John Waters doesn't love all holidays. "I think Santa Claus should team up with the tooth fairy and kill the Easter bunny," he says. But Christmas? Christmas he loves unconditionally, without irony.
For the past decade, he's been touring every December with a show that's part stand-up, part monologue, part pep-talk. During the holidays, he likes to think of himself as a motivational speaker.
"Some people hate [Christmas] or don't believe in it. I know some people find it a very stressful time. I have advice for everybody, if you love or hate it," he said. "It's a self-help show." The show, which he'll perform at the Lyric Opera House on Dec. 21, is one of several projects Waters is juggling, including a follow-up to last year's "Role Models" book, writing for Artforum and Playboy magazines, and a movie that's been teased about for years, "Fruitcake."
Q: You've hosted a Christmas party for decades here in Baltimore. Is it a traditional, or do you have, like, the Michael Jackson trial playing in the background while you carve the turkey?
The guests might not be, but it's traditional as far as it's catered by Sascha's. It's decorated — it may be a little strange for some. The electric chair from "Female Trouble" is decorated as a Christmas tree. My sister-in-law makes a wreath on the door that's kind of an S&M wreath – it's made of thorns and it snags your clothes when you come in the door. And I do have a Unabomber birdhouse. So it's traditionally decorated but with a twist. Every year, I do have a movie playing - it's usually Fischli-Weiss art videos of a dog and a cat. One year I showed Andy Warhol's Vinyl." I do have on the two TVs in the house, something playing silently. It's not usually Christmas-related.
Q: Is the Christmas show similar to your other spoken-word show, "This Filthy World," or do you do songs from the Christmas album you put out years ago?
I'm not gonna sing. I'm not gonna come out and do Johnny Mathis' Christmas. That's what I want to do. But I don't think I have the nerve. I certainly tell the audience what I want them to give me. I give my all my opinions about proper gifts to give, and the one thing you should never do at Christmas is — the rudest thing you can do at Christmas is — ask a fat person to play Santa Claus at your office Christmas party. That is hateful and fat-ist. And I go into further things. About proper presents, about, is Santa Claus erotic to people? Is Christmas sexual? It really covers every possible aspect. Things that scare me at Christmas, like Christmas creches where people perform Nativity scenes outside and you see them dressed as Mary and Joseph. And somebody gives their baby to play baby Jesus. Where there's mules and straws and candles equals fire. It's horrifying to me.
Q: Your fans are always frustrated that you don't have a new movie out, except, I don't think people realize that you have all these different projects, from writing for Artforum or doing a show for CourtTV.
I'm frustrated too. It's called "Fruitcake." I want to shoot the whole thing in Remington. It's ready to go. I just don't have the budget. But I'm not the only person. David Lynch can't get a movie made. He put a record out of him singing, which I really love. Maybe I could do duet with him. I'm still trying to make this movie, but I'm not going to sit around and wait. The independent film business right now is pretty bad everywhere in the world. They want all the movies that cost $5 million to cost $500,000 and I can't do that. But I'm lucky because I can tell my stories in many ways. I can write a book. I can do a spoken-word act. I can curate a photo show. I have lots of envelopes on my desk with things in development.
Q: You have houses in San Francisco and New York and Provincentown, but you've said that when you need an idea, you come to Baltimore. And every now and then I still see you going to bars around town. Do you do that often?
I do. I went to soul night at Lithuanian Hall recently. That's my favorite. I go there. I go to different bars. I'm really happy that Hampden is so jumping. It's great. It's many types of people co-existing uneasily. I like that. That little bit of extreme texture there. When two different types of people hang out.
Q: There's a new documentary about Divine by Jeffrey Schwarz, who's made documentaries about other cult figures like Tab Hunter and William Castle. Have you seen it or just been interviewed for it?
A: I don't have anything to do with it except I'm in it. And everybody — we're completely cooperating with it. I've already done the interview for it. I think he makes very good documentaries. I think it's really gonna be good. I'm hoping for it. The last one [about Divine] was the E! Network one, which was quite good. But they only bought the rights to everything for one year so it can't ever be shown again. So, I'm thrilled. I have high hopes for it. Did you see Entertainment Weekly this week? They had Melissa McCarthy completely dressed as Divine with a gun and a "Pink Flamingos" shot. It's amazing, amazing.
Q: Could Divine have the same afterlife in pop culture as a Marilyn Monroe, who seems to be everywhere again this year.
There's always Marilyn Monroe nostalgia. Would you call it nostalgia, or necrophilia? I don't know which. I love that her estate stands to make money. There's always that with her. Her James Dean, Elvis; they get even more famous as they're dead. I think weirdly enough, Divine does get more famous every year since he's been dead.