As we look forward to the approaching holiday season, the most offbeat December highlight will no doubt be an appearance by the self-proclaimed “People’s Pervert” John Waters at Houston’s Heights Theater on December 3. His live comedy show, called A John Waters Christmas, is back after his two-year “home detention” in Baltimore. “[My show] offers the COVID booster shot you really need,” the out-and-proud Waters says as his pencil-thin moustash turns up at the corners.
OutSmart had the pleasure of chatting with the writer/director about his show—and anything else that sprang into his fertile mind.
So just what can his Houston audience expect to see on December 3? “Bad little boys and girls will take a “sleigh ride of sleaze,” Waters promises. “There will be no silent nights this year! Not after a year-and-a-half of government-ordered masturbation. It’s time to celebrate! Touch your face. Breathe on your family. Sit in the middle seat on airplanes. Dance naked in nursing homes. It’s fun! It’s my Christmas show and, fa-la-la, you’re not dead yet!”
“Waters’ show is not just good, it’s great,” says Steve Shein, general manager of the Heights Theater. “His is one of the shows here that I try really hard to catch while I am working. And he is such a nice person. He takes the time to say hello to the whole crew, and he sits for photos with each of them. He is very human.”
For those living under a rock, Waters, 75, is one of the founding fathers of America’s 1960s counterculture movement. Sometimes called “The Pope of Puke,” his enormous talent has given the world numerous books as well as a collection of shockingly hilarious low-budget films such as Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Female Trouble, and Polyester, all of which showcase the infamous female impersonator Divine, who was Waters’ boyhood friend.
Those attending his holiday show are warned that they ignore Waters’ proclivities at their own risk. With his 1981 film Polyester, he introduced unsuspecting audiences to the “Odorama” movie-going experience that involved handing out numbered scratch-and-sniff cards. The film then cued the audience when to scratch each of the cards’ ten odors, such as skunk spray, dirty socks, and a fart. (You can guess what Odor #2 was.)
“I love Houston and Houston’s audiences,” Waters says. “Unfortunately, I don’t get to experience much of the city. I fly in, check into a hotel, do the show, then fly out to my next one early in the morning. But I love Texas. After all, it was country western music that made me gay. Well, the cowboys… um, well, their jeans. Their jeans made me gay!”
Waters has also been known to offer his audiences dating advice. “If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them,” he says. “If you go home with someone and they have books but they are all in the bathroom, don’t fuck them either. Think about what’s on the pages of that Little Book of Potty Jokes by the toilet. Eewwee, that’s disgusting! The only good thing about death is that we’ll never have to have a bowel movement ever again!” he adds.
At the mention of Divine, Waters’ voice softens. The famous drag queen, whose real name was Harris Glenn Milstead, was catapulted to fame thanks to Waters’ films. He even secured a regular role on the TV show Married… with Children before his untimely death in 1988 from sudden heart failure. Divine grew up six houses down the street from Waters in the suburbs of Baltimore.
“Glenn was not what most people think. He was actually quiet, sweet, and kind of shy. He was not trans. He was an actor—a female impersonator, and he was always very overweight as a child. I think a lot of Divine came as a result of (or as a defense from) all the bullying I know he faced as a very gay fat kid,” Waters explains quietly. “He has been gone now for 33 years, and we still miss him.”
At the end of Waters’ holiday show, he’ll open the theater up for an audience question-and-answer period. When asked if those audience questions ever shock him, we get an earful. “They have never shocked me, though I do have a favorite moment. Once a college-age guy stood up and yelled, ‘My dad claims he nearly went home with you from a bar one night!’ I yelled back, ‘Well, why didn’t he?!’
“But the result of the 2016 presidential election did shock me. I am still getting over it!” Waters gasps.
What: A John Waters Christmas
When: December 3
Where: The Heights Theater, 339 W 19th St