Thursday, December 06, 2012


This article originally appeared in the 12.6.12 issue of Metroland.

The Egg
December 1, 2012

            John Waters and me, we got some history.  One night in the fall of 1973, when I was a straight-off-the-farm freshman at SUNYA,  I got a mysterious invite to a private film screening in the State Quad common room.  Apparently, the student-run State Quad Cinema group had rented Pink Flamingos and then decided it was too disgusting to show to the public. And this was a group that regularly presentled raunchy porn films, in the name of, you know, free speech and stuff.  But for this, only those people deemed weird and twisted would be invited to see it.   I was honored to be included. The movie blew my mind.

            Some 7 years later I found myself shaking John Water’s hand (and that of his 300 pound transvestite-muse, Divine) at the world premier of Polyester at the Waverly Theater in the East Village.  I still have my Odorama card around here somewhere.

            Then 20+ years after that, I was a parent chaperone for two busses full of giggly 8th graders going to see Hairspray on Broadway.  That's a long way from State Quad.

            John Waters mainstreamed bad taste by singlehandedly inventing the notion that the right combination of filth, puerility and a big heart could be brilliant, funny, and in a strange way, redemptive.  That's no small achievement.

            Unfortunately, he had none of these qualities last Sunday at his “Christmas” show at The Egg.  He just wasn’t very funny, and certainly not nearly as funny as he seemed to think he was.  I thought there might be some multimedia stuff, some tacky accouterments, some sheer take-your-breath away moments.  Nope, just Waters on a bare stage talking fast and not being funny.  The topics bounced around without reason, transitions were awkward, there was some stuff about Christmas, but too many unrelated things disingenuously dolled up to be about Christmas: “I’ve always wanted to open a (bar, amusement park, movie theater, etc.) and then on Christmas we’d...” and then he’d describe something disgusting that had nothing to do with Christmas.  What were obviously supposed to be laugh lines most often landed with a thud, or maybe a nervous laugh or two.  His delivery was dreadful, talking either to the floor or the first couple of rows.  He’d misspeak, then correct himself, at least once a minute.  This sort of thing would throw speed bumps up for the best material.  For this it just made the already too slow clock seem to stop altogether.

            There were tons of the expected obscure pop-culture references, bad movie references, modern artist and author references, raunchy gay sex references, piled atop one another rapid-fire without a whole lot of purpose or form or impact.  Perhaps, after dropping Pink Flamingos on us 40 years ago, its just that Waters has helped engineer a world that even he can’t shock anymore.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger Susan Slaby said...

hear hear!


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