John Waters can't remember the last time he was in Columbia.
"I think one time I picked up a rug there," he says on the phone from Los Angeles. But he knows that the stripper Blaze Starr spent time there, so he's excited to host a fundraising dinner tonight for the Columbia Festival of the Arts.
"Any neighborhood where Blaze Starr once sold her jewelry at a cart in the mall is good enough for me," says the king of trash film. The event, which is being held at 6:30 p.m. at the Spear Center, is being promoted as "An Evening with John Waters." Tickets are $150 per person, a bit more than it would cost to rent Hairspray for the night.
So how will Waters make it worthwhile?
"They get a lap dance," he says. "I'll pose for pictures and hold their babies and give them lap dances if they're cute."
In all likelihood, Waters will do a version of his stand-up routine that's been perfected in venues around the world, from Rome to Oxford University. He uses the appearances to try out new material, and the jokes that get big laughs can end up in his movies.
"I will shake things up in a humorous, joyous way, which has always been my job," Waters says. "I don't think they booked me to talk about family films."
Because Waters has been working in L.A., he missed Queen Elizabeth II's recent visit to the East Coast. He says his family loves the queen - his mother's such a big fan that his siblings used to call her "Queen Elizabeth." But Waters isn't too upset about missing the royal visit.
"I know enough queens," he says.
These days, he's busy helping to cast the Broadway version of his 1990 film Crybaby. Meanwhile, the film version of the stage version of his 1988 film Hairspray will be out this summer, starring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer. Waters has seen the finished product and says it's "pretty great."
"I'm flattered that something I thought up in my bedroom in the Temple Garden Apartments on Druid Park Drive was good enough that they made three versions of it," he says. "And I think it's going to make another fat girl a star, so I'm very proud of it."
For more information on Waters' appearance in Columbia tonight, go to columbiafestival.com.