Look homeward, hon.
John Waters premiered his latest movie, "Serial Mom," at the Senator Theatre last night with all the trappings of Hollywood -- a sparkly star, Kathleen Turner, a red carpet, the limos and the tanned and the sunglassed -- but there's no mistaking the heart and soul of this production.
"My first movie premiered in a coffeehouse, then we moved to a church basement, then the University of Baltimore, then the Charles, and now the Senator," Mr. Waters told a crowd of 800, which included the stars of his movie and his own fellow Baltimoreans.
He's come a long way, but he never goes too far from his roots. Not only was "Serial Mom" filmed in Baltimore and Towson, many the cast members have long-running ties here.
"I've been here a lot," drawled Kathleen Turner in her best generic, movie-staaaaahr accent. Towering in 4-inch heels and radiant in a short, black, beaded dress, she was pounds and pounds thinner and decidedly more glamorous than her "Serial Mom" incarnation as a rather fleshy suburbanite. "I went to school here [University of Maryland Baltimore County]. I filmed "Serial Mom" here and "Accidental Tourist."
"Kind of like a native?" asked one reporter.
"Oh, not that bad!" Ms. Turner said with a toss of her cropped blond head and a guilty, throaty, shouldn't-have-said-that laugh.
It's allowed. This is a John Waters movie, after all, and you don't expect a chamber-of-commerce representation of his happy hometown. And "Serial Mom," which opens to the public April 15, certainly isn't that: It's Mr. Waters' comic-grotesque take on a serial killer in the suburbs, meaning all sorts of mayhem occurs amid the manicured lawns.
"They seemed to get it," Mr. Waters said of the censors who, unlike many times in the past, let his film stand as is, human organs and all. "They understood it was satiric violence."
Last night's audience paid $75 for this first glimpse of the movie and a post-screening party at the Baltimore Museum of Art. "On a school night," Mr. Waters said, ever the bad boy.
The event made $59,000 for AIDS Action Baltimore.
And there was a lot of glamorous fun, as limos unleashed stars onto the York Road theater, including Sam Waterston, Patricia Hearst and newcomer Matt Lillard, who plays Ms. Turner's son.
Mr. Waters' film features so many regulars, it's like watching home movies -- albeit much better made than any your Uncle Harry ever shot -- as people grow up, wrinkle and otherwise age before your eyes.
"I feel like one of the family with John," said Ricki Lake, the plump teen-ager of Mr. Waters' "Hairspray," grown up into a real live TV talk show host. "He's one of my closest friends. I love the way he does these premieres, like a real Hollywood one."
"I love Baltimore, I always love coming back again," said Traci Lords, the former underage porn star adopted into the makeshift family that Mr. Waters assembles for his films and his real life. Ms. Lords met and ultimately married Baltimorean Brook Yeaton, the son of long-time Waters pal Pat Moran, as a result of "Cry-Baby," Mr. Waters' previous film.
Poured into a red rubber dress -- she said she got into it with the assistance of "lots of baby powder" -- the curvy blond actress turned the most heads at the premiere.
Others went for basic black. Mr. Waterston arrived in unmatched shades of black: pants, T-shirt and jacket.
Ms. Hearst, in her second film appearance with Mr. Waters, wore a silver lace dress and a shy demeanor. She plays a juror in the movie.
"This is my second courtroom scene with John," said Ms. Hearst, more famed as the real-life kidnapped heiress-turned-revolutionary. "I'm always in a courtroom with John."
The premier drew many of the extras who worked on the film.
"My scene got cut," said Celeste Dunstan, a Harford County mom of two, who was cut out of the church at the end of the movie, "but it was a fun experience anyway. John Waters was really fun to work with, and the stars were right there with the extras."
Teresa and Richard Pete came down from Vermont to see their son, Zachary, in his movie debut. "He was the baby that Kathleen Turner sneezed on. We're friends of Pat Moran and John Waters and John's comment was that he didn't know many mothers who would let their babies be sneezed on," said Mrs. Pete. "It was only egg white."
Others in the audience were long-time Waters watchers. "I was one of those people in the coffeehouse," said Glenn Marcus, a PBS associate director. "It's always great seeing John's work and how he keeps on coming home."
"I think it's great that this kind of stuff is coming to Baltimore more and more," said Donald Thoms, who also works at PBS. "It's like Hollywood. You get to put your tux on."