Nor was dirty dancing all that he and Pearce were up to. At Beaver Springs, he recalls Pearce "putting gum wrappers in a Committee member's beehive without her knowing it."
- John Waters
What is your favorite John Waters film of the '80s and '90s?
Then in 1984, he attended the first Buddy Deane Reunion, which was held in Essex. "What was amazing to me was that I was like a fan, really a fan of the Committee, and I sat there, 'Oh, my God, there's that one! There's that one!' But what was also amazing to me is how serious some of them were about it. There was very little irony, and to see a line of 30 50-year-old women doing the Locomotion without irony is quite an experience."
A year later, he wrote an article about the TV show for Baltimore magazine. The article became the seed for Hairspray, Waters' first -- and only -- PG-rated film. The nearly $3 million movie was also his first with a seven-figure budget (the musical's budget is $10.5 million) and his first with a Screen Actors Guild cast. A teen slumber-party favorite, Hairspray earned the approval of, among others, Deane himself.
"I liked it," says Deane, who now lives in Arkansas and played a bit part as a reporter in the movie. "He took literary license and changed some things, but obviously it basically was the program."
The chief difference was the ending. In Hairspray, Tracy leads a successful effort to integrate the TV show. In reality, integration spelled the demise of The Buddy Deane Show, which ran from 1957 to 1964.
Neither Deane nor Waters believes Baltimore was ready for an integrated teen dance program in 1964. "Every one of the kids said the same thing: It's OK with me, but my parents aren't going to like it," Deane recalls. "When management heard the parents wouldn't let them come, I knew it would be a big problem."
With its civil rights theme, Hairspray may be Waters' most socially conscious movie, but the filmmaker's vision of society has always been an inclusive one -- with the exception, that is, of the self-righteous, the humorless and the so-called normal.
To Waters, inclusiveness means championing the cause of outsiders: "the filthiest person alive" in Pink Flamingos (1972); a model with an acid-scarred face in Female Trouble (1974); juvenile delinquents in Cry-Baby (1990); a homicidal housewife in Serial Mom (1994); and a band of "cinema terrorists" in Cecil B. Demented (2000). This focus on misfits may be one reason his films strike a chord with Americans, who tend to root for the underdog. In Waters' world, the misfits triumph.
"If we're going to get philosophical," says producer Lion, "the heroine of this show is really John Waters' spirit. Here's the outsider winning the cute guy and changing the world."
Lauded as a founder of the independent film movement, celebrated by the Cannes Film Festival and the Baltimore City Chamber of Com- merce, the subject of two documentaries and two biographies, Waters, who once might have seemed the ultimate Buddy Deane outsider, eventually became a bona fide Deaner.
Film critic Roger Ebert has written that Waters "could never in a million years have made the Council" (as the Committee is called in the film and musical). But after the movie came out, Waters was granted an honorary Committee membership, and he has the certificate to prove it.
None of this, however, could have foretold Waters' leap to Broadway -- a move that came as something of a surprise to the show's producer as well. Convinced that the movie had the makings of a Broadway musical, Lion -- whose credits include Jelly's Last Jam and Angels in America -- set up a meeting with Waters at a theater district restaurant three years ago. "I am frequently kidded as being 'Miss Tastebuds' and I thought, 'Here, Miss Tastebuds is sitting with Mr. Outrageous,' " Lion recalls.
"My first impression of him was -- and that impression that has been sustained in the whole process -- he's the most polite, generous person ... intelligent, fun ... that I can imagine. He's not outrageous in his superficial, surface personality. Except for the mustache."
Being dubbed a "consultant" could have been a mere courtesy, but Waters' input genuinely matters to the show's creators -- songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and book writers Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Like Lion, they are intent on capturing the filmmaker's sensibility on stage.
"Luckily, he's loved it and his approval means so much," says lyricist Wittman. Waters cried the first time he heard the romantic duet the songwriters wrote for Edna Turnblad and her husband, adds Wittman, who describes himself and Shaiman as "huge John Waters fans."
An American prophet
For Waters, who has sat in on readings, meetings and rehearsals, his introduction to Broadway has been a crash course in the making of a musical. One thing he's discovered is that it's a highly collaborative endeavor. "I have never collaborated on anything in my life. I'm way too much of a control freak," he says.