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Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s, John Waters was not like the rest of the kids; he was obsessed by violence, both real and fictional. His favorite childhood memory was seeing real blood on the seat of a wrecked car when visiting a scrap yard and fantasizing about lethal car crashes. As he turned 18, he enlisted an eclectic group of counter-culture friends as his cast to begin making black-and-white films. Calling themselves the Dreamland repertory company, they would screen these shorts in rented Baltimore church halls to underground audiences drawn by word of mouth and street leafleting campaigns.

When he was just 26, his career took off when his 3rd feature film, Pink Flamingos, gained notoriety for its sick & perverse displays of bad taste.

It’s been said of John Waters’ films that they are ample evidence of what Catholicism does to an otherwise healthy mind. There’s something desirable about John Waters’ unique brand of depravity. Unlike so many rebellious punks who followed in his footsteps, he doesn’t have messy hair, torn clothes, and a seething rage against the establishment. Instead he has a very nostalgic, Norman Rockwell-esque aesthetic paired with a healthy dose of debauchery.
John Waters loves being rebellious. He despises institutions and can’t help but break the rules. As much as he loves making movies, he loves making a mess of things even more. His movies, even the mainstream ones, can’t truly be seen as the work of a “sell out”. He has always made movies about depraved people disrupting the status quo, and he has always made them on his own terms. Hollywood never truly tainted the man.

Known for working with the outcasts of society, John’s motley crew of actors (the Dreamlanders) was made up of “bad suburban kids”, crossdressers, transsexuals, and drug abusers. Starting with Desperate Living (1977), Waters began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patty Hearst) and controversial people (Traci Lords, a former porn star). In 1988, John Waters had a crossover hit with the PG-13 comedy Hairspray, later adapted into a Broadway musical which was in turn made into a John Travolta film. Anyone who tells you that they loved John Waters "before he went Hollywood" is a damned fool. The most expensive movie he ever made was budgeted at a mere $15 million (A Dirty Shame)-- a full $5 million less than Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, a beloved indie film released the same year. He’s never been Hollywood’s golden child. He always has been (& always will be) a sleazy scofflaw at odds with society.
John Waters is not 1970s sleaze, like other exploitation directors. He’s definitely not 1980s sleaze, like Ron Jeremy. And he sure as hell isn’t 1990s sleaze, like Howard Stern.

John Waters stands alone: uniquely and proudly the sole proprietor of 1950s sleaze.
A time capsule of raunch.
“Leave It To Beaver”, but heavy on the beaver, please.

That is precisely why we love him. He’s an authentic representation of Americana moreso than any of the false idols we’ve held up over the years. Americans talk about George Washington as though the worst thing he did was chop down a cherry tree, when in reality he owned slaves for over 50 years and was an opium addict.

John Waters IS the real America: Perverse.

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John Waters interview on Joe Bob's Summer School from TNT MonsterVision:

Mondo Trasho (1969)

Starring: Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole

Plot: John Waters’ 1st feature-length film (shot on a budget of just over $2,000) features a day in the lives of a hit-and-run driver and her victim, including all the bizarre things that happen to them before and after they collide.

 Mondo Trasho<br/>(1969) on IMDb

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Starring: Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole

Plot: John Waters' 2nd feature-length film (shot on a budget of $5,000) was heavily influenced by the Manson Family murders, featuring a band of murdering sideshow freaks/performers who travel from town to town robbing and murdering their rich customers.

 Multiple Maniacs<br/>(1970) on IMDb

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Starring: Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole

Plot: John Waters’ most influential work! In his 1st full color feature, shot for around $10,000, the notorious Divine does everything imaginable to retain her tabloid-awarded title as “The Filthiest Person Alive”.

 Pink Flamingos<br/>(1972) on IMDb

MONDO TRASHO
1969
FunFact: John Waters admitted in later interviews that he believes this film is "way too long" and should have been a short film.
MULTIPLE MANIACS
1970
FunFact: The person shooting heroin in the church was actually a man that just happened to be shooting heroin in the same church where they were filming the "rosary-job" scene.
PINK FLAMINGOS
1972
FunFact: According to production designer Vincent Peranio, the art department's budget was about $200. Half went to purchasing the trailer, half to decorating it. "And then after that (running out of money), we would just steal things."

Female Trouble (1974)

Starring: Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole

Plot: The life and times of Dawn Davenport, showing her progress from loving schoolgirl to crazed mass murderer - all of which stems from her parents' refusal to buy her cha-cha heels for Christmas.

 Female Trouble<br/>(1974) on IMDb

Desperate Living (1977)

Starring: Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, Edith Massey

Plot: A rich housewife murders her husband with the help of her overweight maid and the two go on the run. They shack up with a lesbian ex-wrestler and her murderess lover before running into the tyrannical Queen Carlotta.

 Desperate Living<br/>(1977) on IMDb

Polyester (1981)

Starring: Divine, Edith Massey, Mink Stole

Plot: Meet Francine, an upper middle class suburban housewife in Baltimore. Unfortunately for this "good Christian woman", the money to support her lifestyle comes from her husband's porno theater, her son is the notorious "Baltimore Stomper", & her daughter is knocked up.

 Polyester<br/>(1981) on IMDb

FEMALE TROUBLE
1974
FunFact: The female prisoner kissing Dawn in her cell at the end of the movie previously appeared in Pink Flamingos (1972) as "Chick with a Dick." The actress is a male-to-female transsexual.
DESPERATE LIVING
1977
FunFact: Any viewers who are angered by the scene of the baby in the fridge should know that the shot used in the film is take two.
POLYESTER
1981
FunFact: This is the 1st John Waters movie to garner an 'R' rating in the USA. All of his previous films had been X-rated or unrated.

Hairspray (1988)

Starring: Divine, Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry

Plot: 'Pleasantly Plump' teenager Tracy Turnblad achieves her dream of becoming a regular on the Corny Collins Dance Show. Now a teen hero, she starts using her fame to speak out for the causes she believes in, most of all integration. John Waters’ 1st taste of mainstream Hollywood success.

 Hairspray<br/>(1988) on IMDb

Cry-Baby (1990)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Traci Lords, Iggy Pop

Plot: Spoofing Elvis movies and Juvenile Delinquency scare films of the '50s, this movie follows the adventures of Cry-Baby who, though he is sent to juvie, is determined to cross class (and taste) boundaries to get his goodie two shoes girlfriend back.

 Cry-Baby<br/>(1990) on IMDb

Serial Mom (1994)

Starring: Kathleen Turner, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard

Plot: The perfect suburban family is faced with the realization that the sweet, doting mom of the house is murdering anyone who crosses them. In my opinion, this is the perfect John Waters film, encapsulating everything he’s about!

 Serial Mom<br/>(1994) on IMDb

HAIRSPRAY
1988
FunFact: Ricki Lake began rapidly losing weight due to the intense dance lessons she had to take for the film. She reportedly had to "eat like crazy" in order to stay plump.
CRY-BABY
1990
FunFact: Tom Cruise, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jim Carrey were all considered for the role of Cry-Baby until Johnny Depp was cast.
SERIAL MOM
1994
FunFact: The movie Scotty is watching as he masturbates is Chesty Morgan's Deadly Weapons (1974).

Pecker (1998)

Starring: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Mink Stole

Plot: A talented young photographer, who enjoys snapping photos of his satirical, perverted Baltimore neighborhood and his wacky family, gets dragged into a world of pretentious artists from New York City and finds newfound fame.

 Pecker<br/>(1998) on IMDb

Cecil B. Demented (2000)

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Mink Stole

Plot: An insane Baltimore-area independent film director and his renegade group of geurilla filmmakers kidnap an A-list Hollywood actress and force her to star in their underground film.

 Cecil B. DeMented<br/>(2000) on IMDb

A Dirty Shame (2004)

Starring: Tracey Ullman, Johnny Knoxville, Mink Stole

Plot: An uptight, middle-aged, sexually-repressed woman is suddenly turned into a sex addict after a blow to the head. She then falls into an underground subculture of nymphomaniacs in suburban Baltimore.

 A Dirty Shame<br/>(2004) on IMDb

PECKER
1998
FunFact: John Waters cameos as the voice of the pervert sexually harassing Christina Ricci’s character over the phone.
CECIL B. DEMENTED
2000
FunFact: John Waters had an interview with him published years before this film was made in which the headline referred to him as "Cecil B. Demented". Waters thought the title was too good to pass up.
A DIRTY SHAME
2004
FunFact: According to John Waters, when he asked the MPAA what would need to be removed in order for the film to obtain an R rating, he was told that "after a while, we just stopped taking notes."

Kiddie Flamingos (2015)
Starring: A bunch of kids.
Plot: Child actors do a table read of a “kid-friendly” version of John Waters’ X-rated cult classic, Pink Flamingos.
 Kiddie Flamingos<br/>(2015) on IMDb

KIDDIE FLAMINGOS
2015
FunFact: This unreleased, G-rated version of Pink Flamingos was only shown at a solo art show for John Waters in 2015.
DOCUMENTARIES:

Divine Trash (1998)

Dir: Steve Yeager

Interviews with: John Waters, Mink Stole, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Steve Buscemi, John’s parents, & more!

 Divine Trash<br/>(1998) on IMDb

This Filthy World (2006)

Dir: Jeff Garlin

Featuring: A 90-minute conversation with John Waters.

 This Filthy World<br/>(2006) on IMDb

I Am Divine (2013)

Dir: Jeffrey Schwarz

Interviews with: John Waters, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, & more!

 I Am Divine<br/>(2013) on IMDb

DIVINE TRASH
1998
FunFact: Russ Meyer declined to be interviewed for this documentary.
THIS FILTHY WORLD
2006
FunFact: I'm pretty sure this is still streaming on Netflix!
I AM DIVINE
2013
FunFact: The film features the final interview with Frances Milstead, Divine's mother, who passed away shortly after.
 
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