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cinema studies

Host segments continued from Hairspray

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."

Okay, our next flick is an early film of George Lucas's that takes place the same year as Hairspray, but first I wanna let people know that next week we'll be back in the classroom for UFO Studies 666, where we'll be showing "Mars Attacks!," featuring guest-lecturer UFO expert Stanton T. Friedman, followed by the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet, when we'll be joined by cult-heartthrob Anne Francis. You ever met Anne Francis, John?

WATERS: No, but I certainly know who she is.

Okay. Well she's very big right now in uh sci-fi circles.

WATERS: Right.

She's done a whole renaissance...She goes around promoting "Forbidden Planet" everywhere.

WATERS: That's good. These young kids they know everything about weird movies. That's very healthy.

Okay, believe it or not, I HAVE seen comparisons to you and George Lucas before.

WATERS: I haven't.

Movieline magazine once said, "Like George Lucas, the films of John Waters take place in a galaxy far far away."

WATERS: Oh, that's a good review isn't it? Yeah.

However, we're gonna show George's pre-"Star Wars" flick, American Graffiti. It's the summer of 1962, and Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams and a bunch of other folks you'll recognize...

WATERS: . . . Suzanne Somers.

Suzanne Somers.

WATERS: Don't forget her.

They're all cruisin' around Modesto, California, drag racin', makin' out and listening to Wolfman Jack. And just like "Hairspray" was based on John Waters' youth, this is based on George Lucas' younger days. So why don't you do the drive-in totals for us, and we'll get it started, okay?

WATERS: Okay. All right. Let's see. We have: No dead bodies. No breasts. One fist-fight. Four make-out sessions. One fender-bender. One motor-vehicle crash and burn, with explosion. Water-balloon to the face. Axle-ripping. Cruising. Pantsing -- I never heard of that before.

. . . that's when you rip somebody's pants off.

WATERS: That's called foreplay in Baltimore. Booze stealing. Booze puking and four stars.

Okay. Not a whole lot of numbers. Probably you woulda had a lot more numbers if you'd done this.

WATERS: My other ones -- I coulda had, you know, you'd be off the chart on some of the old ones.

This is one of those coming-of-age flicks. Check it out. We'll be back in the first break with film scholar John Waters. Roll film. Did you talk about George Lucas in that filmmaking class you taught in the prisons?

WATERS: No, because I wanted to show them films that they would never ever see in jail.

What was the favorite film in prison?

WATERS: I'm embarrassed to say this but "Champ," the remake.

INTV: That sickly sentimental one?

WATERS: And the one they hated the most was "Streetcar Named Desire" with Marlon Brando, which really shocked me.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #1

See, already there are many similarities between this movie and Hairspray. Like, they both take place in 1962, and, uh, there's some dancing in it. Can you think of any other resemblances, John? We're at the home of our Cinema Studies guest-lecturer, filmmaker John Waters.

WATERS: Well, there's certainly love letters to their extreme youth and extreme, certainly, is always what I try to honor in my movies. This was the first time you ever saw kids just driving around in cars. I saw men do it a lot in Baltimore, but that was for a whole different reason.

By the way, what's your opinion of Suzanne Somers? This was her first film.

WATERS: Well, I love Suzanne Somers you know. She went to make all these insane television shows, you know, that weren't really like my movies. But that's why she had such a good sense of humor that she played herself in Serial Mom. And she was great to have on the set. Matter of fact, she got there and she said, "Am I playing Morgan Fairchild?" I thought was really funny. I'm a big fan of Suzanne Somers.

My favorite Suzanne Somers vehicle is, of course, "She's the Sheriff." Anyhow, let's get back to "American Graffiti," and come back and chat some more.

[fading] Have you ever used the Thighmaster, John?

WATERS: I haven't but I have a signed one she gave me upstairs.

But you never used it.

WATERS: I never used it 'cause I wanna keep it in the box where it's worth money.

And you're an ecomorph you don't need the Thighmaster.

WATERS: What's an ecodorph?

Maybe an endomorph. You're either an ecomorph or an endomorph or a mesamorph.

WATERS: Polymorph.

But you don't need the Thighmaster.

WATERS: I have the Buttmaster too. She gave me that one. There is such a thing for real. That was the sequel. I have 'em both upstairs.

Oh we don't wanna go there.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #2

There's hardly anybody in this movie who didn't go on to be a big star. Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford. This was Paul LeMat's second movie -- he plays John Milner, the guy with the truck. Charles Martin Smith -- that's Toad -- he's now a director. He did "Air Bud." Did you see "Air Bud," John?

WATERS: I didn't see it.

I didn't either. It's Cinema Studies 101 and we're here with film professor John Waters. I, of course, refer back to your prison class on filmmaking . . .Universal Studios almost didn't release "American Graffiti" when it was finished cause they thought it was too murky-looking, and then it was a smash and it inspired the show "Happy Days..."

WATERS: . . . did he get revenge on those studio executives?

Well sort of because it financed "Star Wars," which, in turn, made George Lucas about 500 million dollars.

WATERS: But Ron Howard -- he went and he produced "Crybaby." He was one of the two producers . . .

. . . Oh really.

WATERS: Of "Crybaby" at Imagine Films, yeah. You never know where people are gonna be intertwined.

How rich are you, John?

WATERS: Um. I'm a thousandaire.

Do you think anybody who gets to the point of being a household name can be wealthy?

WATERS: Yeah, you can be a criminal and have not one penny and be a household word in America. Fame has nothing to do with money anymore in America. Notoriety and fame it's all the same thing. Certainly you can sometimes take that fame and make some kind of brand name as you will know... and are you rich from this?

I'm a uh . . .

WATERS: You're a thousandaire too right?

I'm making in the high two figures now.

[fading] Compare and contrast: George Lucas used actors who were on their way to becoming stars, and you've revitalized the careers of actors whose stars have faded. You guys are like yin and yang.

WATERS: Well I had Ricki Lake too, who was on her way up. I like them on the way up or the way down. I never can afford 'em at the top.

Kinda like minor league baseball.

WATERS: I wouldn't know.

1955 Chevy BelAir "AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #3

Candy Clark wants some brew, and if I were Charles Martin Smith, I'd get her some. Candy Clark, THAT sounds like a John Waters name. Did you ever use her in any of your movies?

WATERS: No. I wonder where she is today.

I don't know. I think we tried to find her but we couldn't. John Waters is our cinema 101 guest-lecturer. And even though this movie had a small budget and was shot in 28 days, it was a studio film, produced by Francis Coppola. You've done both studio movies and independent flicks. Which do you like better? It's money over control, right?

WATERS: Well, I like both. That's the problem. You know, basically, with independent films and studio films today it's all the same. They make you test it. They go through the script. They give you notes. It's not so much different. The only real difference is...like if a movie costs ten million dollars, that's a huge independent movie and a very cheap studio film. So basically, if it's a cheap studio film you get better craft services and your salary's better.

And what are you workin' on now?

WATERS: Well, two things. One is "Female Trouble" is coming out again, a movie I made many years ago. It's my favorite of my old movies.

A big screen release?

WATERS: Yeah. And we've kinda been holding it back like Disney kept back "Fantasia," you know. So that's coming. And then I'm. . . to do this new movie that's called "Cecile Be Demented," which is about a lunatic film director who kidnaps a movie star and forces her to be in his underground movie. So, it's basically a comedy about teen terrorism against the movie business.

And that one's ready to go?

WATERS: It's close . . . So I don't wanna -- I don't like to talk about something before you do it. It's such bad luck.

Okay, let's get back to the flick.

[fading] I know you like to get creative with casting, so I think you should know this -- Joey Buttafuoco IS available for acting jobs. Let me put another name in your noodle. Somehow I see the two of you working together: Tom Arnold.

WATERS: No thanks. Although he's a good actor.

I think he is a good actor.

WATERS: Yeah he can be a good actor yeah. I like Roseanne.

You would use Roseanne?

WATERS: Roseanne would play, certainly, if we do the remake of "Pink Flamingos," she has to be Edith. And when I did her show she did Edith imitations really well and she told me all her kids love her. So I love Roseanne she would be the one that would be in my film.

So you think she would do it.

WATERS: Yes I do.

I do too.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #4

The famous liquor-store scene in "American Graffiti." Performed by the great Charles Martin Smith as Terry the Toad -- in my opinion his is the best performance in this entire ensemble cast. And, of course, that was Bo Hopkins as the sinister leader of the Pharoahs. We're studying the cinema out of the home of filmmaker John Waters. So this movie is set the same year as your movie, Hairspray, but your film is about the white culture becoming integrated through music, whereas this movie doesn't have a single black person in it. What do you think of that?

WATERS: Well it's in California right?

Yeah. Modesto, California.

WATERS: Are there any black people that live in Modesto?

I was wondering myself.

WATERS: You know, I had somebody recently who's a black guy ask, "Where are the black guys in the film?" I said are you kidding? On "Hairspray" we had a SAG reduction because we had so many local black actors in it. So certainly, at the time, you know, it was very hard to have a white guy making a comedy about integration. It was very politically incorrect. Nothing happened -- it turned out fine -- but before we made the movie some people said, 'How dare you?' and that kind of thing. So, you never could tell in those days. Very touchy.

Well I guess maybe there weren't' a lot of black people in Modesto, California. But you and Barry Levinson are the big Baltimore boosters.

WATERS: Well, certainly, and I like Barry's films very much too. He makes movies about extreme people in Baltimore too.

Yeah. Do you hate California?

WATERS: No. Not at all.

I told you I'm thinking of moving to El Lay.

WATERS: I if I lived there I'd never make movies 'cause they get used to seeing you there. They'd never give me the money to make 'em. I only come in one week a year and go to the meetings. Then they think, 'We have to decide.' But if they saw me at a party every week, they'd never let me. I like it there. You ever hear of that country song like, "Too Ugly for L.A., Too Stupid for New York"?

No, but I think I'd like it.

WATERS: I mean I like L.A. 'cause everyone looks like porno stars, so I'm for that.

INTV: Okay. Well maybe you can come to my yard sale before I go out there.

WATERS: All right. What do you have for sale?

Well, probably anything you would buy, right, because you seem to be quite a collector. I mean the reason I asked you if you made a lot of money is that you have this vintage Liberace photograph. I would think a photograph like that would not be inexpensive.

WATERS: Yeah but I've had it for thirty years.

Oh. You've had it since before anybody knew who Liberace was.

WATERS: Oh everybody knew . . .

. . . I'm kidding.

WATERS: Who Liberace was in the '50's. Are you kidding? He had a hit television show right?

Well, will you show me that famous electric chair from "Female Trouble" before I leave? I gotta see that.

WATERS: Yeah. It's right in the hall. I mean, I throw my coat on it. It's like, to me, I don't even notice I have it. I know a couple people who have electric chairs in their house. I'm not the only one.


WATERS: I know two in LA.

I have no friends with electric chairs.

WATERS: Well you haven't moved to LA yet. You will.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #5

Good scene where Paul LeMat and Mackenzie Phillips spray the other girls' car with shaving cream. It's not close-up zit-popping, but we'll make do. We're in Baltimore with our Cinema Studies 101 guest-lecturer, filmmaker John Waters. So, John, let's do a little free-association. I'll say a name, and you say what pops into your head. Is that cool?


Steven Spielberg.

WATERS: Um. Great auteur.

Ingmar Bergman.

WATERS: Oh, the real puke king. He had a puke scene in every movie. That's who I copied.

Russ Meyer.

WATERS: Certainly. He makes industrials about breasts.

Ron Howard.

WATERS: A wonderful producer and a very nice man.

Ted Bundy.

WATERS: Probably the cutest serial killer American's had.

INTV: Julia Roberts.

WATERS: I like her. She just made a film in Baltimore. And I never met her before but she has inspired a lot of bad surgery all over the world on lips because she has the real thing.

Alfred Hitchcock.

WATERS: Certainly the best auteur of all, you know. Somebody that took his image, made fun of it and became a caricature of himself in the best possible way.

Okay, excellent. You're a Type 17-B Personality. Back to the flick.

[fading] I'm a 22-G. I don't know what it means, but it kept me out of the war.

WATERS: I know I learned early never to say negative things about people 'cause then you go to L.A. and sit next to 'em at a dinner party and they watched your show.

Oh you're saying the answers would've been different if the camera wasn't rolling.

WATERS: Not on those.

INTV: Okay.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #6

Some great names in this movie. The cop is named Holstein. The lecherous teacher is named Wolf. And what was Ron Howard saying about Cindy Williams "watching her brother"? Hm hm HM. We're at filmmaker John Waters' house in Baltimore for our Cinema Studies 101 lecture. I haven't asked you what some of your favorite movies are. Which are the movies you watch over and over again?

WATERS: Certainly "The Bad Seed" 'cause I wanted to be her as a child you know so I could say to people "give me those shoes" and be a rotten little child. I used to watch this movie called "Baxter," which is a French movie about a killer dog. I liked that a lot. Certainly "The Wizard of Oz," but just the witch parts. I hate to see Dorothy go home; it's so depressing -- black and white and those smelly animals. What else. I don't watch that many movies over. I like to watch new movies that I haven't seen.

Any recent favorites?

WATERS: Recent favorites. Well, let me think. What did I see this week? "South Park" I thought was a great a dirty kid's movie finally. It's a whole new genre. It's the beginning of a new genre.

Every director is jumping on the horror wagon. Would you ever do a horror flick?

WATERS: There are many critics who think all my films are horror flicks in a way. I mean certainly . . . . eating dog feces has horrified some people.

Well yeah. I would say many of your films are horrific, but I would like to see a really scary movie done by John Waters. Is that within the realm of possibility?

WATERS: Certainly. Yeah, it's a genre I've never really parodied. So, yeah.

All right. Well let's get back to the pleasant coming-of-age flick "American Graffiti." Do you ever hang out with George Lucas?

WATERS: Nope I've never met him.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #7

How much of a weenie is Ron Howard for not going home with that cute waitress? It's Cinema Studies 101 here at "Joe Bob's Summer School," and we're on our field trip to Baltimore visiting John Waters, who besides making some of the craziest movies in history, also taught film at a maximum-security prison, so he's an expert. Let's talk about screenwriting. Where do you find inspiration?

WATERS: By eavesdropping and spying on people everyday. You know I hear great conversations. And you know you can get great dialogue and you just have to watch people and read a million newspapers and magazines.

Do you like the writing part of it?

WATERS: Yes -- my favorite part. From then on it's downhill. You gotta make an idea real, which means you have to hire people. You have to make a fantasy become real, which we know is hard to do.

Advice to aspiring screenwriters.

WATERS: Sure. Sex and violence. That's what people want.

I agree. My kind of guy.

How bout aspiring directors?

WATERS: Always cut ten more minutes outta your film than you think you should. You know, if they stop didn't stop me, all my movies would be ten minutes long. Because all movies are too long. And there's no such thing as anything that's funny after 90 minutes.

Okay, it's gettin late, so let's get back to "American Graffiti."

[fading] What about advice to aspiring professional ball players? You got any for them?

WATERS: I don't know how to play baseball.

"AMERICAN GRAFFITI" Commercial Break #8

Ah, there was the vomit scene. And the scene George Lucas put back in the movie after Harrison Ford got real famous, the one where he sings "Some Enchanted Evening." I'm about to say goodnight to John Waters. John, we give all our guest-lecturers a book as a gift for doing the show. I got you one in honor of Cinema Studies 101. It's Roger Ebert's Pocket Video Guide.

WATERS: . . . oh oh . . .

You take it with you when you go to the video store and you can look up how many stars he gives the movies. Look up one of yours. Try "Pink Flamingos."

WATERS: Let me see what he put in here.

I think it's in there.

WATERS: No stars. That means, I guess, not so good. But that's pretty extreme. I'd like to find one other movie in here that got no stars. I bet there isn't one....We have the worst film in this entire book. That's fine with me.... He's given me good reviews before and bad, but you can't tell with him you know. He gave me very bad ones on Serial Mom -- two thumbs down -- and I wanted to put that in ads, and they wouldn't let me.

We're gonna watch the end of the flick and then I'm gonna wrap things up here. John, do you mind if I just kinda crash here on your couch for the night. This has been a long day.

WATERS: No it's fine. I'm going out, but make yourself at home.

Okay, the conclusion to "American Graffiti." Go.

[fading] What about the camera crew? Can they stay here too?

WATERS: The cute ones.


So Richard Dreyfuss flies off to college to become . . . George Lucas. Okay, I wanna thank our guest-lecturer John Waters for letting us come to his home in Baltimore to chat with him.

That's it for me, Professor Joe Bob, reminding you that sometimes I wake up grumpy, other times I let her sleep.

Did you guys hear the one about the guy who meets a girl at a bar, and she invites him back to her place for the night? When they get there, they go right into her bedroom. The guy sees that the room is filled with stuffed animals. There are hundreds of them all over the place. Giant stuffed animals are on top of the wardrobe. Large stuffed animals are on the bookshelf and the windowsill, and a lot of smaller stuffed animals are on the bottom shelf. Later that night, after they've had sex, he turns to her and says, "So, how was I?" And the girl says, "Well, you can take anything from the bottom shelf."

Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.

[fading] By the way, there was a great loss in the entertainment world today. The guy who wrote the song "Hokey Pokey" died. But what was really horrible was that they had trouble keeping his body in the casket. They'd put his left leg in . . . well, you know the rest.

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