Originally published at Dope Magazine
BY SHWA LAYTART - FEBRUARY 28, 2018
John Waters is the unequivocal American Artist of the 21st Century. His style and personality is part Little Richard, part vaudeville illusionist.
No stranger to performance, Waters has been producing art for over sixty years. His first performances began on a stage in his parents’ living room when he was eight. By the age of twelve, he was a puppeteer. Waters has produced just about every visual art form imaginable, and is best known for cult flicks like Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living to more mainstream films such as Cry-Baby and A Dirty Shame. His film Hairspray was not only a major motion picture success, it was also turned into a hit Broadway musical.
But like any great mixed media, multidisciplinary artist, his talents are not limited to one category. Waters has written and directed over fifteen films and acted in over a dozen films and television shows, not including his appearances on late-night TV and in various documentaries.
He’s written six books, which he also does the audiobook readings for; one of his most recent novels, Carsick, was (loosely) based on his actual hitchhiking experience while in his sixties. Waters is also an acclaimed photographer and stand-up comedian who has consistently taken his one-man show across the country. He’s now added a spoken-word vinyl recording to his repertoire.
Waters’ first spoken-word vinyl record, Make Trouble, is through Jack White’s Third Man Records.
“I met Jack before, and I’m a fan,” Waters notes. “We’ve talked. I think the promoters from my Christmas tour were dealing with him and they asked me if I wanted to do this record, and I love the idea because I thought it was good for my street cred to be on vinyl . . . I love the idea that it will be a collected edition . . . in ‘Perry Como red,’ like my parents had when I was young.”
Waters also worked with the world-famous, Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan on the record. They first re-recorded a commencement speech Waters gave to the Rhode Island School of Design’s graduating class of 2015. The rest of the album contains conversations and excerpts with Brennan about Waters’ latest book, Make Trouble. Even though Waters isn’t a fan of hearing his own voice, in 2014 he received a Grammy nomination for best spoken-word album with the audiobook for Carsick.
Waters starts off Make Trouble by explaining how he was kicked out of his college dormitory due to his first ever scandal involving cannabis.
So did that experience scare him away from the wacky-tobaccy? “I have pot for my guests, but I don’t smoke much, as it makes me worry,” he divulges. “Maybe once in a while with my friend, Frankie. On a Friday night we’ll smoke a joint, have a martini and just start ranting and laughing.” He’s obviously not against cannabis, and points out with a giggle, “I had a great time when I was young and had a great time with pot. But now that it’s legal, it’s boring.” One of the themes that stands out in John Waters’ work, and particularly throughout Make Trouble, is his never-ending well of self-confidence, patience and persistence. Throughout his career, Waters has had his share of negativity. So what’s his secret to dealing with adversity and maintaining his confidence?
“I don’t think anyone in show business has self-confidence, to be honest,” he remarks.
“Because why else would they go into a field where strangers have to like us to make a living? My secret is you have to believe for real what it is you’re saying. Like when I do my show, I am exaggerating and doing it for humor, but basically everything I make fun of I really like.” And that’s why his career has lasted so long. Everything that John Waters likes, we Earthlings seem to like, too.