David Hobby, Baltimore Sun
June 6, 2002
In 2002, Hairspray became a Broadway smash, and John Waters became The Sun's Marylander of the Year.
"Until last August, Baltimore's principal claim to fame for the year 2002 was that it led the league in Wheels Falling Off Buses. But then Hairspray opened on Broadway and became a big hit -- the biggest hit of the season -- and suddenly there was a national spotlight shining down on a raucous, big-hearted, cross-dressing, mashed-potato-dancing version of the city's hidden, happy self. Who wouldn't feel better about that?
"Sure, it's a myth. It takes us back to 1962, and a backward Baltimore that expunges its segregated past and in the end gets race relations right. OK, it didn't happen that way. To heck with history. The myth's more fun.
"John Waters has been making trouble in these precincts for years. From the scatological to the homicidal, he's been churning out films that seem to come from a parallel universe to the one where good taste resides. (That parallel universe, by the way, had its Big Bang origins right around Broadway -- the real Broadway, the one that crosses Eastern Avenue, near where the wig store used to be.) He made Hairspray the film way back in 1988, but it's the stage version, in which he also had a hand, that has put Charm City on the map."