John Waters is the reason for the season

"I love Christmas so much I could shit!"

John Waters is the reason for the season
Illustration by Greg Houston, cover design by Melissa McHenry
A John Waters Christmas 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17 The Plaza Live, 425 N. Bumby Ave. 877-435-9849 $28-$125

Casual fans and film buffs can instantly recognize the pen of John Waters in the razor-sharp, witty and vile bon mots uttered from the mouth of the impeccable Divine in perverse classics like Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble, but deep-cut Waters obsessives know the increasingly iconic and seasonal line above from his now annual, touring holiday revue, "A Christmas with John Waters."

Yes, the dirty secret is out: John Waters adores the holiday season. For real.

It's not like the director-author-actor-art collector-commentator hasn't been laying out breadcrumbs and strong hints for years. His 1974 fashion-crimes gem Female Trouble kicks off with a Yuletide bang when Divine's Dawn Davenport enacts a seasonal revenge on her parents for not getting her the cha-cha heels she asked for by stomping their presents and pushing the Christmas tree over on her mother. In 2018, Female Trouble is recognized as an edgy-but-seasonal film and given late-night screenings in December at more adventurous art houses. Davenport's Christmas tree-pinning is up there with Dr. Seuss' Grinch stuffing Cindy Lou Who's tree up a chimney in terms of pop culture Christmas skullduggery.

Waters himself laid his own love of the season on the line with an essay – "Why I Love Christmas" – that first appeared in a 1985 edition of National Lampoon magazine ("after the magazine was way past its prime," quipped Waters to Orlando Weekly). It was nothing less than a manifesto, with Waters deadpanning: "If you don't have a merry little Christmas, you might as well kill yourself." A perfect mix of sincere and tongue-in-cheek, when the essay was reprinted in the essay collection Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, Waters' place in the Christmas canon alongside Bing Crosby and Scrooge McDuck was cemented.

But it didn't stop there. In Waters' hometown of Baltimore, his annual Christmas party is the stuff of legend, with invites being coveted by the famous and infamous alike. And throughout the arts, film and literary (and probably crime, too) worlds, you know you've arrived if you get one of Waters' singular signed Christmas cards. Over the years these one-offs have featured Waters as a heavily tattooed, Riff-Raff-ish Santa, a genuine mugshot with Waters looking panicked in a Santa hat, and most famously Steve Buscemi in full Waters drag.

Waters compiled a Christmas album – A John Waters Christmas – in 2004, full of choice cuts from his own vast music collection that somehow the Christmas stations just keep overlooking year after year. A John Waters Christmas effortlessly segues the Chipmunks and Tiny Tim into obscure cuts from the likes of Baltimore cult DJ Fat Daddy singing about how he's the "reindeer boss."

But wait, there's more: The Vinegar Syndrome film company, inspired by Waters' paean to the unrecognized greatness of 1980 slasher Christmas Evil, asked him to contribute a commentary track to a deluxe Bluray reissue. Which is just as essential as it sounds.

Even your radio dial hasn't been spared the John Waters Christmas treatment, with NPR recording Waters reading sections from his "Why I ..." essay (ending with Waters whispering "What are you going to get me?" sneeringly). And the ever-game Scott Simon visited Waters in 2004, to watch the director and his comrades put up their Christmas decorations.

About The Author

Scroll to read more Arts Stories + Interviews articles
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.