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John Samuels Waters Jr. is a filmmaker known for his eccentric and unconventional films. His style and creativity stand in stark contrast to mainstream cinema, and he has occasionally pushed the boundaries of propriety. He has given the world some fantastic films such as ‘Pink Flamingos,’ ‘Hairspray,’ ‘Cry Baby,’ and ‘Pecker.’ His films have been characterized by an exaggerated sense of reality and an outlandish portrayal of dispositions. He was never a typical child; he possessed an uncanny ability for the dark and grotesque. Waters began depicting violence in his work during his adolescent years, when he filmed and screened his films for an underground audience in Baltimore. Not only is he a director with excellent and peculiar taste, but he has also appeared in films and hosted television shows. Waters is also an avid book collector. Several of his films have been adapted into hit Broadway musicals, including ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Cry Baby,’ and he was honored with the Filmmaker on the Edge Award at the 1999 Provincetown International Film Festival. Waters has devoted his time and life to filmmaking, exhibiting his artwork and installations, and realizing bizarre concepts such as hitchhiking across the United States. Waters has authored books such as ‘Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste’, ‘Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters’, and ‘Change of Life’.

Table of Contents

Childhood & Adolescence

John Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland on 22 April 1946 to Patricia Ann and John Samuel Waters. His father was a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment, and his family was upper-middle class.

He grew up in Lutherville, a Baltimore suburb. The family practiced Roman Catholicism. He attended Calvert Hall College High School and graduated from Baltimore’s Boy’s Latin School. Waters was drawn to movies from an early age.

When he was seven years old, he was enthused by the film ‘Lili,’ which instilled in him a love for puppets. From his earliest years, he was known to be violent and dark. At children’s birthday parties, he used to perform violent adaptations of ‘Punch and Judy.’

His grandmother gave him his first 8mm film camera when he was a teenager. He was into watching films that were appropriate for his age; he used to use his binoculars to watch adult-oriented films at local drive-ins.

Waters’ friends, like him, possessed an appreciation for counterculture art. They were anti-mainstream culture and began shooting silent 8mm and 16mm films in Baltimore in the 1960s. These films were secretly screened to an underground audience in a Baltimore church.

Audiences were attracted through covert word of mouth and street leaflet campaigns. His filmmaking technique gradually matured and polished, while the subject matter of his films became increasingly bizarre. This drew a younger, more creative, and like-minded crowd to his underground screenings.

Career of John

Waters’ first proper short film, ‘Hag in a Black Leather Jacket,’ was screened only once in a coffee shop called ‘Beatnik Coffee House,’ but he later exhibited the film as part of a traveling photography exhibition. Waters enrolled at New York University in 1966, but his heart was not in it.

According to him, the type of art and creativity he was interested in was diametrically opposed to what they valued at NYU. Waters and his friends were expelled from the university just days after enrolling after being caught smoking marijuana on the NYU campus.

After being kicked out of NYU, Waters returned to Baltimore and began filming short films such as ‘Roman Candles’ and ‘Eat Your Makeup’. Later in his career, he began directing longer films such as ‘Mondo Trasho’ and ‘Multiple Maniacs’.

Glenn Milstead, also known as Divine, a childhood friend, became the primary actor in his experimental films. All of his early films starred local actors and were shot in Baltimore. Among the actors in his conglomerate were Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pearce.

Waters’ first commercial success came in 1973 with ‘Pink Flamingos.’ According to reports, the film pushed the boundaries of propriety and featured extreme characterization. It featured exaggerated situations that were far removed from reality, as well as hyperbolic dialogue. This was the overarching theme of all of his films. The film’s climax scene is infamous for its main character, Divine, eating dog feces.

Waters transitioned from bizarre creativity to more controlled and mainstream cinema in 1981. In the same year, he released his first mainstream film, ‘Polyester,’ starring Divine and Tab Hunter.

Following the success of ‘Polyester,’ Waters directed a number of mainstream films, including ‘Hairspray (1988), ‘Cry-Baby (1990), ‘Serial Mom (1994), ‘Pecker (1998), and ‘Cecil B. Demented (2000). While these films adhered to the fundamentals of commercial cinema, they retained Waters’ trademark creative strangeness.

In 2004, Waters directed Johnny Knoxville in his conflict-ridden creative work ‘A Dirty Shame’. In the same year, he made a cameo appearance in ‘Jackass Number Two’ and ‘Seed of Chucky’ as ‘Pete Peters’. In 2007, he hosted ‘Til Death Do Us Part,’ an American dramatization of murderous marriages on Court TV.

In 2008, he decided to direct a children’s film titled ‘Fruitcake,’ which he intended to star Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey in. He was forced to put it on hold because he lacked the funds to complete it, which was estimated to cost 5 million American dollars.

As a result, he sold the idea to an independent film production company and profited from it. However, the film was never made due to the company’s closure.

Waters exhibited his photo-based artwork and installations titled ‘Rear Projection’ in 2009 at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery and Los Angeles’s Gagosian Gallery. He has been creating fine art since the 1990s and has exhibited his work internationally. In 2009, he exhibited his well-known comical artwork titled ‘Rush.’

Waters has been working on one of his eccentric projects and has recently completed it. He was hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco in the United States. He intended to use his experiences as fodder for his upcoming book. ‘Carsick’ is the working title for this book.

He was picked up on his hitchhiking journey by celebrities such as Maryland Councilman Brett Bidle, indie rock band Here We Go Magic, and others.

Personal History and Legacies

Waters is quite candid about his sexual orientation. He is a homosexual and has never been ashamed to admit it publicly. Although little is known about his partners, he is quite outspoken about his homosexuality. He is also an outspoken advocate for gay rights and gay pride.

Estimated Net Worth

John Waters is a $50 million dollar American director, writer, producer, actor, and artist. Waters is perhaps best known for writing, directing, and producing “Hairspray,” which began as a 1988 film and evolved into an award-winning Broadway musical.

Trivia

Waters has always been drawn to the bizarre and macabre. His first dark memory is of a blood stained car seat he saw at a yard sale and thought about horrifying car accidents.

He asserts that he believes in darkness but does not live it. He asserts that he and his life are diametrically opposed to his cinema.

This filmmaker, comedian, and art collector reads 80 magazines per month. He owns over 80,000 books. His ‘Hairspray’ was adapted into a Broadway musical and remade in 2007 with John Travolta starring. ‘Cry Baby’ has also been adapted into a Broadway musical.

He was inspired creatively by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Federico Fellini, William Castle, and Ingmar Bergman, among others. He was also heavily influenced by the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’.