John Waters is our self-described “filth elder”.
His new book, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder, is a mix of a memoir and advice for the next generation of freaks…
“Accept something is wrong with you … something has always been wrong with me, too.”
He chatted with NewNowNext and it produced a quotable amount of text…
“It’s a self-help book for insane people… I wrote a book called Role Models where I kind of talked about all of the people when I was young that gave me permission to be who I wanted to be, so after 50 years of doing that I’m kind of trying to [share] whatever I’ve learned to get this far in life, which is certainly further than I ever thought I’d get. So I think my advice is humorous, but I believe everything I tell you to do.
I think you have to have somebody to look up to that gives you freedom, and that’s what heroes have always been to me. That’s what role models are about, really—people that give you permission to be who you want to be, the first things your parents don’t like, the first things that go against what you’ve been taught that you felt, Wait a minute, I maybe reject how I’m being raised [in order to go] this way. Everybody turns into their parents in a weird way, and I think I took all of the great stuff my parents had, which was a lot of good stuff—I was lucky—and rejected the few little things I didn’t like.
I didn’t grow up with much terrible things happening to me. There was the whole gay thing, which was hard at that period, but I didn’t fit in the gay world, either. The first time I saw the gay world I thought, I’m queer, but I ain’t this. I was always looking for Bohemia….
The worst thing in the world in my life was AIDS. Seventy-percent of my friends died. But every generation has terrible things. You know, I didn’t know anybody that died in Vietnam, to be honest. Everybody I knew knew how to get out of it. Maybe all those people that went to Vietnam didn’t know anybody who had AIDS. Now what’s happening is the opioid thing. Everybody’s dying from that. That’s the new thing that’s killing everybody. There’s always something horrible that attacks the creative community. It was syphilis before my time. I would have definitely had syphilis and been a commie in the 1950s. [Laughs]
The hackers are the new juvenile delinquents. They’re having just as much fun as we did stealing hub caps in the 1950s and taking LSD in the ‘60s.
“I don’t know if I ever celebrated Pride. I was before that. I never came out. It always seemed like that was like a bar mitzvah. I just figured everybody knew. I always hung around with straight people and gay people. I’m against separatism. The first time I ever went to a gay bar, I thought, I might be queer, but I’m not this, but then I went to good ones! The last great gay bar I remember was in New York, called Squeeze Box, and it was a punk rock gay bar. It was the best. It was really, really good.
Stonewall, people forget, was a gay criminal bar, basically. It was illegal drag queens and hustlers. It wasn’t a fancy gay bar. It wasn’t a she-she gay bar at all. It was gay radicals that were thrown out of all of the other gay bars. I love the fact—especially since that was the day Judy Garland died and how much more of a cliché can that be—that that inspired the rage of a gay riot, in sorrow, is an amazing story. I wish they had gay riots when I was young. I was looking for one, but I could never find one. “