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John Waters

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Also Known As: John Samuel Waters Jr. Died:
Born: April 22, 1946 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: screenwriter, director, author, actor, director of photography, editor, producer, lecturer, puppeteer, artist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

roadway Stage by veteran composer Marc Shaiman. The show was a success and a critical favorite, winning several Tony Awards in 2003. Waters still was not completely ready to be a mainstream darling, though. If "Cecil B. Demented" brought vulgarity back to the forefront of Waters' concerns, then "A Dirty Shame" (2004) kept it alive and kicking. Another example documenting the awakenings of suburban repression, Waters turned comedienne-actress Tracey Ullman into a fictional sex addict housewife who ends up in a local sex cult. The film did not skimp on the bodily excrement and fluids, earning it an NC-17 rating for release. Unfortunately, the movie succeeded only in proving that Waters had not lost his passion for the deviant flipside of mainstream culture.Almost two decades after the debut of "Hairspray," New Line was producing a second movie version of "Hairspray" (2007) based on the musical adaptation of the original movie, with John Travolta taking on Divine's role of Edna Turnblad. Several decades after making his first short films, John Waters had managed to become an iconic cultural figure; one only somewhat less egregious, but probably also one much less misunderstood. Not above cashing in on...

roadway Stage by veteran composer Marc Shaiman. The show was a success and a critical favorite, winning several Tony Awards in 2003. Waters still was not completely ready to be a mainstream darling, though. If "Cecil B. Demented" brought vulgarity back to the forefront of Waters' concerns, then "A Dirty Shame" (2004) kept it alive and kicking. Another example documenting the awakenings of suburban repression, Waters turned comedienne-actress Tracey Ullman into a fictional sex addict housewife who ends up in a local sex cult. The film did not skimp on the bodily excrement and fluids, earning it an NC-17 rating for release. Unfortunately, the movie succeeded only in proving that Waters had not lost his passion for the deviant flipside of mainstream culture.

Almost two decades after the debut of "Hairspray," New Line was producing a second movie version of "Hairspray" (2007) based on the musical adaptation of the original movie, with John Travolta taking on Divine's role of Edna Turnblad. Several decades after making his first short films, John Waters had managed to become an iconic cultural figure; one only somewhat less egregious, but probably also one much less misunderstood. Not above cashing in on his newfound respectability, Waters appeared as The Groom Reaper, the host of the campy "â¿¿Til Death Do Us Part" (Court TV, 2007), a true crime series recounting tales of matrimony gone murderously wrong. In a show of solidarity, he also helped out up-and-coming subversive filmmaker Keven Undergaro by narrating his low-budget fantasy-comedy hybrid "In the Land of Merry Misfits" (2007).

As an elder statesman of the underground, Waters proved he could still genuinely raise a few eyebrows when in 2009, he publicly advocated parole for convicted murderer and former Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten. Having first met her in 1985 for a Rolling Stone interview, Waters later developed a deep friendship with the greatly repentant Van Houten â¿¿ an unconventional relationship he covered in great detail in his 2010 book, Role Models. On a much lighter note, he made an appearance in the music video for "The Creep," a satirical song by The Lonely Island, the comedy trio comprised of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. Waters stayed close to his unconventional film roots as well, appearing as the spirit of Jesus Christ in the coming-of-age comedy "Mangus!" (2011), followed by a cameo in "Excision" (2012), a horror-comedy about a delusional teenage girl (AnnaLynne McCord) with aspirations of entering the medical profession.ers seemed to be in the process of figuring out what the next chapter would entail. He still wanted to represent the mistreated outcasts and those behaviors deemed deviant by society that were at the core of his themes. Despite his reputation, Waters' persona thus far had managed to suit his hometown just fine, as its mayor, William Donald Schaefer, in 1985, declared February 7 to be "John Waters Day." Waters even used his increasing recognition in a car salesman cameo in Jonathan Demme's big screen comedy, "Something Wild" (1986). That year, a collection of Waters' essays entitled Crackpot was released to bookshelves.

Having found a personal interest that would not offend the Hollywood studio audiences, Waters returned in a big way with "Hairspray" (1988). Set in 1962, "Hairspray" told the sweet story of Tracy, an overweight girl who endures the egging of a more beautiful rival in her attempts to become a dancer on her favorite television variety show. Tracy ultimately triumphs and g s on to promote racial tolerance with her newfound celebrity. Waters' old Dreamland cohorts Divine and Mink Stole were present in the film, but this time, the lead was played by a young actress named Ricki Lake, and Waters had the cache to land other celebrities, such as singers Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono for supporting roles.

With a budget of over two million dollars â¿¿ then a sizeable amount for a John Waters film â¿¿ "Hairspray" was a critical and financial triumph for its writer-director and its production company, New Line Cinema. $400,000 of that figure and over half a year of Waters' time were spent in acquiring the clearances to his desired soundtrack choices. Still, he was almost embarrassed at having a PG rating on his permanent record. Sadly, on March 7, 1988, only a few weeks after the film's premiere, Divine, who was preparing to appear on the Fox network's flagship sitcom "Married with Children" (1987-1997), had a fatal bout of heart failure. The symbolic passing of Waters' early style had come to a literal end with the death of his friend and onscreen muse.

By 1990, Waters was still content to stay in period mode for a while. He briefly ventured over to Universal Studios with another equally defiant talent named Johnny Depp for the Ron Howard-Brian Grazer produced "Cry-Baby" (1990). The movie was Waters' affectionate take on movies from the 1950s, a homage to a time when slick-haired rockabilly rebellion seemed enticing to teens and dangerous to parents. Though a studio film, Waters managed to slip in some eccentric casting choices, including punk icon Iggy Pop. More notably, though, Waters found supporting roles for former teen porn queen Traci Lords and Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of publishing giant William Randolph Hearst and more famously, the captive-turned-revolutionary of the Symbionese Liberation Army, whom he had befriended after attending her trial for armed robbery. "Cry-Baby" was an ambitious, but commercial failure, one gained its passionate followers over time like most Waters projects.

Waters was kind enough to match Depp's "Cry-Baby" role by appearing on Depp's day gig, the Fox series, "21 Jump Street" (1987-1991), but took another few years between films. With 1994's "Serial Mom," a film that resumed Waters' satire of all things suburban, he reentered the present. In a role that Waters deemed perfect for its star, husky-voiced Kathleen Turner played a sweet suburban wife and mother who found her inner rage unleashed in the form of multiple murders. Waters naturally found roles for Mink Stole and Patty Hearst. The movie was not a financial or critical success, but a $13 million budget was Waters' biggest to date.

He was now in his fifties and working less frequently, but Waters still made the occasional cameo. He poked fun at himself in a February 1997 episode of Fox's animated series "The Simpsons" (1989- ) and a year later, turned up on the sitcom "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004). Getting back to film work, "Pecker" (1998) became Waters' next studio film project. "Pecker" embraced the idea that the eccentricities of Waters' subjects could now accentuate a film rather than dominate. As usual, the film produced a divided reaction, although the latest film, about an unfortunately-nicknamed teenage photographer who finds himself seduced by success and leaves his quirky Baltimore life for the New York fashion world, seemed almost too tame for Waters' standards.

Into the new decade, a bit of the vintage Waters crept back in with "Cecil B. Demented" (2000), which quickly came on the heels of the disappointment of "Pecker." Though not as humorous as the films that built his shock legacy, "Demented" seemed charged in a way that Waters' work had not been since the '70s output. In the film, a reactionary band of filmmakers, led by a guerilla director, force a Hollywood actress to star in its low-budget movie. Unwilling at first, she soon comes to side with her outlaw captors. It was an intriguing road map of Waters' personal history with the Dreamland gang and the fascination with the Patty Hearst story all over again. The ringmaster Waters had sufficiently managed to get loose performances out of his Hollywood cast. This time, moving beyond the 'barbs, Waters had found the perfect target to satirize, within the pomp and bombast of big Hollywood.

In 2002, "Hairspray" was adapted for the Bs Babs Johnson, retained

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Dirty Shame, A (2004) Director
2.
  Pecker (1998) Director
3.
  Cecil B. Demented (1995) Director
4.
  Serial Mom (1994) Director
5.
  Cry Baby (1990) Director
6.
  Hairspray (1988) Director
7.
  Polyester (1981) Director
8.
  Desperate Living (1977) Director
9.
  Female Trouble (1975) Director
10.
  Pink Flamingos (1974) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Mansome (2012)
4.
 Excision (2012)
5.
6.
 Mangus! (2011)
9.
10.
 Blank City (2009)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland
:
Began working as a puppeteer at age 12, performing at children's birthday parties
1964:
Directed first 8mm short, "Hag in a Black Leather Jacket"
:
Released three of his 8mm shorts under the umbrella title, "Roman Candles"; first collaboration with Divine and Mink Stole
1970:
Feature film debut as writer/director, "Mondo Trasho"
1971:
First feature starring Divine, "Multiple Maniacs"
:
Attended court trials of the Manson gang, Patty Hearst, and serial killer Richard Ramirez
1972:
Released the notorious cult film, "Pink Flamingos" starring Divine and Mink Stole; film was closed down in Hicksville, NY and Waters fined $5,000 for obscenity; film was also banned in Australia, Canada and Norway
1975:
"Pink Flamingos" was accepted into the permanent collection of the Musum of Modern Art
1981:
First studio-backed feature, "Polyester" starring Divine and Mink Stole; employed "Odorama" a gimmick involving the distribution of scratch-and-sniff cards to be used with visual cues in the film
1986:
Made cameo appearance as car salesman in Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild"
1986:
Had role in TV-movie "Passion Flower" (CBS)
1988:
Directed his most profitable feature (to date) "Hairspray"; first film with Ricki Lake; last film with Divine
1991:
Honored with a 7-day career retrospective, "Midnight Madness: The Films of John Waters" at the Angelika Theater in NYC
1994:
First Hollywood A-list film (major stars; $13 million budget), "Serial Mom"
1996:
Participated on-camera in "Ballyhoo! The Hollywood Sideshow" (American Movie Classics)
1997:
Provided a character voice on the animated FOX series "The Simpsons"
1997:
"Pink Flamingos" was re-released in a 25th Anniversary edition
1998:
Wrote and directed "Pecker," a semi-autobiographical portrait of a teenaged photographer
1999:
Featured in Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown"
2000:
Helmed "Cecil B. DeMented" starring Melanie Griffith and Stephen Dorff; loosely based on the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst
2004:
Directed the the NC-17-rated "A Dirty Shame" starring Tracey Ullman, Johnny Knoxville and Selma Blair
2004:
Voiced the Sleazy Reporter in "Seed of Chucky"
2007:
Played the narrator/groom reaper in the 13-part TV true-crime drama series "Til Death Do Us Part" (Court TV)
2007:
Appeared in "This Filthy World," a straight documentary of his long-running one-man show
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Calvert Hall College High School: Baltimore , Maryland -
New York University: New York , New York -

Notes

Waters reported that he was expelled from the New York University Film School for smoking pot according to USA Today, (April 12, 1994). He also cheerfully admits to years of LSD use.

"I think he's probably a genius," she [Kathleen Turner, star of 'Serial Mom'] says of Waters. 'Quite frankly, you don't create your own genre and an international audience completely outside a system--and in spite of the Hollywood system--unless you have one hell of a lot of talent.'" --quoted in "John Waters' Weirdness Runs Deep" by Luaine Lee inDaily News, April 12, 1994.

"How could I have sold out? . . . My movie stars a 300-pound transvestite and Tab Hunter." --Waters to New York Post after being accused of selling out by making the relatively commercial movie, "Polyester" (1981).

"In our neighborhood, you always left the garbageman liquor at Christmas. I always wished that garbagemen were my secret friends. I love when they pull up in Baltimore and go 'Hoo!' That's when you have to run out and give them liquor or money or whatever." --John Waters, talking to Ann Magnuson in "Moveable Blood Feast" in Paper, May 1994.

"I don't make films about things I hate," Waters says. "What always makes me laugh are people who have very extreme taste and think they're very normal. That to me is the funniest ... I respect that. I don't look down on it, I'm IN AWE of it. Like people who have on the most hideous outfit and think they really look good. Who am I to say they don't really?" --Waters quoted in "Diving in New Waters" by Frank DeCaro in Newsday, April 11, 1994.

February 7, 1985 was declared "John Waters Day" in Baltimore, Maryland

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Pat Waters.
father:
John Waters.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Crackpot" Macmillan
"Shock Value"
"Trash Trio"

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