While he may be most famous for his work behind the camera as the director of such films as Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and Serial Mom, John Waters has become an instantly recognizable pop culture (and gay) icon, famous for both his signature mustache and equally outrageous sense of humor.
From September 9-12, the Baltimore native will return to Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut to host his 5th Annual “Camp John Waters,” this time alongside guest counselors Deborah Harry, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Mink Stole. Campers will be invited to participate in such fun activities as a John Waters Costume Contest, a John Waters Movie Marathon, Hairspray Karaoke, Bloody Mary Bingo, Bobbing for Hotdogs and more.
Connecticut Voice recently spoke to Waters about this delicious annual event, his latest book, his favorite gifts, and his work in front of the camera in movies and television.
V: This is the fifth year for John Waters Day at Camp Getaway. What makes you want to do it again and again?
JW: C’mon, it’s Jonestown with a happy ending. We actually put that on T-shirts the first year. Seriously, it’s this joyous, amazing experience where people come from all over the world, and anything can happen. They even get married there. The campers are straight, gay, whatever, and everyone gets along, although sometimes we have to tell the more “senior” campers to be nicer to the newer ones. And I love that so many of the campers stay in touch with me and each other; some of them always show up at my spoken word shows.
V: Like any good camp, it has plenty of activities. What are some of your favorites?
JW: One year, the campers made hate bracelets in arts and crafts, which I thought was very inventive. And we had a strip twist contest at lunch once, and that wasn’t even planned. And, of course, I love the costume contest, which I personally get to judge.
V: What are your judging standards for Best Costume?
JW: These campers are so smart that many come up with the most obscure details, which I love. Last year, someone came as a painting of Don Knotts in a flea market that was featured in Serial Mom. The guy had to spend all day wearing a frame around his head! Who knows, maybe someone this year will come as my mom and me since we’re having a bit of a mother-daughter theme this year—not that I should give anyone any ideas.
V: Did you ever go to summer camp, and if so, can you share your worst memory?
JW: Yes. When I was 10, the camp had a bowel movement chart, and we had to check it every day. Of course, we did the same thing one year at Camp Getaway, but the campers knew it was coming! It is never our goal to humiliate our customers.
V: Tell me about your new book Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance?
JW: The short version: It’s about a woman who steals suitcases at airports. I think she’s a good villain, but I also think you’ll root for her.
V: How do you come up with all these amazing ideas for your projects?
JW: I have a great imagination that I’ve relied on for 50 years, Also I watch people, look at their behavior, make up an instant biography for them when they walk by, and I especially love to eavesdrop.
V: What’s the best present you’ve ever gotten from an admirer? And what gift do you absolutely not want?
JW: I often get the most amazing presents; my favorite is a book called Ear Masturbation. On the other hand, I will be really mad if someone ever gives me an astrology chart. I don’t believe in that stuff. I don’t want a crystal either. Andy Warhol had a crystal in his pocket when he went into the hospital for that surgery—and a lot of good it did him.
V: You regularly pop up in small roles in TV and movies. What makes you say “yes” to a part?
JW: First, I never agree to independent movies; I only say yes to the biggest hits, as well as projects that people would not expect to see me in, whether it’s Law & Order, Search Party, or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I love that kids recognize me from the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, and people on the subway often mention that they loved me in Seed of Chucky. I like to spread the love around.
V: Do you actually like being recognized in public?
JW: Sure, but I don’t ever like being recognized at the doctor’s office. It’s no fun to have people yell across the room “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” And once a reporter found out I was at the doctor, and it took two weeks to straighten out the story of what really was going on. But otherwise, it’s great.
For information on this event, visit clubgetaway.com
—Brian Scott Lipton