John Waters Weighs In On Lizzo, Tinder, and Santa Claus

Published December 4, 2019

Photo by Greg Gorman.

John Waters, the mastermind filmmaker behind classics like Hairspray and Pink Flamingos, is known for his remarkable balance between the snooty and the trashy. He is dichotomous in his creative works, keeping a well-groomed thin mustache while filming his star, Divine, eating literal dog poop off the street. Walking a tightrope between well-kempt and tawdry, Waters has risen to fame and notoriety for his stories and unique sense of charm. Of late, the artist received a Grammy nomination for the spoken word album adapted from his book, Mr. Know-It-All, and recorded a vinyl single, “Make Trouble,” with Jack White’s label, Third Man Records. In December, Waters will tour his annual Yuletide show, “A John Waters Christmas,” which is always profane and never not entertaining. We caught up with the infamous raconteur to ask his thoughts on a myriad display of semi-random topics, from Donald Trump to Disney+.

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RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE

“I want to know the last few people that lost, the five people that came in last. The ones who never even got on the TV show, the ones we’ve never, ever heard of, I want to know their names. I want to see the lack of talent; I think it would be an exciting booby prize show.”

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LIZZO

“Of course I’m a huge fan. She feels like she’s from Baltimore—I don’t know, is she? It feels like she’s from Baltimore. [Editor’s Note: Lizzo was born in Detroit and moved to Houston at age ten.] I always thought it would be great if they ever did a biography of me and Divine … she could play Divine! And nobody would really bat an eye. I thought Beth Ditto would always be good, but Lizzo would be good too. I’ve seen Hairspray with a thin black girl playing Tracy, so why not? Let’s just ignore race always when we cast.”

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ELIZABETH WARREN

“Well, she’s never said a funny thing in her life. I feel like she’s always scolding me. Look, I’ll vote for anybody against Trump, but I think if Hillary couldn’t win, she sure as hell can’t.”

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THE GRAMMY’S

“Well, I’m excited to win! I got nominated for my first book—well, not my first book, but one of my books, Role Models. Joan Rivers was against me and she died and won. And Michelle Obama’s going to live and win but I think we should switch books and read them, Michelle and I. She could be ‘Mrs. Know-It-All’ and I could be, ‘Mr. Unbecoming’ and I think it would be a good way to announce the awards, no matter who wins. Maybe the Beastie Boys will win!”

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PSYCHIATRY

“I believe in it. I love Freud. I think his books are so amazingly written. They’re funny. The psychotic Dr. Schreber, the Rat Man, Dora was my favorite, the portrait of hysteria. I believe in the talking cure.”

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DISNEY +

“What’s that?”

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PINK FLAMINGOS

“I was just reading my New York Times today and it says it’s playing tonight, the day you’re doing this interview, the day after Thanksgiving. It’s playing tonight in one theater in New York. You know, people used to say to me, ‘You make such uncommercial movies.’ Uncommercial!? Pink Flamingos has been playing theatrically for almost 50 years! I think it’s a very commercial movie. So, I’m proud of its legs, as Variety used to call it.”

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TINDER

“Is that a dating site? I’ve never dated online. Can you imagine? I used to see ads on Craigslist that would say, ‘Come on over and we’ll have an orgy. We have all the John Waters movies.’ What if I just showed up, like, ‘I’ve got ‘em all with ME! Here I AM!’ I can’t Internet date, even if … yeah, no. I guess I’d be on Grindr. I’d be on a worse one. I don’t know, I’d want to make up my own: Grindr Behinder. I could start my own new dating service for people that don’t want the date to work.”

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CANNABIS LEGALIZATION

“Pot makes you stupid, but you’re not going to run in and do a school shooting on pot. Who gets angry on pot? So, I’m all for it. Pot should be legal, are you kidding? All drugs should be legal. Well, no, I saw once the legal heroin park in Switzerland and I thought I was for it until I saw it. Then it was like ‘Night of the Living Junkies.’ It was like the Woodstock of junkies. I actually think that making drugs illegal is never going to cure the big problem. It’s a tough problem, and it’s all blamed on Santa Claus because it’s the first lie parents tell you. So, later when they tell you heroin is bad for you, you don’t believe them because they told you Santa Claus was real.”

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MARTIN SCORSESE

“Oh, I think he’s great. I know him and I’m a little bit of a friend of his. What an amazing career! Actually, I’m watching The Irishman tomorrow all afternoon. I was going to go see it in the theater, which I’m for. But I went to the wrong time in New York and then I got the Oscar screener yesterday, so I’m going to watch it tomorrow.”

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UBER EATS

“I’m familiar with it. You know, I didn’t say this, I forget where I read it, but whoever thought … didn’t your mother always tell you, ‘Don’t get in the car with strangers?’ Well, whoever thought that that would become a successful company? I use Uber, I use Lyft, I use all of them. But I haven’t done it for food because when I’m home—I’m on the road so much—I like to cook. I don’t want to have food delivered. And I don’t want all the Uber drivers to know where I live.”

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BROADWAY MUSICAL ADAPTATIONS OF MOVIES

“I think that Hairspray was one of the first ones that did it. But we were not a jukebox musical. To me, most jukebox musicals are not very original because it’s the music you already know. The music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman was music that you did not know that was adapted to sound like, in a way to remind you of, the era of music that was in my movie, Hairspray, which was actually a dance movie, not a musical. So, you know, I’m for some of them. I’m a little weary of them. But that was new music about an era that you loved.”

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DONALD TRUMP

“What I think we should all do for Trump is everybody should start dressing like him up until the election. Just imagine if you saw hundreds of people in the street dressed as Trump, it would be a really anti-thing. It’s easy to do. You just go the day after Halloween, buy a Trump wig, and put on Lone Ranger glasses and get inside the tanning bed and wear grapes hanging in your underwear and a long red tie to cover it and it would work! It would be a really, really good protest leading up to Election Day.”

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BALTIMORE

“Baltimore, of course, is where I live. I like it better than ever. It’s the only city left that I ever visit that is cheap enough to have a Bohemia. And we have a true one here. You can still make a dollar holler here, and I don’t think you can say that in any other city. We got edge! Believe me, come on down! You want edge? We got it! And we have a great music scene here, too. Lots of people. They all stayed, they bought houses and stayed, which is very encouraging.”

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ROMEO AND JULIET

“I always just think of that Troma [Entertainment] film’s title, Tromeo and Juliet, which is such a funny title. I never saw the movie, but I love the title. Romeo and Juliet? Well, everybody has parodied that in every movie. In Crybaby, I think I had a scene on a balcony between them looking down and singing up to each other. So, everybody has parodied that. It’s sort of beyond parody.”

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SANTA CLAUS

“Santa Claus. Who gives him the right to judge children on Christmas day? Another white man spying on children, judging them and keeping slave labor reindeers. And Mrs. Claus, I feel bad for her. What’s her job? Serving him!”