Before "The Wire" made Baltimore the cultural proxy for dysfunctional locales, John Waters' sense of the absurd put our often-incorrigible and provincially original burg on the map with movies such as "Hairspray," "Polyester" and "Serial Mom." Waters' ability to capture what's unique about Baltimore is likely the reason he got the nod from b readers as the Ultimate Baltimore celebrity. After all, Waters' quick-witted persona and equal-opportunity satire have provided just what this dystopian paradise needs on occasion -- a good, self-effacing laugh. This is not to say that Waters isn't a fan of "The Wire." Truth is, he loves it. "The fact 'The Wire' is an image that is celebrated all over the world -- isn't that great in a way?" says Waters, noting that his films, along with the work of "Wire" creator David Simon and "Diner" director Barry Levinson, have delivered an indelible image of the city that is authentic and absurd. "I think Baltimore has always had a sense of humor; embracing it and being proud of 'The Wire' is in a way ironic." The funny thing is, in his own idiosyncratic way, Waters is Baltimore's biggest booster, at least as he extols the city's most alluring quality in both his movies and other ventures: a penchant for embracing eccentricity sans the pretense. "Everywhere I go around the world, someone comes over to me and says, 'I'm from Baltimore,' as if it's some sort of secret society." That's why Waters says living in Baltimore has become hip and desirable, a place for those inspired by his work and others' to delve into the same laboratory of the absurd that birthed its signature cinema. "I know people who are moving from New York to Baltimore," he said. "We've got edge, baby!" Waters just took his one-man standup comedy show to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. For his next project, Waters says that, along with touring to push his successful book "Role Models," he's been seeking financing for his next movie "Fruitcake," described by him as a "terribly wonderful children's Christmas movie, John Waters-style." "I had two meetings this past week," he says of the effort to fund it. "But $4 to $5 million-budget independent movies are extinct." -- Stephen Janis, special to b
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