NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t


[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

listen.gifFRESH AIR

John Waters describes himself as a “cult filmmaker whose core audience consists of minorities who can’t even fit in with their own minorities.” In a new memoir, Role Models, the director and writer of such films as Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Cry-Baby profiles the many people — from singer Johnny Mathis to a stripper named Zorro — who have inspired him over the years, both in his personal life and in his transgressive cinematic career. Waters says he has only written about people he has looked up to — even if they’ve had terrible things happen in their lives. “That’s why people tell me everything,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “On airplanes, strangers confide in me the most deepest, darkest secrets. And I think they think I’ll understand. And I generally do understand. I’ve taught in prison; I’ve counseled people. … I’ve been arrested; I’ve been to the psychiatrist. So I think you have to participate in whatever business you’re trying to be involved in.” Waters says he purposefully surrounds himself with others whose personalities fit with his unique brand of perverse humor. “I don’t like rules of any kind,” he says. “And I seek people who break rules with happiness — and not bringing pain to themselves.”

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