John Waters revels in filth

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Monday November 18, 2013
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On Saturday, November 23, the normally elegant Yoshi's on Fillmore Street will become mired in sleaze, filth, and boundary-busting humor, as the iconic filmmaker John Waters takes to the stage to offer his astute observations on the filthy world in which we live. Waters will appear for two shows, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

"I'm excited!" Waters told the B.A.R. "I never played a jazz club before, but I listen to my local real jazz station all the time in my car." Never one to mince words, Waters said that many of the jazz musicians he knows are heroin addicts.

It's a homecoming of sorts for Waters, as San Francisco is one of several cities in which he maintains residences. "I have a beautiful apartment in the city," he said. "I look at it and wonder who lives there. You people bought me that apartment!"

John Waters: "It's not just about my movies anymore."

Photo: Greg Gorman

He's looking forward to being in the city again. "I can't wait!" he said. "I'm gonna get a Muni pass. I always feel so thankful to be in San Francisco." He cited the city's mild weather as one of the things he loves about being here.

We wondered what we could expect from the man who convinced Divine to eat poodle shit in the film Pink Flamingos. What would he talk about? "I wouldn't bring the kids," he said. "Unless they just got out of reform school. I'm kinda blue."

And what does his family think of his adults-only brand of humor? Waters' father watched his film A Dirty Shame (2004) and admitted that it was funny. "But I hope I never see it again," said Dad, who was 90 years old at the time.

It was his parents who covered the cost of shooting Pink Flamingos, Waters' now-40-year-old underground cult classic. The film became legendary for that still-shocking dung-eating scene. His parents never saw the film, but he says that he paid them back for every cent they put into it.

Divine, he says, didn't care for dressing in drag, because she was so fat: the drag outfits were uncomfortable. Waters' voice took on a more serious tone when he spoke of Divine. She was his muse, the star of most of his early films, and a lifelong friend. "I'm very happy about Jeffrey Schwarz' documentary I Am Divine," he said. "It showed him for who he really was. He didn't sit around eating poodle shit. We created Divine together. I'm glad the film got good reviews." The auteur spoke very highly of his late friend's acting abilities.

Those wild, outrageous films with Divine remain Waters' greatest claim to fame. He continued making films after Divine's premature death from a heart attack shortly after the release of Hairspray (1987), their final collaboration. The camera finally stopped rolling about a decade ago.

"I might make a new movie," he said. "It doesn't bother me either way. I do spoken-word performances, and my last book was a bestseller."

He returned to the subject of his appearance at Yoshi's. "I'll be telling stories," he said. "I'll be talking about topics like crime, fashion, Divine, Justin Bieber, and how to be a happy neurotic. It's not just about my movies anymore. It's how I can be a filth elder."

If you'd like to join Waters on his journey through the muck, be sure to head over to Yoshi's on November 23 for John Waters: This Filthy World.


8 p.m. show ($40), 10 p.m. show ($30), Yoshi's, 1330 Fillmore St., SF. Info: (415) 655-5600 or