships—especially in light of the Lopez-Anthony breakup.
What's a date with John Waters like?
Well, I would probably put that album on that I put out a few years ago and play if you came over and I was trying to seduce you.
What if I didn’t like the music you played?
Then I could save money on dinner. If people hate your music, you’re not going to get along. Music is such an important thing. I play music all the time in my house, so if they don’t like it, it’d really be trouble.
Okay, so we’re only talking about "at home" dates, right? What about when you take a potential date out into the world?
I don’t like to go out on a first date. I go out with a bunch of people, like 15-year-olds do now. The best way to date is to go out in a mob. I go out with like ten people, and then if it works, you end up together. But if I had to take just one person out, I would never take them to—well, some industry event. First of all, I don’t fall in love with famous people. So anybody that would want to go to a movie opening with me, I’d be suspicious of them. When I meet someone and they say they don’t know who I am, that’s like saying “I love you" to me.
Don't famous people like to be reminded of their fame?
I’m from Baltimore where they don’t really care about whatever fame I have. I think they basically always think: you couldn’t be that famous or you wouldn’t live here. They’ll say that. But I never am complaining about any kind of fame I have. I hate people that complain about that. What else did you go into show business for?
Do you think famous people are different than the rest of us?
No. Well, famous people in the beginning think that fame is going to solve all their problems. It just gives it another, weirder spin to the same problems.
Yeah, it’s like losing 20 pounds.
Well, I lost 30 once and kept it off forever, and that was fun, and I like doing that. One thing I know is at my age, you have a choice, to be fat or gaunt. I have chosen gaunt. Well, that’s the only choice you have. There is no other choice. Some people are naturally skinny, though. I always said I’m the only gay man that’s never been to the baths or the gym. But I always say if I could go to the gym where I could get the body of a junkie, I’d go.
You don’t go to the gym? How do you stay so thin?
I’ve never gone to the gym in my life. I just eat healthily during the week and eat irresponsibly on Saturdays. But even the irresponsible candy I like is fat free, it just has calories. And I just am old-fashioned, I live Cooking Light magazine. Every meal I make is out of Cooking Light magazine. I'll even cook just for myself.
I see you're a recluse, but if you had to take someone out, where would you go?
I would either take a date to a demolition derby or an armed robbery would be fun. I’ve never actually done that, but that’s my fantasy. Or escaping someone from prison would be really a fun date, too. Holing up in the motel and watching it on TV.
So are you involved with anyone now?
Oh, I’m single now. Very definitely a single man. I have a great life as a single man. I’ve never wanted to live with, even when I’m in love I don’t want to live with someone, ever. I think it’s best you have two houses, then you can go to whoever’s house. It makes it more fun. It preserves the mystery.
So what’s important for a romance, besides mystery?
Sense of humor is always the most important thing. Anybody that can make me laugh is the first step, and making someone else laugh is the first step in seduction.
So you believe in love?
Yes, but I’m a realist about it. That basically I realize that everybody has a type. They never, ever change. But all you can do is recognize the same bad ones coming, and either say, okay, the same thing’s going to happen, I’ll do it, or avoid it. But you don’t whine about it and it doesn’t bring you pain anymore. That’s all you can hope for. That’s mental health.
Shrinks always say, when you see your type, run the other way.
Yeah, but I believe in shinks. I’m up against pills. I believe in the talking cure. You can’t even get it anymore, insurance doesn’t even cover it. But it’s true, if you see your type coming, run. Because it’s not going to make up for what you didn’t get before you were three years old.
A cliché about love that is actually true.
Never let him know how much you like him. But it’s impossible not to. And my friend Pat Moran always says, “One person in a relationship always likes the other one more.”
Your greatest strength, as a lover.
If I’m in love with somebody, I am faithful. It doesn’t always work, I mean it doesn’t always mean that they are, but certainly, yes, if I’m with somebody I have no desire to be with somebody else. Although unfortunately what I have found is when you are, the option arouses way more than when you’re single.