Students curious about the pink flamingos scattered around campus may be surprised to hear that they signal the arrival of “Pink Flamingos” director John Waters.
The director, author and media personality will perform his one-man show “This Filthy World” Thursday at 7 p.m. in Theatre 1, followed by a reception and book signing at the Contemporary Art Museum.
He will also host a student Q&A Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Theatre 2. All events are free for students and faculty, with Thursday’s event open to the public.
“This Filthy World” offers an ever-changing monologue that spans Waters’ influences and career. Yet with a varied career ranging from continually censored “Pink Flamingos” to family-friendly “Hairspray,” it may be tough to know where to begin.
The Oracle highlights five of Waters’ works in anticipation of his USF appearance.
If you insist on watching trash, at least have some taste and choose “Pink Flamingos” – a film rated NC-17 for “a wide range of perversions in explicit detail,” yet listed under Netflix’s “Classics” category.
Waters’ opus of all that is foul and indecent also became the midnight movie phenomenon that started his sweeping filmography of high trash and twisted throwbacks.
Watching Divine – Waters’ drag queen muse and go-to lead act – seek the title of “Filthiest Person Alive” by gleefully performing the most shocking, uncomfortably hilarious acts ever committed to film is an experience not easily forgotten.
Viewers will love or hate it, but either way, be sure to have a bucket nearby when you watch it.
– Damon Lord
After a string of underground movies including “Female Trouble” and “Polyester,” Waters made his most mainstream film to date with 1988’s “Hairspray.”
The story follows teenager Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) in 1960s Baltimore, as she wins a spot on local TV show “The Corny Collins Show” and attempts to racially integrate it.
Perhaps Waters’ greatest subversion was casting Divine as Tracy’s mother Edna in a PG-rated film. Even more surprisingly, the film did well commercially and inspired a 2002 Tony-winning Broadway musical.
“Cheaper by the Dozen 2” director Adam Shankman remade the film in 2007 with John Travolta in a body suit reprising Divine’s role.
– Jimmy Geurts
Waters’ 1990 movie “Cry-Baby” tells a love story between two teenagers who come from families with very different economic backgrounds.
Cry-Baby (then-rising star Johnny Depp) is a reckless greaser whose friends and family warmly invite the supposedly uptight rich-girl Allison (Amy Locane) to be a part of their gang of societal outcasts.
Allison’s “square” groups aren’t quite as inviting, going as far as imprisoning Cry-Baby for a crime he didn’t commit.
The film’s playful satire on class warfare – along with its soundtrack of ’50s-inspired tunes and outrageous slapstick comedy – is a testament to Waters’ ability of making entertaining trash good for you.
– Benjamin Wright
Cecil B. Demented
“Cecil B. Demented” may represent Waters’ best balance between his increasing mainstream profile and his love for underground cinema.
The story follows famous actress Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) as she’s taken hostage by a gang of teenage guerilla filmmakers led by Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorff).
The gang later wages attacks on a “Forrest Gump” sequel and a director’s cut of “Patch Adams” – a film Waters has said makes him “feel like Barbara Bush watching ‘Pink Flamingos.'”
While “Cecil B. Demented” is crude in both its filmmaking and subject matter, it also contains loving tributes to directors like David Lynch, with a cast featuring future Oscar nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon.
– Jimmy Geurts
Part of what makes Waters such an engaging pop culture figure is that despite his supposedly crude and vulgar taste, he actually appears to be a very polite and articulate person.
With his 2010 essay collection “Role Models,” Waters proves as much by paying his respects to those who helped him earn the title “The Pope of Trash.”
Waters thanks everyone from author and playwright Tennessee Williams to lesbian strippers and porn directors – then goes all the way back to addressing himself.
Waters has written many other books – including his autobiography “Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste” and “Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters.”
– Benjamin Wright