Christmas may not be the first thing you associate with the man who directed Pink Flamingos and Polyester (a chubby Ricki Lake doing the Twist or Divine’s infamous dog poo dinner are more likely to spring to mind), but John Waters points out he’s been in the Holiday buisness forever. “I always say, if [I’m] not working at Christmas [I’m] in trouble!”
Let’s look at the evidence: The Pope of Trash devoted an entire chapter in one of his books to why he loves Christmas, admitting that he begins fretting in July that there are only 146 shopping days left. In 2004, he released A John Waters Christmas, a collection of bizarre and campy holiday songs handpicked by Waters himself. And, of course, there are his legendary Christmas cards. One year Waters sent out a glass ornament with a plastic cockroach inside, which fetched for around $75 on eBay.
“It was very collectible!” he exclaims, adding, “If I ever find out who sells my Christmas card, they never get one again.”
This year, Waters is resurrecting a holidaytradition: his one-man show, A John Waters Christmas Live. Similar to his other show, This Filthy World, Waters’ yuletide act is part stand-up, part lecture, owing more than a little to the cheesy holiday TV specials of yesteryear.
“I talk about everything from Christmas music to the TV specials that I wish I’d had; things I hate about Christmas; if Christmas is gay or not—and that’s a pretty complicated question! If we’re having a nervous breakdown at Christmas, how to have it the proper way,” says Waters. “I think I have a lot of good advice!”
So what does Waters want for Jesus’ birth? How about the much-rumored sequel to the Hairspray musical at your local multiplex?
“I was hired to write the treatment, and the title is Hairspray 2: White Lipstick,” Waters says. “It takes place after the [Corny Collins] show, when all the characters have to deal with the real Sixties and become adults. It’s pretty crazy. It’s PG-13 but it’s still John Waters-crazy, almost a little bit like my old movies.” Beyond that, Waters says he’s not sure when, or if, the film will get made, noting, “It’s not up to me to greenlight it.”
Waters also has a new book, Role Models, slated for release in the summer. “It’s my memoir told through people [who] have taught me something and [who] have impressed me in a way, for reasons that are very, very different,” he says.
One can imagine the cast of kooks who molded the director’s twisted aesthetic; a lesbian stripper in Waters’ beloved Baltimore, Tennessee Williams, Little Richard and incarcerated Manson family member Leslie Van Houten—to whom Waters devotes an uncharacteristically serious chapter advocating her parole.
“That is one very serious chapter in the book,” Waters admits. “I can’t think of a Christmas story… Well, she did sing “Santa Baby” in the talent show in prison. That’s in there.”
There will also be a chapter on one of Waters’ particular holiday influences. “Johnny Mathis has been a Christmas mentor to me, certainly. I went to his Christmas show last year and I write about him a lot in my new book. But at the same time, I love The Chipmunks,” says Waters, bringing it back to a more familiar level of taste. “They have a Christmas movie that I always go to alone so I can hear [the children] yell “OK!” with Alvin. It makes me go Christmas insane.”
A John Waters Christmas Live goes insane Dec 22 at BB Kings Blues Club (237 W 42nd St, 212-997-4144). Visit BBKingBlues.com for more info.