John Waters: ‘I’m tired of being respectably gay’

It’s the first day of Pride Month when I reach John Waters by phone at his summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, so it feels remiss not to ask the 76-year-old how he plans to celebrate. “I’m just gonna blow as many people as possible,” the cult filmmaker, stand-up and newly-minted novelist tells me, audibly smirking. He interrupts himself with a knowing laugh. “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.”

Respectability has never been high on Waters’ agenda. Christened “The Pope of Trash” by Naked Lunch author William Burroughs, Waters made his name in the early Seventies with exuberantly transgressive independent films like 1972’s Pink Flamingos, a depraved tale of incest and underground baby mills starring drag queen Divine as a criminal living under the name Babs Johnson and dubbed “the filthiest person alive”In a sign that respectability has come for Waters whether he likes it or not, the film will soon mark its 50th anniversary by being re-released with new bonus extras as part of the prestigious Criterion Collection. Even more remarkably, last year Pink Flamingos was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. “An irony on top of all ironies,” says Waters. “But a great compliment.”

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