1946-04-22

JOHN WATERS, American film writer and director was born and turns 72 today; The Baltimore native, recognizable by his pencil-thin mustache this American filmmaker, actor, writer, personality, visual artist and art collector, rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films and has, against all intuition and all odds has become the toast of Broadway with not one, but two major musicals based on his cinematic oeuvre. For his 16th birthday, Waters received an 8mm movie camera from his maternal grandmother, Stella Whitaker.

His first movie was Hag in a Black Leather Jacket. According to Waters, the film was shown only once in a “beatnik coffee house” in Baltimore. Waters was a student at New York University (NYU) in New York City.

In January 1966, Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the grounds; they were soon expelled. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he began work on his next film, Eat Your Makeup, which was filmed that year. His films would become Divine’s primary star vehicle. Waters’ early films were all shot in the Baltimore area with his company of local actors, the Dreamlanders. In addition to Divine, the group included Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, and others. These early films were among the first picked up for distribution by New Line Cinema. Waters’ films premiered at the Baltimore Senator Theater and sometimes at the Charles Theater.

Waters’ early campy movies present filthily lovable characters in outrageous situations with hyperbolic dialogue. His early films, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living, which he labeled the “Trash Trilogy”, pushed hard at the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship. A particularly notorious final segment of Pink Flamingos, simply added in as a non sequitur to the end of the film, featured, in one take, without special effects, a small dog defecating and Divine dipping a finger in and eating the feces.

His 1981 film Polyester starred Divine opposite closeted, once-teen-idol Tab Hunter. Since then, his films have become less controversial and more mainstream, although works such as Hairspray, CryBaby and Serial Mom still retain his trademark inventiveness. The film Hairspray was turned into a hit Broadway musical, which swept the 2003 Tony Awards, and a movie adaptation of the Broadway musical was released in theaters in 2007.

Waters’ most recent film, the NC-17-rated A Dirty Shame, is a move back toward his earlier, more controversial work of the 1970s. He also had a cameo in Jackass: Number Two, which starred Dirty Shame co-star Johnny Knoxville. Waters next movie was a children’s film titled “Fruitcake“. It began shooting in January 2008. A Gay American, Waters is an avid supporter of Gay Rights and Gay Pride.

Waters latest project chronicled his adventures and frustrations on the road in his book, Carsick. The first part of the book is fiction, in which he imagines best-case scenarios, like getting a ride from his favorite porn film star, and worst-case scenarios, like getting a ride from a killer out to get all the cult film directors he hates — including John Waters.

Through these adventures, as he was waiting for cars to pick him up, the usually funny Waters had some intense reflective moments, he says. “I’m standing there and I think, ‘I’m alive and so many of my friends are not. I’m here. I’m doing this project,’ ” he says. “So I am incredibly thankful for my life. I said in this book that all my fantasies of what I wanted to happen in my career came true years ago. This is gravy.