Choose Your Own Adventure: Baltimore
John Waters has been kidnapped! Can you save him? Your quest begins
It’s hot. Too hot to be outside. But here you are, lounging by the pool at the Tiki Barge in South Baltimore, watching the ice melt in your half-empty Jack and Coke.
You’d love to take a dip in the pool, if the water wasn’t 85 degrees and covered in a slimy coat of coconut oil from the other 20-somethings nearby. Eww.
Just then, your cell phone buzzes with a text from your friend Evan.
“Dude somebody kidnapped John Waters!”
“Sucks for him, but what am I supposed to do about it,” you text back.
“Dude they’re offering a $25,000 reward if you help find him …”
A series of numbers come to mind: Your student loans, your car payments, the credit card bill. Also, you kind of like Waters. No one deserves to be kidnapped, especially a notorious Baltimore filmmaker. And it’s not like you have anything else better to do.
Suddenly thrilled by the idea of being a hero and also getting paid for it, you chug the rest of your watery cocktail and leap out of your lounge chair, ready to roll. But where do you start?
Hampden sounds good. Waters filmed one of his movies, "Pecker," there, and he still gets his fan mail sent to Atomic Books. Maybe someone there knows his last whereabouts.
Then again, it might be better to talk to a local movie buff about Waters and his films. Every year, he hosts a screening at the Charles Theatre in Station North. One of the managers could give you some tips about where Waters hangs out, or who would possibly kidnap him in the first place.
Which will it be?
If you want to try Hampden, go Here.
To head to the Charles Theatre, go Here.
Ah, The Avenue. A pack of MICA hipster types chats outside Golden West, dragging on Natural American Spirits while they wait for a table. Across the street, a large woman with knotty hair, a tank top and the tiniest pair of shorts is yelling something unintelligible at a skinny man with no shirt and long, baggy pants.
Suddenly, you grow weak -- too weak to stand. You drop to your knees, wondering what's wrong. Then you remember you haven't had breakfast, or dinner last night -- just drinks. You need something to eat. Now.
Glancing across the street, you spot the giant pink flamingo outside Cafe Hon. So close, but so far away. A HON Burger with a side of kitsch sounds amazing right now. But you might not be able to make it that far.
Just then, a woman walking a dog strolls by, and stops to let the dog relieve itself on the sidewalk. When the dog finishes its business, she pulls a plastic bag out of her pocket and picks up the droppings with it. Her cell phone rings -- distracted, she leaves the bag on the sidewalk in front of you and walks away.
Famished, you remember the infamous scene in Waters' film "Pink Flamingos," where Divine eats dog leavings. She was OK. Maybe you'll be OK too.
Time is running out.
To crawl across the street to Cafe Hon, go Here.
To open the bag and indulge yourself, go Here.
You settle down for a nice meal, but just as the burger arrives, the doors fling open. You hear a string of British expletives, and squint to make out the silhouette in the doorway.
"Look at this place! Have you learned nothing from me?!?!," the man shouts. It's "Kitchen Nightmares" host Gordon Ramsay! In the fall of 2011, he and his crew came to help save the ailing Cafe Hon, and he returned last year to see how things went. But now he's back again, and out for blood.
The first to die is the hostess, who doesn't see the butcher's knife in Ramsay's hand. A server screams, and spills a plate of meatloaf into a diner's lap.
A second later, Ramsay is standing over your table.
"How's your bloody burger?" he asks.
"Hon-tastic?" you offer.
"Not bloody enough," he screams, a wicked smile stretching across his face. He swings down the knife, ending your meal -- and your life.
Maybe you should have ordered the crab cake.
Your stomach is full, and you feel the spirit of Divine upon you. But it also could be the parasites swimming through your intestines. This is what method actors do, you tell yourself. You hear a voice in your head.
"Come see me," it whispers.
Could it be Divine, calling to you from beyond the grave? Or a hallucination from the e coli?
Divine may be dead, but she does have a statue at the American Visionary Art Museum. Maybe that's what the voice means.
Still, you worry. What if you need to get your stomach pumped? You did just eat dog droppings, after all.
To visit Divine's statue at AVAM, go Here.
To head to Mercy Medical Center and purge yourself, go Here.
A blinding light hits you as you approach this South Baltimore museum. You squint, and then realize it's just the sun reflected from the thousands of pieces of bright metal and glass on the side of the building. But it's a good omen.
After buying a ticket, you head to the statue of Divine. It's larger than life. She stands in a tight red dress, her hands on her hips, ready to say something sassy.
"Help me, Divine," you beg her. "Tell me where I can find John Waters."
A minute passes. You are about to leave when you hear a voice.
"Lithuanian Hall. He likes to drink at the Save Your Soul dance party at Lithuanian Hall. Look for him there."
Awestruck, you turn around -- and bump into AVAM director Rebecca Hoffberger.
"You never know if he'll turn up or not, but he likes to hang out at the Save Your Soul dance parties," she says. "The next one is tonight."
You thank Hoffberger for her help, and just as you are about to head off, she reminds you that AVAM is having a Flicks from the Hill this evening, where they'll be screening "Hairspray," starring John Travolta. Having a cold beverage, sitting outside on Federal Hill and catching up on a Waters classic is pretty tempting.
The emergency room is a madhouse. Are all these people really that sick, or just bored?
The nurse wants to know if you're having chest pains, or bleeding internally. You tell her you're feeling weird and probably need your stomach pumped. She tells you to fill out a form and sit in the waiting room.
Hours pass. Finally, around midnight, they admit you and give you some medicine.
You're lying in bed watching TV when local news personality Marty Bass interrupts the broadcast of "Big Brother" with a special report.
"Baltimore is letting out a sigh of relief this evening as John Waters, who went missing earlier today, has been found," he says.
Dejected, you switch off the TV and try not to think about the medical bills you probably can't afford.
You run home, grab a blanket and stake out a grassy spot on Federal Hill, just in time for "Hairspray." You have a cold beverage or two, and when the movie is finished, you yawn and decide it's time to turn in for the night. You can always pick up the search for John Waters in the morning, you tell yourself. Deep down, you know you won't.
It's dark when you pull up outside Lithuanian Hall in West Baltimore, and after circling the block a couple times, you find parking. You're early -- there are only a few people in line ahead of you, and inside, the dance floor is empty.
You grab a seat the bar and order a bottle of Lithuanian beer. And another.
After a third, you have to use the restroom. Just as you're about to push open the door, you hear a hushed voice coming from the store room across the hall. Upon closer inspection, you notice the door is slightly ajar. You gently push it open, and see a figure dressed all in black standing over John Waters -- who is bound and gagged.
"Hold it right there!," you yell.
The man turns, and you recognize him -- it's John Travolta!
"Stop that, John Travolta!," you say. "Why are you doing this anyway?"
"I haven't been able to land a good role since I slipped on that girdle in 'Hairspray,'" he said, a single tear sliding down his plump cheek. "Going drag ruined me."
"That may be," you say, "but your career was on a slide for a while, man. Try to think of the good times, like 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Face Off' and maybe even 'Phenomenon.'"
"WILD HOGS WAS A GOOD MOVIE!," he screams as he lunges for your throat.
But Travolta can't move like he once did in "Saturday Night Fever," and you easily side-step him, ripping off his toupee as he falls to the ground. He starts to cry, and then to sob.
"I didn't mean to hurt anyone," he says. "John Waters is my friend. I just wanted him to write 'Hairspray 2: Edna's Revenge,' but he wouldn't. He just wouldn't."
You sidestep Travolta, untie Waters and help him up.
"I don't do sequels, John," Waters says to Travolta. "I forgive you, and your toupee. Now let's put all this behind us and go dancing, just like we used to."
Arm in arm, Waters and Travolta stroll out of the store-room and hit the dance floor.
"Drinks are on us, everybody!," Travolta says.
It's late afternoon when you arrive, and the smell of popcorn is irresistible. You stand in line to buy a ticket, and ask the guy at the booth if he knows anything about where to find John Waters.
"Uh, the Maryland Film Festival? I dunno man," he says. "That's not until next year though."
Dejected, you are about to leave when a young woman taps you on the shoulder.
"Hey, are you looking for John Waters?," she asks. "I'm a bartender across the street at Club Charles, and he comes in for a drink every once in a while."
You thank her, and are about to walk away when she calls you back.
"Now that I think about it," she says, "you might also want to try Hooters. My friend works there, and she and John Waters have the same hair stylist. Ask for Maybel."
To walk across the street to Club Charles, go Here
To try Hooters, go Here
Stepping inside this hip Station North club, you can totally see why John Waters comes here. It's dark and inviting, the walls are blood red and some old R&B is playing on the jukebox.
You walk up to the bar, and the bartender is wearing a rubber snake around her neck.
"What can I get you?," she asks.
You order a beer.
"That will be $4.42," she says.
You dig in your pockets, and realize you only have $4.
"Do you take credit cards?" you ask.
"There's a $10 minimum," she says.
Too embarrassed to admit you don't have enough money, and too broke to buy more than one drink, you fake a phone call and run outside -- just in time to see your car getting towed.
Your quest is over, but your troubles are just beginning.
Whoa. This place is a sensory overload: TVs blasting, neon lights, and the waitresses. Oh, the waitresses.
There is an Orioles game later in the day, and the place is packed. Servers deliver pitchers of beer and plates of steaming wings.
A guy in the corner catches your eye. He's eating all alone, with an Orioles hat pulled low over his eyes. Most of the people in Hooters are wearing Orioles gear, but his looks particularly authentic.
OMG is that ... Chris "Crush" Davis?
It's totally him. And so far, you're the only one who has spotted him.
Behind the bar, you spot a woman with the name tag Maybel. That's the woman you're looking for -- the one who has the same stylist as John Waters. Her hair is perfect.
Do you go talk to Maybel? If so, turn to Here.
If you want to say hi to Davis, turn to Here.
"Hey, are you Chris Davis?," you ask, as you approach the guy sitting in the corner at Hooters.
He glances up from his glass of ice tea and his eyes narrow.
"Haha, I wish," he says. "I get that all the time."
But something about the way he says it makes you suspicious -- like he's hiding something.
"Can I get a photo?," you ask, as you whip out your iPhone and snap a quick selfie.
"I'd rather not, buddy," he says.
"Too late," you say. "I've already posted it on Twitter. I can't believe I met Chris Davis!"
Davis' eyes turn red with fury. He jumps up from his chair, reaches down and picks up a baseball bat from underneath the table.
"CHRIS DAVIS WILL CRUSH YOU," he screams, as he hauls back for a mighty swing and shatters the table. Splinters and jagged pieces of glass fly across the restaurant.
You turn to run, but slip in a puddle of buffalo sauce and fall to the ground. The last thing you see is Davis standing over you, the baseball bat hurling down toward your face.
"Hi Maybel," you say. "I ran into a friend of yours at the Charles Theatre, who said you and John Waters have the same hairstylist."
"Aw yeah, he's the best," Maybel says. "He does my hair and he also trims John Waters' mustache. I'll tell you more about him if you order some wings and gimme a big tip."
The wings are delicious, and after eating a dozen, you're stuffed. You pay up, giving Maybel a hefty tip (it's just a fraction of the money you'll make when you cash in the reward, you tell yourself).
Maybel tells you where to find her hairstylist. She also lets you know that Waters likes to hang out at Lithuanian Hall for this dance night called Save Your Soul. You check Facebook, and the next party is tonight.
As you're leaving Hooters, you step outside and the humidity is overbearing. You get the urge to strip off your shirt and pants and take a quick dip in the Inner Harbor.
What do you do next?
To head to Lithuanian Hall, turn to Here
To stop by the hair stylist, go Here
For a quick dip in the Inner Harbor, see Here
An old fashion barber pole hangs outside the beauty salon -- the only inviting thing about the otherwise drab South Baltimore rowhouse.
There is only one other person inside, sitting in the barber chair, reading The Baltimore Sun.
"Want a haircut, buddy?," he asks.
"Actually I was wondering if you know where I could find John Waters," you say.
"Sure, sure," he says, "but first, a haircut."
You reluctantly agree. A half hour later, he swivels you around in the chair, revealing the finished product: The best haircut you've ever gotten.
"And now for the finishing touch -- a little hairspray," he says.
As he holds up the spray bottle, you notice a smoldering cigarette in a nearby ashtray. Before you can shout a warning, the air explodes in a blistering fireball. Then everything fades to black.
You skip down from the Light Street Pavilion to the water, shedding clothes as you go. The dark, mysterious waters of the Inner Harbor lap at the edge of the walkway.
Passersby gasp as you leap up in the air, and pull your legs in to form a cannonball as you hit the water.
It feels so warm and inviting, like hugging Grandmom right after she's taken a shower.
You're underwater for a while; you open your eyes but the light won't penetrate this deep. Thirty seconds pass. A minute. You didn't know you could hold your breath for so long.
Finally, you begin to drift toward the surface. In the distance, you hear people screaming -- something about a body floating in the water.
Then, you realize they're talking about you.