Artist Spotlight: John Waters, The Filthiest Filmmaker Ever

“Pope Of Trash.” “Prince Of Puke.” John Waters Has Tons Of Names But Many Just Call Him The Best!

John Waters is a filmmaker and author from Baltimore, Maryland. He has over 10 films in his filmography but he is best known for 1988’s ‘Hairspray‘. But long before he made a family movie that’s still being remade, he made shocking movies!


Earliest exposure to entertainment for Waters came in his youth where he says he ran a successful puppet show business. He performed at children’s birthday parties until he was 12 when John Waters said he started to want to be “cool”. Later on, Waters would start to make 8mm films, most inspired by Bergman or Fellini.

John Waters first serious efforts towards filmmaking can be traced back to ‘Hag in a Black Leather Jacket‘ from 1964, which was only shown once in a beatnik coffee house in his hometown. Then came two more short films titled ‘Roman Candles‘ and ‘Eat Your Makeup‘. The latter featured drag legend Divine playing Jackie Kennedy; they even reenact the Kennedy assassination only 5 years after.


After making these obscure shorts, Waters was finally ready to move to feature films. First up was ‘Mondo Trasho‘. It’s nonsensical and bizarre, even featuring Divine pleading to The Virgin Mary to teach her divine ways. This was still John Waters figuring out how to make films. He traded any sort of film schooling for real-world experience. It wasn’t until ‘Multiple Maniacs‘ that Waters finally started to figure out how his unique narrative style. This piece is about an perverted exhibit of fetishes and obscenities called “The Cavalcade of Perversion” run by Lady Divine. The twisted ways of Lady Divine catches up with her and the National Guard takes her down. While it has a better narrative, it’s still a tale of insanity.

“Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!”
-Babs Johnson (Divine) in Pink Flamingos

The next film in John Waters’ filmography is probably his most infamous, ‘Pink Flamingos‘. Shot on a budget on $10,000, the crew of The Dreamlanders were on board for most wild ride ever. In an attempt to out-shock one another, Divine playing Babs Johnson feuds with Connie Marble (Mink Stole) over the title of “Filthiest Person Alive”. Nothing is like ‘Pink Flamingos‘. Truly one of a kind, Waters even finishes the film off with Divine eating actual dog feces! He would take the film around to different cities screening at any place that allowed him. This is a move he’d take from infamous film producer Kroger Babb.

Next is one of the most focused and possibly best film from John Waters. Film critic Rex Reed saw ‘Female Trouble’ and said in his review, “Where do these people come from? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn’t there a law or something?”. You can’t pay for publicity like that! What makes ‘Female Trouble‘ so amazing is that the movie is so far ahead of its time. This dives into the sociology of fame and how far someone will go for infamy. Also, this is the last time we’d see Divine play a character this dirty. Divine wouldn’t appear in the next John Waters movie but the next two would see Waters and Divine stretch themselves.

“This filthy world. It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?”
John Waters

John Waters followed ‘Female Trouble‘ with another trash chic film called ‘Desperate Living‘. Following the story of a lesbian duo being exiled into a horrible shantytown run by an evil queen, this feels like one of the most obscure Waters movies ever. Using less of his usual casting choices and an inspired story made this really standout. Not many will call this their favorite John Waters film but it does have a very vocal fanbase.

Next up is the satirical look at suburban life, ‘Polyester‘. Divine is back in the lead role and places a housewife struggling to find herself. This plays like a vintage soap opera and features Old Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter. Waters also introduced “Odorama”, a scratch and sniff card that went along with the film. This was an obvious callback to the king of gimmick, William Castle.

After that, John Waters would make what is now his biggest hit of all time. It’s a little film by the name of ‘Hairspray‘. The film spawned a Broadway play, a musical film remake, and now an upcoming TV live special. No other movie from Waters has made this kind of global impact. It’s not as a filthy but pushes boundaries with its story of racial segregation and acceptance. This is sadly time John Waters and Divine would work together as Divine would pass away weeks after the film’s release. Waters has said that he’s happy at least Divine got to see all the great reviews about his iconic performance.


After 2000, there has only been 2 Waters movies released. The first one being the hilarious cinema satire ‘Cecil B. Demented‘.

The most recent John Waters movie was 2004’s ‘A Dirty Shame‘, a black comedy about sex starring Tracy Ullman and Johnny Knoxville.

These days, John Waters is touring the nation with his one-man show. He’s also written some interesting novels recently. The latest book from Waters called ‘Carsick‘ is a collection of fictional and real stories about him hitchhiking across the country. This and his previous novel ‘Role Models‘ form a bizarre memoir of a filthy man. Expect more books from him in the future as he is a known bibliophile.

Waters is also about to start an 18-city tour around the US with his new show called “A John Waters Christmas“. He’s still spreading his message to be the pride of your oddity and the glory of bad taste.

Let’s hope before he retires that we get one more film from the Sultan of Sleaze.

John Waters

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EJ Moreno
EJ Moreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at