Professor Joe Bob here with Week Six of "Joe Bob's Summer School," Cinema Studies 101. We're here in Baltimore, Maryland, on our second field trip of the semester, at the home of the great writer-producer-director John Waters, and he'll be joining us shortly while we watch his big cross-over hit movie "Hairspray." And I hope I can talk him into letting us stay and watch "American Graffiti" with him, especially since I believe the classroom is getting towed for being illegally parked as we speak.
Tonight we're studying Baltimore as the film capital of the world. Baltimore could really be considered the CAPITAL of the world when you look at who's come out of this town: one of my favorite writers, H.L. Mencken; novelists like Dashiell Hammett and Upton Sinclair; musicians such as Billie Holiday, Mama Cass, Ric Ocasek, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, and, of course, Tony DiFranco --"A Heartbeat is a Love Beat." Cleopatra Jones is from here -- the actress Tamara Dobson -- plus Michael Tucker from "L.A. Law," Josh Charles, who debuted "Hairspray," Parker Posey, and the great David Hasselhoff (Knightrider) himself. Athletes like Babe Ruth. And people we don't know what category to put em in, like Montel Williams and Johnny Eck, the famous Half-Boy, measuring in at one-foot-six.
But this is Cinema Studies, so let's stick to film. The two paragons of Baltimore cinema are John Waters, who has filmed every single one of his films here, including "Hairspray," "Cry Baby," "Pecker," and the film that established his cult reputation, "Pink Flamingos." The second world-renowned Baltimore director is Barry Levinson, who is right now following up his Baltimore trilogy of "Diner," "Tin Men" and "Avalon" with "Liberty Heights." However, let's not forget the filmmakers whose movies are so universal that we forget they were shot right here. Guys like Don Dohler, whose work includes the 1977 classic "The Alien Factor," about a spaceship containing specimens for an intergalactic zoo that start mutilating people when they crash on Earth. With the most authentic performances since "The Legend of Boggy Creek." Don also made "Fiend," about a reanimated corpse who moves into the suburbs and tries to keep his activities a secret from his nosy neighbor. And, of course, "The Galaxy Invader," in which an alien menace terrorizes a bunch of rednecks. There's Lee Bonner -- besides directing episodes of the Baltimore-based TV show, "Homicide," he made the renowned "Adventure of the Action Hunters" in 1987 -- I believe I was the only critic in America to give it a favorable review, unfortunately. Many films set in Washington D.C. are shot in Baltimore because of the similarities in architecture, movies like "Patriot Games" and "No Way Out." But how can you talk about those without mentioning the 1994 film "Conrad Brooks vs. the Werewolf," starring Ed Wood alumnus Conrad Brooks as . . . Conrad Brooks. And Bob Hanes, who made the 1985 film "Blood Circus," in which aliens come to Earth to fight has-been professional rasslers.
And no wonder Baltimore is the film capital of the world, with an accent so thick it sounds like a foreign language, waterfront bars filled with hillbilly truck drivers who come to cruise the half-finished transsexuals, pumped up on estrogen, who hang out between medical appointments at Johns Hopkins. Baltimore -- my kinda town.
Let's start our first flick and continue our Cinema class with John Waters at the break. "Hairspray" is the early-sixties high school musical about a dancing chubster played by Ricki Lake who misbehaves to her mama, played by Divine, to become a pro-integration cha-cha'ing teenage idol. Check it out, and the Joe Bob Briggs Dancers will be providing brief lessons as we go along.
[fading] And I'm not giving it four stars just because I'm in John Waters' house. Does he know we're here?
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #1
Nice close-up zit-popping. It's Cinema Studies 101 here at "Joe Bob's Summer School," and it's time to welcome our guest-lecturer, the creative mind behind that scene. He's been called the Prince of Puke, the Pope of Trash, and the Lord High Pooh-Bah of Repulsion, and he's graciously invited us into his home here in Baltimore, Maryland, the great filmmaker John Waters. Did I leave any of your other names off that list, John?
John Waters: I sort of like the anal ambassador and a couple of other ones.
Who makes these up?
WATERS: The press. Actually William Burrows called me the pope of trash so that was the biggest honor I thought.
I see. Well before we start talking about the film, I gotta ask you about your mustache. How do you shave around that thing. . . 'cause I would think one slip it's all over right?
WATERS: Yeah then you draw it on if you miss. It's simple. It's called a pencil mustache. I've had it since I've been nineteen. I'm certainly not nineteen anymore. I don't even think I have a mustache. Matter of fact, the people say, 'Do you like mustaches?' I say I hate them. But I shave it everyday down and about twice a week, whenever I notice ew it looks horrible, I like, trim it with scissors on the bottom, and if I miss, you pencil it in. It's quite simple.
But I can tell it's real today.
WATERS: Oh it's real yeah yeah.
It's not pencil.
WATERS: No you can feel it. Letterman never would. See, he wouldn't even. No one will feel my mustache. Okay.
It ruins the makeup it ruins the whole illusion.
WATERS: I didn't say rub, I said feel.
All right, we're here watching John's film "Hairspray." I hear the "Corny Collins Show" is based on a real show you had here in Baltimore when you were growing up, and they dealt with the same issues you deal with in the movie.
WATERS: Yes certainly. The whole rest of the country had the Dick Clark show "American Bandstand" -- we did not. We had "The Buddy Dean Show," which was only shown locally but was incredibly popular. It was more extreme: the girls wore higher hair; the boys wore tighter pants. The gimmick songs were even more ludicrous. So I was obsessed by it for years, and I watched the show and that's what gave me certainly the idea to bring it to live.
And was there a council?
WATERS: Yes. It was called the committee. Buddy Dean is actually in the movie -- the disc jockey. He plays the reporter outside the governor's mansion that first puts the microphone into the car when you see them pull up. That is the real Buddy Dean.
Okay. Well we're gonna go back to the movie now and continue our conversation with John Waters at the next break so roll the film.
[fading] Maybe later we can draw one of those mustaches on me. How do you think I'd look with one of those?
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #2
WATERS: If you click your heels together you can go back to Texas.
I love the Madison. I really do. It's my favorite dance.
WATERS: That's the very best musical number in the film, I think.
Can you Madison?
WATERS: I can do the Madison. It's the only dance I ever do anymore and I when I go to these reunions that they have of "The Buddy Dean Show," I will only do the Madison and I usually do it in the front row, so they leave me alone (about) the other dances you know. And these things is kind of weird because you see a line of a hundred 50-year-old women doing the locomotion without irony. It's an odd sight.
All right. I'm here on our Cinema Studies 101 field trip to filmmaking capital of the world, Baltimore, Maryland, with our guest-lecturer John Waters. And what did I hear about how you pitched this movie to the studio? Didn't you do something kinda goofy?
WATERS: Well I'm tryin' to remember, it was so long ago. Basically, I got up and did the dances in front of startled movie executives, and I started doing The Bug, like I had a disease in front of them. But it seemed to work, because it was the only movie I ever made where a lot of 'em wanted to do it all at once. So, basically, that was the main way I'd tell the story, but then I would get up and do each one of the dances in front of them -- not the entire number, but a few steps of it, just to give them a taste of it and they were speechless, actually, from it.
But it worked?
WATERS: Well I guess. I made the movie, yeah.
Now you're the one who discovered Ricki Lake right?
WATERS: Well yes . . .
. . . before this movie?
WATERS: Yes, certainly.
Where'd you find her?
WATERS: Through a casting woman named Mary Calhoun, and Ricki had been turned down for a job at the Gap a week earlier. She was still in college and she came to us, and as soon as she walked in, I knew it was her. I mean here was a fat girl, and she was definitely fat then, I mean, she's not now -- she was then. And she was up there . . .
. . . we use the term chubster.
WATERS: Well actually fat, I don't mind. Just call me Jack Sprat. I've had luck with fat girls, you know, and they've been in all my movies. Shirley, Divine, Ricki Lake...I'm a jumbo kinda guy.
Well, did you know that Ricki lost her virginity while she was shooting your movie "Crybaby?"
WATERS: I knew that. I would have never told that story 'til she told it on camera in, I think, Steve Yeager's movie. So, yes, she did, but she didn't say with who, and I won't say either. But he was in the cast.
I love the Ricki Lake show. She does segments like, "Get Real, Honey, Your Boyfriend is a Dog," and "Pack Your Bags or You'll Wish You Were Dead." You ever watch her show?
WATERS: Yes. I've been on her show.
I think she may have been the first one to do the whole trash-talking thing, you know.
WATERS: Well she's doing great. The ratings are up this year you know. So I'm all for it. She's found great success. When I first met Ricki she told me she wanted to be a TV star. I said, 'No, you don't. Everybody wants to be a movie star.' No, she told me she wanted to be a TV star. She wasn't kidding. I thought she was.
Really? And the studio didn't want you to have a big star in that part?
WATERS: Well, you know, they always say in the script. It says fat but they don't mean fat, they mean girl with big breasts that they'd like to, you know, have sex with, which is different than fat, I mean, unless they're chubby chasers. So basically, when I say fat I mean it. You know. I wanna a big girl. I want tonnage.
. . . you don't want a young Kathy Bates.
WATERS: No. I love Kathy Bates. I had dinner with her in Baltimore . . . she's a great actress.
But she would be like a name that was, you know, a larger actor.
WATERS: I needed a teenage girl that could dance and that's the thing. Very few people even tried out for the part because most of the big girls were afraid to dance. After "Hairspray" came out, when I was casting for "Crybaby," hundreds of fat girls showed up at the auditions when I wasn't looking for 'em 'cause I was like the pied piper.
Okay, let's get back to John Waters' big cross-over musical hit, "Hairspray."
[fading] Ricki Lake said she started losing weight from all the dancing she had to do shooting this film, and that you started chasing her around the set with Dove Bars so she'd stay big.
WATERS: For fat continuity. We can't have her come around the corner three weeks later and weigh 20 pounds less than the room she was just in the movie. So we had to force-feed her, yeah.
Filmmaking is cruel.
WATERS: It is, it is.
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #3
Two weeks in hairdo detention. Did they really have hairdo detention?
WATERS: No. They didn't have hairdo detention, but in my school you could get a deficiency slip or go to the office for having your hair too high. I think you went to regular detention. But certainly hairdo violations were always a big thing in schools. And all the girls I liked the best always had hairdos that got 'em in trouble.
Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry as the racist parents of Amber Von Tussle, played by Colleen Fitzpatrick. All THREE of em were actually singers, weren't they?
WATERS: That's true. That's true. And you know Sonny Bono. What other politician won an election while he played a racist in a movie? He was running for mayor of Palm Springs at the time and won after playing a racist in a movie, which is something usually, most politicians don't do.
Sonny Bono has a whole body of film work, doesn't he? It was around the same time, maybe slightly before he made this, he was in the "Goolie's" movies. Either the "Goolie's" movies or the "Troll" movies.
WATERS: . . . no it's the Troll one. Yes he did that right before, which gave me an idea maybe he would be available. But I loved the b-movies he made himself, certainly.
WATERS: You know the movie with Cher, the hitchhiking one. Chastity is my favorite. You always show that one.
Yeah that's a great . . .
WATERS: . . . She has a great lesbian scene in it. Oh, it's a great movie.
Professor Joe Bob here at the home of our guest-lecturer, filmmaker John Waters. Let's talk about Divine for a minute. His real name was Glenn Milstead, and I think you did, what, at least nine movies with him, including "Pink Flamingos," "Female Trouble," "Polyester," "Lust in the Dust." Now you always say that you think of him as a character actor and not a drag queen. What do you mean by that what distinction . . .
WATERS: . . . Well because he was never Divine except when we were making a movie or when he was doing a night club act or he was paid to do that. He didn't walk around looking like that. And he played men in my films too. Certainly in "Hairspray" he plays a man also. He's Arnold Hodgepaul the racist owner of the TV station. Divine wished he could've played every role. HE wanted to play Ricki Lake's role in the beginning. And I said it's a little hard -- you're like 35, you know, to play a teenager I mean . . .
. . . right.
WATERS: It was tough. He wanted to play the mother and the daughter. He would have played the dog in "Pink Flamingos." He would have liked to have played every role.
WATERS: So I never thought of him -- I'm not against the word drag queen. He was that too when he was in a movie, I guess, but more in the beginning of my career, maybe. In "Pink Flamingos" he was an insane drag queen 'cause drag queens were so square then. But in the end he definitely was a character actor. When he played a mother in "Hairspray" -- what drag queen would allow themselves to look like that?
I know you guys went way back to childhood.
WATERS: Teenage years. I met him when he and his parents moved to my neighborhood when we were in high school.
And how did he develop the character of Divine? How did that whole thing happen?
WATERS: Well I think I had a lot to do with it. Certainly I used Divine's anger you know. And Divine had been in drag before and David Lochary was a great influence who was also in my movies, who would make fun of drag queens by having Divine dress up, certainly, and threaten drag queens. When he'd carry a chainsaw, they would be very uptight. They would run from him and they hated him because they wanted to wear their mother's mink coat and be their mother, basically, and be rich and wear mink coats and sables and be Miss America, where Divine wanted to break into houses and be a hippie terrorist, basically.
And "Hairspray" was his last movie. He died the night before his first day as a recurring character on a big sitcom, right?
WATERS: Playing the gay uncle on Married With Children," yes.
I hope it's not disrespectful to say that he would've been perfect for that show. Okay, let's get back to Divine's final role in "Hairspray." Roll it.
[fading] Divine taught Ricki Lake how to walk in high heels. Not a lot of guys can say THAT, can they?
WATERS: That's true. Well you know girls these days they don't know how to wear high heels. They all need a drag queen in their life to give them beauty tips, really.
Especially fat girls.
WATERS: Yeah. Yeah. All girls. They don't wear high heels anymore.
That's true. And the world is worst off . . .
WATERS: . . . that's true. I think so too. But Divine's high heels were special metal because they snapped under his weight always. He had to have them specially built out of steel so they weighed so much every time he had to pick up his feet, it was like ten pounds on each shoe.
I could imagine.
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #4
"Hairspray," probly the only musical-comedy about racial segregation. We're on our Cinema Studies field trip to the Baltimore home of our guest-lecturer, auteur John Waters. What do you think of that term, "auteur"? WATERS: Well it's French and I love the French 'cause my movies do well there and they're giving me money for my new movie, so I'm all for it. It means that the director had final say I'm all for it.
Let's talk about your earlier flicks for a minute. For those people who, shall we say, don't get your earlier work, what drew you to making movies that had vomiting, feces eating, baked rats, nekkid guys on pogo sticks --and by the way, I just gave nine people in TNT Standards & Practices heart-attacks just SAYING that stuff.
WATERS: Art certainly. Basically a sense of humor. It was jokes on exploitation films. You know "Pink Flamingos" sort of came out the year exploitation was over, when hardcore became legal. So I was trying to think what would shock people that isn't sex or violence. What could you come up with that is so ludicrous that it would make you laugh? So since I make comedies, and I still make comedies, I was trying to think of a new way to get you to laugh, which is certainly the same way big comedies today make you laugh. I saw a movie last night called "American Pie" that comes out this summer and the teenage character has sex with a pie in it. Certainly it's in the long tradition of repulsive movies trying to make you laugh.
That's true. I think you probably paved the way, 'cause that's a big studio film.
WATERS: Oh, certainly it is.
I'm sure you were a big favorite of the Maryland State censor board. First of all, how many state censor boards are there?
WATERS: Well there are none anymore, and Maryland doesn't have one either, but I think we were the last to have one. I know Texas had one for a long time.
WATERS: We were one of the last and Governor Harry Hughes came in and when he got elected, he got rid of it in one day, so he will always be my political hero in the state of Maryland. Basically, it was a couple of women. They watched three movies at once, and they couldn't cut the dialogue because of the Supreme Court, so they were just watching and yelling out things like, "rear entry, reel three," and stuff like that. And she would say to me, "You can't have that shot. That's a vagina." And I said, "Well, it's a man. How can it be a vagina?" "Don't tell me about sex! I was married to an Italian." She would say stuff like that you know. And she was a national joke. She was on "The Johnny Carson Show." She was a national worldwide joke that made Baltimore look stupid.
How'd you get around them?
WATERS: I didn't. I had to cut stuff . . . In "Female Trouble" she handed me the scissors. I had to -- right in front of her -- cut it. "Pink Flamingos" -- she cut stuff. Today, of course, we can show it uncut, but (back then) I had to cut stuff. I would lose. She would seize the print.
But now your work has evolved into something we can actually show on TNT. Talk about shocking. Okay let's continue our summer school lecture with John Waters after we watch some more of "Hairspray."
[fading] What's your recipe for great cinematic puke?
WATERS: Puke -- it's very cheap. You know, you just get some cream corn, add a little water, a little Hershey's syrup, put into your mouth, spit it out. Every time, it'll get you.
You know any 13-year-old boy could be a good consultant to your movies couldn't they?
WATERS: Yeah. Yeah. Sure. Every 13-year-old boy has already done that trick in school. All kids like puke. Why do you think fake puke was such a big seller in joke shops all those years? Puke is a birth right. It's something you have to get out of your system as a teenager. You puke in the drive-in; you puke after your first drink. Puking is part of the teenage happiness.
Yeah. Well we're gonna have our famous puke scene later tonight in "American Graffiti." We'll have we'll get your comment . . .
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #5
Pia Zadora reciting beatnik poetry and playing the bongos -- only in a John Waters movie. You're a big fan of Pia, aren't you?
WATERS: Oh I love Pia. I like Allen Ginsberg too I liked "Howl." That was a great poem. I had to call Allen Ginsberg and get his permission for Pia Zadora to read it, and I think the agent was totally thrown by that call.
But they said . . .
WATERS: . . . I had to pay him certainly...to read that great poem. But that poem -- when I was 15, (it was a) huge influence on me. And Pia Zadora, of course, is everything I believe in America. She's a great star. "Butterfly" was a great movie. What other movie has Orson Wells and Ed McMahon together at last on the silver screen?
Writer direct John Waters is our guest lecture, and I see you gave yourself a cameo there as the crazy shrink.
WATERS: It's the last time I'll ever be in my own movie. I hated it. Having to go into make up right before you're shooting. Then you can't watch the scene except on the video. I'll never do it again.
WATERS: Yeah. I hated it. I mean I had fun being a shrink like that, but that was the last for me. Now I just do voiceovers in my own movies. You know I was the voice for Ted Bundy in "Serial Mom" and I was the obscene call in "Pecker." But I think I'll keep my performances to phone conversations off-camera.
We also had Divine in a second role as the network meanie.
WATERS: Yep. . . . more than a meanie he was a segregation leader.
Okay. And then we had Leslie Ann Powers as Penny Pingleton.
And this was the only role for her?
WATERS: That I know of. I don't know where she is today. I like her very much. She came from outside Washington. She was certainly a young girl at the time. I mean she was like sixteen or so. I liked her very much and I think she's quite good in the movie, but I don't know where she is today. I hope she's doing well. I wish her well. Ricki Lake always asks about her too.
Okay, let's get back to "Hairspray."
[fading] "You look like a hair-hopper to me!" Is there such a thing as a MALE hair-hopper, or can only females be hair-hoppers?
WATERS: Oh no. Male hair-hoppers are boys, like in those days, with drapes -- big, big greasy Elvis lookalikes were hair-hoppers. Today Elvis impersonators are always hair-hoppers.
Okay like somebody with ducktails would that be a hair-hopper?
WATERS: Yeah, or today Vegas is a hair-hopper kinda town, you know. hair-hoppers are usually at gambling tables. They dress too young for their age. They wear a lot of gold jewelry.
INTV: So perhaps in the '90's we have more male hair-hoppers than female.
There's still female hair-hoppers. They still wear that Farrah Fawcet do or some variation.
Is there a difference between big hair and hair-hopping?
WATERS: Well all hair-hoppers spend a little too much time on their hair for their age.
"HAIRSPRAY" Commercial Break #6
A strong political statement made by our guest-lecturer John Waters, with the help of "The Bug" and "The Roach." You know, I think we have a few things in common, John. I think the greatest movie ever made -- present company excluded -- is, of course, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." You a fan of that flick?
WATERS: I love that flick, and I went 20-some years ago and met Tobe Hooper, the director in Austin, Texas, and we went on a bender for 24 hours together. And I had a great time with him. We had our own version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I like all the sequels too. There's even a great line in one the sequels when he said, "You wrecked my Sonny Bono wig." They're all great. I'm a huge fan of "Texas Chainsaw," and it's a really, really scary good movie. I just saw Leatherface at the Chiller Convention. He's lookin' good, Leatherface.
Yeah he goes around to those fan conventions all the time. There's nothing like that Pam on a meathook scene . . .
WATERS: . . . I know.
In the original "Chainsaw." That must be the single scariest scene . . .
You taught a filmmaking class at a maximum-security prison? How did that happen? Did you show your films in the prison?
WATERS: Yes I did. I showed the worst ones. I showed "Even Dwarfs Started Small," the Herzog movie where midgets take over a mental institution. That's a really good one in jail. They can't believe they're seeing it. Yeah, I showed a lot of movies in jail. All my movies.
You got all your movies past the warden?
WATERS: Yeah the warden was great. She was fired and so was I, and the administration was not the same as it was then. It was fairly a little more liberal at the time when I taught there. Oh yeah, I showed "Pink Flamingos" there. I showed all my movies. But I showed other weird ones too. That was the point. We made movies in jail too.
All right, it's time for the swingin' conclusion to "Hairspray." Can you stick around for "American Graffiti"? I'd love to compare and contrast you and George Lucas.
WATERS: . . . isn't Suzanne Summers in that?
WATERS: Wow I love her. She was in "Serial Mom," one of my favorites.
Well I wanna compare your take on 1963 and '64 with George Lucas' take.
So we'll do that. We have a lot of fans in prison here at Joe Bob's Summer School. We have a whole part of the show called Joe Bob's Jailbreak where we read . . .
WATERS: . . . but it's not as much fun -- movies in prison anymore.
And you know what? The legislators are trying to take away their cable. This is a pet peeve with me.
WATERS: They don't have cable in any of the jails where I know people.
They don't want them to have weights anymore and they don't want them to have cable.
WATERS: And you can't smoke. And in one woman's jail I went in you couldn't dye your hair, so everybody has the same length roots. That's really cruel and unusual.
We're on the same wavelength.
WATERS: All right.
I know all these same prisons that you know.
The sixties civil statement "Hairspray," by the man who invented Odorama. We're here in the home of John Waters in the film capital of the world, Baltimore, Maryland, for Cinema Studies 101 here on "Joe Bob's Summer School." John, is that dance "the Roach" a real dance, or did you make it up?
WATERS: That was definitely a real dance.
WATERS: Where you squirted the roach with a bug repellent and then you squish squash kill that roach. Yeah. It was a big popular song then.
What about "the Bug"?
WATERS: Bug was real too. I used to see that on "The Buddy Dean Show." That's when you throw a disease to somebody and they, like, have it all over them, and they throw it to the next person. Yeah, that's a fun one to do.
So I thought you make those up for "Hairspray."
WATERS: No, no, no. They're real dances.
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