Photo by Greg Gorman
John Waters has been offending audiences for 50 years. This week, the Film Society of Lincoln Center celebrates Waters’s films with a career retrospective, but Waters doesn’t plan to stop shocking the world anytime soon. This year, he’s given talks at screenings, hosted the CFDA Awards, and promoted Carsick, his new book about hitchhiking across America. Waters’s recent output offers as much entertainment and insight as his classics, so I called him to talk about his new book, Grindr, and why Justin Bieber looks sexier than ever.
VICE: Why did you decide to go hitchhiking for this book?
John Waters: To write a book and to have an adventure and to not be safe so much, because my life is pretty scheduled, and everything is going fine in my life, so I need to take a couple more chances.
Do you want to write a novel in the future?
I do, yes. That’s a scary thing to say, but at the same time, all my movies are novels in a way—they’re just in screenplay form. I have written fiction my whole life really—certainly Female Trouble is fiction—but it is a different thing. Right now I’m reading volume three of the six-volume book My Struggle, that Norwegian novel by Karl Ove and I don’t know how to pronounce his last name.
What is your favorite contemporary novel right now, besides My Struggle?
I’m a big fan of Lydia Davis too. I just finished her new book, Can’t and Won’t, which is such a great title, and then I went back and read all her collected short stories together.
Your life has changed over the years. Is Baltimore still your favorite city?
Baltimore is definitely my favorite. Baltimore has the cutest boys!
Which part of Baltimore has the cutest boys right now?
They’re all at the hipster bars.
Has Grindr killed cruising at these bars?
People don’t cruise anymore. I’m in Provincetown, and they don’t cruise. I remember, when you used to walk around, there’d be people standing and looking in the shop windows, standing on the corner. [Today] you see people looking at their phones—they’re on Grindr. Even at the beach they’re on Grindr. So I don’t think there is such a thing as cruising anymore.
Does the death of cruising bother you?
I’m not like [Norma Desmond from] Sunset Boulevard. I’m not the kind of person who says, “I hate talkies.” That’s the way it is, and it’s not going back. And I always say I want a hacker boyfriend cause they stay home. They’re just upstairs, shutting down the governments of other countries and having fun, and then they come down and you have sex. That’s what I think would be the perfect boyfriend.
They’re not really good in bed, though.
How do you know?
I’ve never slept with hackers, but I’ve slept with computer nerds, and they’re bad at sex.
Maybe cause their posture is bad. Really, hackers are not good? You’re the first person who’s told me that, but I have never had anybody [who has had sex with hackers]. So you’re a hacker hag?
I’m more into drug dealers and Wall Street-types, which are two totally different groups.
I don’t like drug dealers. I like pot dealers as backers for businesses. They don’t give notes. They don’t want to be identified and they are usually trusting and they’re not in a hurry to get paid back, but you always want to pay them back.
I feel like you’ve worked with everyone. Are there any contemporary actors you want to work with who you haven’t worked with before?
The only one in the world is Meryl Streep. I would go see her in anything—in anything ever, ever, ever, ever—and Isabelle Huppert. [They’re] the two best actresses, or actors, in the whole world. I don’t understand why you’re not allowed to say the word actress anymore. Did they say “Best Actor, female?” I don’t get why the word actress has disappeared.
Do you like RuPaul’s Drag Race? I love the performances on that show.
I think it’s great. I think RuPaul has an amazing career. I really respect him because he made regular families embrace drag queens. Personally, I’m more obsessed with drag kings. Transgendered men I find the most fascinating because they look like cute boys I’d be attracted to, so it’s so confusing, and I love sex to be confusing. I like confused dick and vagabond vaginas.
Who do you think is the baddest person in America right now?
The baddest? To me [the person] who is the most hated but that I would secretly like to meet is Casey Anthony. I don’t know if she did it, but I was glad she got off cause—and I’ve said this before—but I wanted Nancy Grace’s head to explode. I don’t know if Casey Anthony did it, but she is hiding well. I always say in my spoken word show, “Is [Casey Anthony] here? Stand up and take a bow if you are.”
You’ve always loved bad girls. Is that why you loved Spring Breakers?
Finally we had a real sexploitation movie, and it was hilarious and funny, and it got those [child stars] to do all that. My friend in Switzerland said it was the most irresponsible movie ever made, and I said, “Well, it wasn’t that good.”
Did you see Justin Bieber’s mug shot?
I did. I’m still a fan. I love it that he was going to be a rap star named Bizzle—that made me like him even more than ever.
What do you think of the leather shorts he allegedly wore to jail?
I’m for everything he does. I even think his father is cute.
His dad is hot in a truck driver kind of way.
What’s so surprising about that? You read my book.
Want more Waters? Well, then go to his retrospective at Lincoln Center, dammit!
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