|The artist and his muse|
One of America's great contributions to the world of cinema came into the world 67 years ago today, and in many ways, he has been as influential in shaping my appreciation of the movies as anyone this side of Griffith and Gish. Working with the extended repertory company he recruited in the back alleys of his native Baltimore, John Waters made stars in much the way of the classic studios: by finding extreme types and then figuring out what really made them shine. From Divine to Patty Hearst, he has given birth to some truly landmark performances: Edith Massey as the Egg Lady, Kathleen Turner as serial-killing sweetheart Beverly Sutphin, Johnny Depp as teen reprobate Cry Baby. His very personal vision of cinematic glamour - equal parts pinup and puke, as it were - has proven amazingly durable, and while these days he's as much a writer and personality as director, he remains a consistently, even reassuringly, contrary voice of reason, sanity, and, of course, Bad Taste - of the highest order.
It's quite a day, for one could assemble a perfectly workable Dreamland cast just out of some of Waters's fellow celebrants - imagine the script he could craft around a roster consisting of Charlotte Rae, Glen Campbell, Jack Nicholson, Marilyn Chambers, and Sherri Shepherd, with a very special cameo by Bettie Page. Throw in a couple of the regulars like Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce, and he'd be all set.
In the absence of such a doubtless celluloid atrocity/triumph, I guess we'll have to make do with our well-thumbed DVD of Female Trouble, to me the film that most closely guarantees Waters a kind of cinematic immortality. It's smoother than Pink Flamingos, a shade less full of shock-for-shock's-sake than Desperate Living, and even after all these years as serious a look as can be imagined at how show business and the mania for celebrity can warp minds and lives. The Midnight Movie might have gone the way of the dodo, but it's nice to know that Waters is still with us, keeping a jaundiced yet boundlessly appreciative eye on the foibles and messes of the world and prescribing for the least sign of boredom a little discreet mayhem.
Given the goings-on that he's depicted at at least one birthday party, though, I think a little e-appreciation like this is just about as far, at the moment, as I'm willing to go.