John Waters: The Interview
"This is John Waters," says the voice on the phone, "and I'm not nude." That's okay with us, but we're proud that the director wants us to know about the status of his clothing. Waters then adds that features his assistant Susan Allenback in her full-frontal glory from A Dirty Shame (2004). We're proud of that too.

John Waters is a proper legend for bad-taste epics such as Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974), and Desperate Living (1977). He's also done impressive work while moving on to the multiplexes with bizarre comedies such as Cry-Baby (1990), Serial Mom (1994), Cecil B. Demented (2000)--and, of course, his dirty epic A Dirty Shame. And don't forget Hairspray (1988), which would lead to the musical which now has Waters basking in Broadway success.

Waters has parlayed his unlikely fame into a broader pop-culture canon, including a lucrative career as a lecturer. He's also become a popular journalist and author with books such as Crackpot and Shock Value. Now he makes his move as a Christmas icon with A John Waters Christmas, compiling all his favorite holiday tunes. It's a fine collection of underheard tunes ranging from Tiny Tim's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to Little Cindy's "Happy Birthday, Jesus (A Child's Prayer)". The album also includes plenty of soulful lost weirdness such as "Here Comes Fatty Claus" and "Santa Claus Is a Black Man". It's a typically smart collection from Waters, who discusses the sordid Christmas season from his headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

You know that we're calling to discuss A John Waters Christmas.
I was just trying to remember if anyone on the album was ever nude. The only ones I'd like to see nude are The Chipmunks. They had a punk rock album--remember that?--so that was probably their big shot.

What's really striking is that this album--plus the soundtracks to films such as Hairspray and A Dirty Shame--really showcase your work as a rhythm and blues historian.
I've become like a curator. Even with Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, I was always using the 45's that I'd shoplifted back when I was 25 years old. I don't feel bad about that now, because it's cost so much money to use those songs in my movies. They should be glad that I shoplifted them. In Baltimore, even the white kids had access to great black radio stations. All the cool white kids, that is. The square ones were listening to the Top 40 stations. Fat Daddy starts out my album with the song "Fat Daddy", and he was a very popular disc jockey in Baltimore. That song's been out of print for ages.

In the spirit of gift giving, do you have a Mr. Skin membership?
I don't. I have different dirty websites I look at, but I can't say who they are, because they're your competitors. I think the ads on Craig's List are hilarious. I like the ones that are so urgent: "I'm in a hotel room right now with 12 cock rings. Come on over now--the door is open." Why don't burglars come over? It amazes me how that much is going on in every city.

You address that sexual underground with A Dirty Shame--which gave our site plenty of great shots of Selma Blair with her gigantic fake breasts (Picture: 1 - 2).
As far as nudity goes, she might as well have a turtleneck on. There's actually no skin in those shots. It's all fake from her neck down. Everyone else was nude in all my movies: Divine and Mink Stole (Picture: 1 - 2), and there was nudity in Pecker, and--well, a movie star like Melanie Griffith wasn't nude, and Johnny Knoxville wasn't nude. You know, Divine gave a blowjob in one of my movies. That was probably around the same time as Deep Throat. My nudity usually isn't sexy. It's mostly to be funny.

We'll be the judge of that. You had Mink Stole looking like a sexy older woman back when she was only 25.
You should call her. She's in L.A. and is always looking for a rich boyfriend. She says all that she can find are rich gay men. You're right, though. Jean Hill was nude in Desperate Living, and then she appeared nude in a magazine named Jumbo, which was for chubby chasers. I never knew there were so many. She showed me all this mail she got: "Jean, please sit on my face until I can't breathe."

A few years ago, you declared that it was inevitable that leading actresses would go beyond nude scenes and start performing sex acts on screen.
It's already happened in Europe, and Chloe Sevigny really came through here with The Brown Bunny. She was actually in the audience the year I said that at the Independent Spirit Awards. I even added, "Chlo?how about you?" You can read it in the new version of my book Crackpot. It's got all my Spirit Award speeches in there.

Do you prefer to just go for an NC-17 rating nowadays?
I initially got an NC-17 rating for A Dirty Shame, and it made it a nightmare to distribute the film. Porn's accepted in America, but NC-17 isn't. There's porn in shops everywhere, but try to get an NC-17 movie into your local theater, people go crazy. Well, I've always dealt with censorship. If it wasn't for censorship, we'd both be out of business.

Your liner notes for the Christmas album have a certain attitude, but you clearly aren't goofing on these songs as some kind of novelties.
I think that's usually a class issue. I'm offended by yuppies who put pink flamingos on their lawns. I think it's charming when it's done by an elderly couple who think it looks pretty. None of the songs on this record were released with a sense of irony. None of them are campy, in the sense that they're so bad that they're good. These songs are so strange that they're amazing. It doesn't bother me that I could never write or sing these songs--but I could never even imagine these songs. That's really something.

Your notes mention that you had to buy your own copy of the "Santa Is a Black Man" 45 on eBay. Don't you usually get sent a lot of great free stuff from fans?
I get some great things. A lot of stuff is sent to me by fans, but "great" is a hard criteria. I could remember all of "Santa Claus Is a Black Man," but couldn't find it anywhere--and there are some really good record collector shops in Baltimore. Obviously, we eventually found the master so we could put it on the record, but you have to find the people first, so you can make a deal with the publishers and songwriters. That's why it was so important for me to find a copy.

Do you have any thoughts about Christmas films?
There's never really been a good one. Are there any nude Christmas movies? How about nude caroling? That'll be the next big thing. Oh, I just remembered--there's a heterosexual porn movie that's titled It's a Wonderful Ass. Maybe that's what we'll all be watching this Christmas.

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