John Waters' corrupted Christmas comes to town
For anyone looking to get in the holiday spirit in a not-so-traditional style, keep "A John Waters Christmas" on your radar.
Waters' one-man-show is making its way to Portland on Nov. 29 at the Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Cult-film icon, Waters, 71, has had a long career in filmmaking, writing, stand up, art and much, much more.
He wrote and directed "Hairspray" in 1988, which was later remade in 2007 and adapted into a long-running Broadway musical.
In more recent years, in 2012, he hitchhiked across the United States starting from his home in Baltimore, Maryland, resulting in a 2014 book: "Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America."
His movie "Pink Flamingos," about a criminal drag queen called Divine, further cemented his identity as a cult icon. Several of his movies are rated X or NC-17 for their graphic material, but in his standup shows — he says he's nice to everybody.
"I think I'm completely politically correct so nobody gets mad at what I say because I'm not mean," he says in a phone interview.
He has plenty of feelings about Christmastime and consumerism.
Here's what he had to say:
Tribune: So, do you hate Christmas or what?
Waters: No, I love Christmas, but I get people that do hate it. So my talk is for everybody about Christmas because you can't avoid it, it's a tsunami wave that's coming at you. You have to spend money. There's almost no way that you can't. Which I understand great resentment about that. But I love it, I've never have a bad experience with Christmas; I've had great ones. So I like it, but I talk about it for all kinds of people. This year it's going to be tough because of politics, so there's going to be a lot of fighting at Christmas, so get ready.
Tribune: What's the worst gift you've ever received, and the worst you've ever given?
Waters: Well, I talk about in my show how we should have, on purpose, a "Worst Christmas," where you get the ugliest Christmas decorations, the worst Christmas cards and you all agree to give each other the present they'd hate the most. It's a theme that would really lighten Christmas and take the burden away. The worst Christmas present I've ever got, somebody one year gave me the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone movie "Rocky." I just opened the window and threw it out.
Tribune: In the description of your show, it talks of being a "trigger warning of a show for Christmas traditionalists." What does that mean?
Waters: The trigger warnings are only for rich people, really. It's a class issue. I think trigger warnings are ludicrous, although I think I'm completely politically correct so nobody gets mad at what I say because I'm not mean. But, at the same time you know when I first heard of a "trigger warning," I thought that was a joke because I thought that's why you went to college was to have your values challenged. So my entire life has been a trigger warning. I want things that are trigger warnings in my life, because I love subject matter that there's no real correct answer. That it's a gray answer, that's what always interested me the most.
Tribune: Do you find it any more difficult to be funny in today's political climate?
Waters: I purposely pick subjects that are touchy, including gay politics. You know, I make fun of them, too. I make fun of the right and the left, even though I'm completely left wing. I miss riots. I used to go to riots like a date when I was young. It was a social thing. It was like, what do people do now, they're bowling — I went to riots. You met good people, it was fun. I don't know, it was a whole different thing. And it was for something that I believed in. It's weird today because I'm for freedom of speech, I'm for letting the worst idiot be able to speak. But at the same time, when I see riots, I think, "Oh look, they have poles now." I had a pole, too, but I didn't have a shield. So I notice the fashions. They look so good with those black scarves around their heads and everything. And you know, I get that both sides are not the same at a Nazi rally. Wasn't World War II supposed to kill Nazis? I didn't think we had to do that anymore.
Tribune: You've done a lot over the decades. What are some of the projects you feel define your career?
Waters: I would say "Pink Flamingos" in the beginning certainly, when it became a midnight hit all over the country. That'll still be in the first paragraph of my obituary no matter what I do. "Hairspray" when it won the Tony Award certainly. And I think when my books "Role Models" and "Carsick" both became best-sellers and got good reviews. You know, I've always been a writer. That's what I do, I write my movies, I write my shows, I write everything. So I think my career has been like a good growth stock. It doesn't go up and down wildly, but it steadily grows. And I'm busier than I ever have been in my entire life right now, at 71 years old. And I've never had to get a real job, even though my hours are longer than real jobs. So I've had a great life. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Life has been way beyond fair to me, Hollywood's been fair to me, everybody's been kind of fair to me.
I've always had somebody that liked it, and that's all you need. Somebody. I mean the critics didn't in the beginning; I built a career on negative reviews, something that might not be possible today. Well, it could be today, I don't know.
Not as much as it used to be. Because there was a cultural war going on, now there's a civil war.
If you go
What: "A John Waters Christmas" comedy show
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 29
Where: Aladdin Theater, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave.
Find out more: www.aladdin-theater.com