Will You Find John Waters at the 'Dick Dock' This Pride Month?

Thursday June 9, 2022

John Waters
John Waters  (Source:Associated Press)

Will you find John Waters at Provincetown's "Dick Dock" during Pride month?

That might be the case this June after the 76-year-old writer/director confessed to the Independent: "I'm just gonna blow as many people as possible."

He added: "I told my office I was going to say that. They said: 'You can't say that!' But it's just too hard for me not to, because you're supposed to give such a respectable answer and I'm tired of being respectably gay."

That "respectability" may seem at odds with his long career, which includes such transgressive films as "Pink Flamingos" (described as "an exercise in bad taste"), "Female Trouble," "Polyester," and "Serial Mom."

Waters spoke to the Independent from his Provincetown home on the occasion of a new DVD release of "Pink Flamingos" by the prestigious Criterion Collection, where his work will be seen with films by such directors as Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The DVD will be released on June 28.

"Even more remarkably, last year 'Pink Flamingos' was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,'" the Independent added.

"An irony on top of all ironies," says Waters. "But a great compliment."

Divine in "Pink Flamingos"
Divine in "Pink Flamingos"  

The film stars Divine as Babs Johnson, called "the filthiest person alive," who lives in a trailer with her gang of petty criminals. The plot centers on her rivalry with a criminal couple — Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole) — who challenge her for the title.

The film's most shocking scene happens in the final moments when Divine eats a freshly produced and unmistakably real dog turd.

"Waters conceived of the gross-out finale before writing the rest of the script," the Independent said.

"I knew that was the end," he said. "I knew that it was in the spirit of [1962 Italian shockumentary] 'Mondo Cane,' and in the spirit of 'Jackass' before it ever even happened, and in the spirit of the punk world that was right around the corner. After [1972 porn film] 'Deep Throat' had become legal, it was a joke on 'what's left that you can't do?' And it was a publicity stunt that's working to this day."

Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead, befriended Waters while they were in high school. "His family moved five houses up the street from my family," he remembers. "They ran a nursery school for children and Divine was their only child, which I'm not saying was the best advertisement."

Milstead died in 1988 at the age of 42 just on the cusp of mainstream recognition after getting a role on the Fox comedy "Married... With Children."

Waters described their collaboration this way: "We were terrorists against taste. It was a radical time, and it was group madness in a creative way." Waters made his early films with a tight-knit group of cast and crew known as the Dreamlanders. "We used to take LSD a lot," Waters said. "I didn't write on it, but I think it certainly led to some of my writings."

As it turns out, Divine didn't need much convincing to perform the infamous scene. Divine was game for the idea from the start. "I said: 'Will you eat dog sh**?' He said: 'Sure,'" Waters said of the pitch.

On a more serious note, "Pink Flamingos" also features a double-shooting and a poster that shows Divine aiming a handgun. This led Waters to discuss gun culture today after the recent mass shootings in New York and Texas.

"There's no reason why anyone should have guns in America," Waters said. He added that he's only shot a gun once in his life. "A biker took me out into the woods and we shot machine guns," he said. "It was a fun day, but it was more fun because I was with him than it was shooting a gun. It was a good date, but I never then wanted to go shoot a gun again. I have no desire to. I'd shoot myself with it accidentally if I had one."