People We Love 2018: John Waters

Our People We Love Legacy Person of the Year for 2018 is John Waters — author, filmmaker and visual artist. When we caught up with the man who brought us Hairspray, Serial Mom and Cry-Baby, he was providing a rare personal tour of his multimedia work, currently on exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

He’s a man of grace and wit. Here, in his acceptance, both are on display.

Don’t forget: It’s Waters’ movies like Pink Flamingos and Polyester that brought us Glenn Milstead, aka Divine. Is it possible that there’d be no Drag Race, no RuPaul, without Waters’ edgy and pioneering work with Divine?

“Who knows?” is Waters’ reply. “I knew Ru from the beginning when he started. But I certainly think Divine made drag queens hip. They weren’t cool when I was young; they were pretty square, you know — wanting to be Miss America. Now most drag queens have an edge; they have something about them.”

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Among the Waters works on display: Divine as Jackie Kennedy in that ill-fated motorcade, fully realized baby dolls with the adult faces of Michael Jackson and Charles Manson romping in a piece called Play Date, and an enormous bottle of spilled poppers.

As for movies, Waters’ influence now saturates mainstream culture — or so he hears. He avoids them like the plague. “Usually, the ones people say are very John Waters-esque I hate,” he says dryly. “They try too hard to be offensive, so it is in’t witty or funny.”

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As an artist whose work has yet to find boundaries of creativity or taste, Waters plan is to simply continue expressing himself  “I haven’t made a movie in 15 years,” he laughs, “and yet those movies still play; they keep getting re-released in new versions. But at the same time my books do better than the last movies did. So I continue to write books, I have art shows, which has been going on for a long time. It’s all the same to me; it’s a way to tell a story — it’s just been in different worlds.”


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