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John Waters - Biography

John Waters, is a filmmaker, author and photographer. He was born April 22, 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently based in Baltimore and New York. John Waters became famous as "the pope of trash" (William Burroughs) and the "king of suburban exploitation" Waters' work shows "gleeful irreverence and appreciation of the American grotesque." His films, photos and writings make the transition from underground to mainstream without losing their aesthetic integrity. Among his best known films: Mondo Trasho, Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Divine, Serial Mom, Pecker, and Cecil B. Demented. Author of Shock Value; Crackpot (recently reissued); Trash Trio; Director's Cut; Art: A Sex Book.

John Waters is the son of Patricia Ann (née Whitaker) and John Samuel Waters. His father was a manufacturer of fire-protection equipment. John Waters grew up in Lutherville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. At the age of seven, Jeff was inspired by the movie Lili, the movie grew his love for puppets. As a child John Waters would stage violent versions of Punch and Judy for children’s birthday parties. He was a child obsessed with violence.

As a teenage boy he received his first 8mm film camera from his grandmother. John Waters was also inspired by the B-Movie films shown at a local drive-in, which Waters watched through binoculars. John and his friends were anti mainstream culture, during the 1960’s him and his friends began shooting films in Baltimore. These films were screened to small audiences in the Baltimore area. John Waters went to Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Baltimore but later graduated from Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.

John Waters first short film was Hag in a Black Leather Jacket the film was shown only once in a coffee shop in Baltimore, although in later years he has included it in his traveling photography exhibit. John Waters enrolled at New York University (NYU) but later left the academy after Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the grounds of NYU. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he completed his next two short films Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup.

John Waters takes inspiration from all areas in the spectrum from “low” to “high” art. He has been influenced by such figures as: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman. In 1964 John Waters first film was created entitled, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964). The film starred John’s childhood friend and collaborator Mary Vivian Pearce. According to John Waters, the film is about a white woman and a black man’s wedding on the roof of John’s parents home. The man woos the lady by carrying her around in a trash can and chooses a Ku Klux Klansman to perform the wedding ceremony. John Waters first success came when Pink Flamingos (1972) debut in 1973. The movie is infamous for leading actor and long time companion of John Waters, Divine, and his performance which includes an unforgettable dog poop eating scene.

I believe life is nothing if you're not obsessed. I only think terrible thoughts, I do not live them. Thank God I am not my films. If audiences can laugh at my twisted ideas, what's the great harm? I had a goal in life — I wanted to make the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history. Thanks so much for allowing me to get away with it.

John Waters

In John Water’s recent film Cecil B. DeMented (2000) an ambitious counter-cultural filmmaker, Cecil kidnaps famous Hollywood actress Honey Whitlock played by Melanie Griffith and forces her to star in his underground film. The film is an ironic satire questioning the values of film and Hollywood. The film included many young indie scenesters including: Alicia Witt, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Adrian Greiner and Larry Gilliard Jr.

John Waters has directed many films including: A Dirty Shame. This Is That Productions. 2004, Cecil B. Demented. Artic Productions LLC. 2000, Pecker. Polar Entertainment. 1998, Serial Mom. Polar Entertainment Corporation. 1994, Cry-Baby. Universal Pictures. 1990. Divine Trash. 1990. Hairspray. New Line Cinema. 1988. Polyester. New Line Cinema. 1981. Desperate Living. Charm City Productions. 1977, Female Trouble. Dreamland. 1974. Pink Flamingos. 1972. Multiple Maniacs.1971, Mondo Trasho. 1969, The Diane Linkletter Story. 1969. 15 min. Eat Your Makeup. 1968. 16 min. Roman Candles. 1966. 40 min and Hag in a Black Leather Jacket.1964. 17 min.

John Waters was a professor of film and subculture at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducted a summer workshop.