This article originally appeared in the 12.6.12 issue of Metroland
December 1, 2012
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
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.
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
years after that, I was a parent chaperone for two busses full of giggly 8th
graders going to see Hairspray
Broadway. That's a long way from State Quad.
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.
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.