1. Arts & Entertainment

John Waters knows no boundaries in candid interview

John Waters brings his This Filthy World: Filthier & Dirtier show to the 25th annual Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Tampa Theatre.
Published Sep. 30, 2014

Filth has been John Waters' bread and butter for 50 years now, long enough for statutes of limitations to run out and censors to die.

From his dog poo breakthrough in Pink Flamingos to his bestselling hitchhike chronicle Carsick, Waters is still flipping one-finger salutes to conformity, dripping with loving spite, gay esprit and sprinkles of truth.

Pointing a finger at you, LGBT whoever, trying to pass in society like Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life.

"Some gay people try to be so much like straight people that sometimes I have to throw a monkey in the wrench," Waters, 68, said, warping a metaphor by phone from San Francisco, and just warming up.

"I'm for coming in now. We have enough gay people. I think you should audition now, in front of a panel of experienced perverts, then get a gay I.D."

Laughter on the line. Waters waits, then understates: "I'm not gaily correct."

Audiences wouldn't have it any other way. Waters knows no other way. As the original equal opportunity offender, Waters never met a hypocrite he didn't spike, or a boundary that couldn't be obliterated. On occasion, he even makes GLAAD unhappy.

"I'm tired of gay people having to be good," Waters said. "You can't say this and you can't say that, oh, come on. Gay people without a sense of humor is torture.

"Let's keep a little of our outlaw culture, a little of our biting wit. Isn't that what we're famous for?"

Waters is, certainly. One outlet is This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier, a one-man show of spoken word witherings, updated since a videotaped 2006 concert.

A portion of the show is devoted to Carsick, inspired by hitchhiking from his hometown Baltimore to his San Francisco apartment. The book is divided into three sections; Waters' best fantasies of what might happen, his worst possibilities, and the truth. It's a sleazy, queasy read capped by better nature, like vomit with a cherry on top.

"Hitchhiking is always dangerous, always sexual, in the cliches," Waters said. "The reality is that everyone was great. There was little sex, no drama, no scariness.

"Scarier than that is never leaving your house, never trying anything to challenge you. That is much scarier than hitchhiking."

Waters can't always depend upon the kindness of strangers with his travel schedule, with two dozen speaking engagements before Christmas, and a recent Lincoln Center tribute to his half-century film career.

"I'm never going to get anything better than that, even after I'm dead," he said.

A decade has passed since Waters' last feature, A Dirty Shame.

"You know what? I might have made my last movie," he said. "My last two books were best sellers; my movie wasn't."

If Waters does make another movie, it'll be disturbing, just the way he likes them:

"I never understand when I hear people say: (in a yokel voice) 'I just want to see a movie that makes me feel good.'

"I don't want to feel good. I don't expect the motion picture industry to be a tranquilizer to me. I want a feel-bad French movie, Blue is the Warmest Color and its hardcore sex — that added a new level to porn — anything with Isabelle Huppert in it.

"That's entertainment."

Contact Steve Persall at or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.


  1. BurgerFi builds its signature cheeseburger with two Angus beef patties, double American cheese, lettuce, tomato and house sauce. Courtesy of BurgerFi
    Ring in National Cheeseburger Day, watch Bad Religion play Jannus Live or laugh with YouTubers Drew Gooden and Danny Gonzalez.
  2. Two western lowland gorillas at Busch Gardens were part of the successful Budweiser ad campaign during Super Bowl XLI. Sim Sim, left, and Cenzoo, right, helped sell Bud Light. BUSCH GARDENS  |  Tampa Tribune
    Sim Sim’s claim to fame was a 2007 Bud Light commercial.
  3. Hoisin-glazed chicken meatballs. LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    They’re topped with a hoisin sauce, and can be baked or pan-fried.
  4. On Friday, Joella's Hot Chicken will debut the Southern menu its known for in Largo. Joella's Hot Chicken
    Best part? There’s a drive-through.
  5. A still image from Vice's "WTFlorida?!" episode on Paul Flart. Courtesy of Vice
    Short documentaries on Floridians like hurricane headbanger Lane Pittman and Polk security guard “Paul Flart” expand their stories.
  6. FILE - In this May 5, 2019, file photo Alex Trebek poses in the press room at the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, Calif. Trebek said Tuesday, Sept. 17, that he’s had a setback in his battle with pancreatic cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy again. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
    After a short period of optimism when he stopped chemotherapy, his “numbers shot up” and doctors ordered him back on the treatment.
  7. Visitors ride the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Tampa theme park Busch Gardens, which has put its 2020 Fun Card on sale early. AP/Busch Gardens
    Buy your 2020 Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Fun Card and get a few months free, plus more sales for Florida residents.
  8. Larry Duran, a 12-piece Latin band, will perform at the Hispanic Heritage Festival of Hernando County Sept. 21 at the Lake House. Vivian Rivera-Hernandez
  9. Jimmy Buffett performed at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 6, 2017. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The quintessential Florida Man and his Coral Reefer Band hit town for the holidays.
  10. In this image taken from NASA video actor Brad Pitt, left, star of the new space movie “Ad Astra,” speaks from NASA headquarters in Washington, to astronaut Nick Hague abroad the International Space Station, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. AP
    In a televised call Monday, NASA astronaut Nick Hague answered Pitt — “absolutely” — getting a big laugh.