Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s, John Waters was not like other children; he was obsessed by violence and gore, both real and on the screen. With his weird counter-culture friends as his cast, he began making silent 8mm and 16mm films in the mid-'60s; he screened these in rented Baltimore church halls to underground audiences drawn by word of mouth and street leafleting campaigns. As his filmmaking grew more polished and his subject matter more shocking, his audiences grew bigger, and his write-ups in the Baltimore papers more outraged. By the early 1970s he was making features, which he managed to get shown in midnight screenings in art cinemas by sheer perseverance. Success came when Pink Flamingos (1972) - a deliberate exercise in ultra-bad taste - took off in 1973, helped no doubt by lead actor Divine's infamous dog-crap eating scene.
Waters continued to make low-budget shocking movies with his Dreamland repertory company until Hollywood crossover success came with Hairspray (1988), and although his movies nowadays might now appear cleaned up and professional, they retain Waters' playfulness, and reflect his lifelong obsessions.
All his movies are set in Baltimore
Frequently casts Patricia Hearst
Casts Mink Stole in nearly all of his films
Films combine outrageous subject matter with a sense of humor
Many of his characters have alliterated names (Dawn Davenport, Francine Fishpaw, Tracy Turnblad, Penny Pingleton, Sylvia Stickles).
Pencil-thin moustache and camp personality
His favorite childhood memory was seeing real blood on the seat of a wrecked car when visiting a scrap yard and fantasizing about lethal car crashes.
As a youth he would watch adult-only films at the local drive-in, with binoculars.
He is obsessed with true-crime and used to regularly attend gory trials all over the US, where he often saw the same faces in the public galleries.
Older brother of Steve Waters.
Subscribes to more than 80 magazines. Also goes to see just about every movie that comes out and hardly ever rents movies.
Has taught classes at the Patuxent Institution, a correctional facility located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The classes are meant as rehabilitation therapy for convicted killers, in which they learn to write about their violent fantasies rather than act them out.
Waters has always been very gracious in acknowledging his creative influences, such as Russ Meyer, Otto Preminger, Liberace, William Castle, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jayne Mansfield, Robert Bresson, and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
As a youth, he made as much as $50 a week doing puppet shows for the neighborhood children, and was often hired to entertain at birthday parties. He stated that many of his puppet shows were inspired by the gimmick-heavy films of William Castle.
Bears such a strong resemblance to actor Steve Buscemi that as a joke, John Waters sent out cards with a photo of Buscemi made up to look like Waters.
Big fan of 1950s director Douglas Sirk and actually got to meet him while in Europe.
Grew his thin pencil-line mustache in honor of Little Richard.
Member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995.
Waters originally wanted a man named "Mr. Ray" to be the narrator of Pink Flamingos (1972). Mr. Ray was famous for his hair-weave radio ads and for his Baltimore accent. Mr. Ray refused, so Waters recorded the voice-over himself, imitating Mr. Ray's voice as "Mr. J."
There is a special section of his immense book collection devoted to Liberace.
Maintains a home in north Baltimore, Maryland.
One of his closest friends is Baltimore based casting director Pat Moran.
Was member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.
Attended Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Maryland.
Was considered for the role of Det. John Munch on "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993).
Brother-in-law of Sharon Waters.
His musical, "Hairspray" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2010 Joseph Jefferson Award for Production of a Musical (Large).
"My hobby is extreme Catholic behavior -- BEFORE the Reformation." (2000)
"If you can make someone laugh who's dead set against you, that's the first step to winning them over to your side." (2000)
Some call me director, producer, filmmaker. I prefer to call myself pube-king.
Strive for art in reverse.
To me, bad taste is what entertainment is all about. If someone vomits watching one of my films, it's like getting a standing ovation. But one must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste.
I pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value.
I would love to make a movie for very neurotic children. But then perhaps, I've already done that. I've shown my films at children's birthday parties. They just love them, like Punch and Judy shows.
Oh, Squeaky Fromme, where were you when we needed you? [1977: when asked about Anita Bryant]
As far as socially redeeming value, I hope I don't have any. 
I love Judy Garland, but if a reporter were coming to my home, I wouldn't have her music playing. A gay man loving Judy would be like a black person watching a minstrel show.
Who on earth would want to assassinate Danny Thomas? It wouldn't even make the front page!
I'll never be able to do a sequel to Pink Flamingos (1972) because it would have to end with Divine taking a shit and the dog eating it.
If someone threw up at one of my screenings, it would be like a standing ovation.
My favorite movie idea is to do a movie where everything's fake -- the trees, the grass, even the sun.
I would never do hard-core pornography, because it looks too much like open-heart surgery.
As a child, I always wanted to sit in William Castle's lap, not Santa's!
I'm 100% gay and about 20% in gay society. Sometimes I'm more comfortable in punk rock clubs than gay clubs. There are just as many rules I rebel from in the gay world as the straight one. I'm gaily incorrect, but I do vote gay.
Sometimes I wish I was a woman, just so that I could get an abortion.
A movie star is someone you want to either get drunk with or have sex with.
No matter what your sexual preference or gender, no one likes a man who is fussy about his looks. You can spend as much time as you want looking good. But don't do it in public.
Pink Flamingos - I don't think it's my best movie, but God knows the day I die it will be in the first paragraph of my obituary. It helped make trash more respectable. It lasted longer than I ever would have imagined. I still meet young kids who have just seen it and they react with the same disbelief that people did the first time. I'm proud of it. It was made to make fun of censorship laws at the time. All that has kind of faded. If I hadn't done the scene where Divine ate dog shit, Johnny Knoxville would have done it in Jackass. The Jackass movies are the closest in spirit to Pink Flamingos than anything else.
Irony ruined everything. I wish my movies could have played at drive-ins, but they never did, because of irony. Even the best exploitation movies were never meant to be 'so bad they were good'. They were not made for the intelligentsia. They were made to be violent for real, or to be sexy for real. But now everybody has irony. Even horror films now are ironic. Everybody's in on the joke now. Everybody's hip. Nobody takes anything at face value anymore.
(On The Wizard of Oz (1939)) When they throw the water on the witch, she says, "Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness". That line inspired my life. I sometimes say it to myself before I go to sleep, like a prayer.
No film can come near The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)'s snuff-like power to horrify. Just saying that great title out loud should give even real serial killers the creeps.
(September 2005) Has released a collection of his scripts called Hairspray, Female Trouble, and Multiple Maniacs (Thunder's Mouth Press).
(January 2009) Owns a house in San Francisco.
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