Downtown Miami was going crazy last night because of the Heat game, but a few blocks away there was a smaller, but in its own way more intense gathering. John Waters was in town for the Miami International Book Fair. In a huge room at Miami Dade College (don’t call it “Community!”), Waters packed in a crowd of intense folks of both genders and all ages — many born after his most notorious films were released.
Waters is a charmer. He’s got the self assurance about him that comes to many with a ge, though I get the feeling he was a pretty confident guy from the beginning. He was interviewed by my pal Brett Sokol (who, incidentally, did a great job, tho the q&a afterwards suggested that you could throw absolutely anything at Waters and elicit a stream of fascinating anecdotes), who at one point asked if Waters and his friends felt cool when they were making the first few movies. “Well, yes,” Waters responded. I don’t know exactly what it is about film directors, but they seem to almost always be fascinating people. (For example, check out the video of Errol Morris and Werner Herzog chatting recently—the conversation is irresistqble even if you’ve never seen a single film by either of them.) Here, then, a few of my favorite of Waters’ anecdotes from last night:
- He had a subscription to Variety when he was 12 years old.
- He’s currently got a film in pre-production, but his last film fell through/was rejected by the studio. It was “a children’s Christmas movie … about a family of meat thieves.”
- When he was a little kid, he’d look up Tennessee Williams in the library, and the index would say “see librarian,” because Williams’ work was considered controversial. Same thing when he looked up “homosexuality.” See librarian. Waters quips, “well, I could see that the librarian was homosexual…” But he quickly makes an interesting point — not just that there’s absolutely no reason to keep any book fron children, but that it’s a bad idea to keep children from exploring anything that they’re interested in, because the things that they’re forbidden from doing can come to loom large in their imagination and form obsessions later in life. (He said it much smarter than that…I’m working off some sketchy-ass notes here.)
- Complete strangers tell him their darkest secrets all the time. “I’ll get on a plane, and the woman next to me will lean over and say, ‘my whole family fucked me Easter morning.’”
- “Don’t as a fat person to be Santa Clause for Christmas — that’s rude!”
He also talked about the current state of student filmmaking, and how good the scene is for people like him coming up now, what with studios being happy to fund low-budget indie work on the hopes that it might pay off. Converesely, he’s having a hard time attracting the ~$5 million or so budgets he needs to make the polished movies he currently does, because at that price studios only want blockbusters. And he had a fascinating bit of advice for aspiring filmmakers: watch lots and lots of movies, and watch them with the sound off, because dialog and music are a distraction from cinematography, which the lack of sound forces you to analyze.
So, wow, the book fair is awesome. After the talk, Waters sat at a table, and everyone and their face-pierced niece lined up and got to chat, be photographed with, and get their book signed by him. No kidding, one guy had three copies of the new book (which, by the way, is awesome, and you totally should get a copy. If you hurry you might be able to nab a signed coppy at Books & Books), plus another of Waters’ books, plus a guitar, and everythign got signed and the guy posed with Waters and the guitar and took up long moments from everyone’s life and it was totally cool. There are about a million authors coming between now and Sunday (weekday evenings, plus all day Friday – Sunday).
You should check out my awesome girlfriend’s guide to the bookfair (she’s deep in the Books & Books crew, so the “insider” thing is no line), and check back here — I’m going to be more or less camped out over there for the next few days, and with any luck blogging regularly. BTW, earlier this week I wrote a quickie thing about Waters’ mustache at The Heat Lightning, where it’s JOHN WATERS WEEK!