Saturday, 17 December 2011

John Waters's Christmas Show at The Royal Festival Hall on 5 December 2011

Seeing John Waters at Christmas time is becoming something of an annual tradition. In December 2010 the Sultan of Sleaze was in London promoting the hardback edition of his latest book Role Models (that was when I interviewed him for the Nude website). While in London the irrepressible provocateur / raconteur did an onstage interview followed by a question and answer session at The Royal Festival Hall, which I attended with my friends Mari, Alison and Damon. It was a blast.

On 5 December 2011 Waters returned to the same venue, this time touring his long-running Christmas-themed spoken word show. Waters has long been garrulous about his rabid enthusiasm for the kitschy and campy aspects of Christmas: his 1987 book Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters includes the essay "Why I Love Christmas" (read an excerpt here). In 2005 he collated a compilation of his favourite twisted Christmas tunes (mainly obscure 1950s and 60s Rhythm and Blues) entitled A John Waters Christmas (which is one of my DJ'ing staples during the Christmas party season). Fruitcake, the jinxed film project he’s been trying to get off the ground in recent years (his last film to date remains 2004's A Dirty Shame) was meant to be a seasonal children’s film about a criminal family who steals meat to order for Christmas dinner. And we can never, ever forget the single greatest Christmas scene ever committed to celluloid: Christmas morning with hair-hopping juvenile delinquent Dawn Davenport and her family in Female Trouble (1974).

Beforehand, I met up with my glamorous friends Alison Leary and Laurie Vanian (Mari was meant to come, but was ill on the night. Luckily she recovered in time for my Christmas cocktail party on 10 December) for happy hour cocktails at one of my all-time favourite bars, Cubana in Waterloo. Even just walking towards Cubana cheers me up and gets my mouth watering at the thought of their Mojitos: as soon as you turn the corner and approach the bar, you see their giant painted mural of Carmen Miranda with her arms outstretched triumphantly (why a Cuban bar features gigantic tribute to Carmen Miranda – who was born in Portugal and raised in Brazil – is a whole other question). (I used to work in that neighbourhood, at a fetish / sex shop on Lower Marsh almost directly opposite Cubana. Let’s not open that whole can of worms. That was a lifetime ago!). Needless to say, talking trash with these two vixens (think of Alison and Laurie as my Chicklet and Concetta -- Dawn Davenport's bad-girl friends from Female Trouble) over two-for-one drinks was the perfect warm-up to seeing cinema’s Prince of Puke.

/ Chicklet (Susan Walsh) and Concetta (Cookie Mueller) in Female Trouble (1974). Photo Via /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ Alison (channelling Tallulah Bankhead) and Laurie at Cubana /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ Margaritas and Mojitos at Cubana ... and a crotch shot of me /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ Alison and I /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ Devastating glamour shot of Alison. Her sweater matches the radiator beautifully. She thinks of everything /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ Alison and Laurie /

Pre-John Waters Christmas Show Drinks at Cubana

/ The great man himself: King of Sleaze John Waters onstage at the Royal Festival Hall. We were in row P: not bad at all, but not good enough to take any decent shots. His outfit is almost certainly by Comme des Garcons /

I was quite drunk by the time John Waters came onstage (four Mojitos followed by some pre-show pints of lager on an empty stomach will do that), but I can confirm the show was a scream and far raunchier and "bluer" than the description “Christmas show” suggests. The anecdotes flowed effortlessly and Waters was on great form. Here are some of the highlights I can recall from my Mojito and lager fog:

Waters revealed that the only time Divine would drag up and try to actually convince or “pass” as a real woman was every Christmas Eve – when she’d go to Mass! (She probably just liked look a very zaftig Elizabeth Taylor wannabe).

One particulary great line: Waters was saying that unlike many of his friends, he really does believe some people are genuinely heterosexual. Most of his friends are apt to snarl, “Oh, so you’re straight? So is spaghetti until it gets hot!”

He lamented that all young people now shave their pubic hair off, recalling how in his youth he and his friends loved it and call it “pelt.” People used to actually say, “I want to get me some pelt tonight!” (This brought back a nice memory of the much-missed Edith Massey as Queen Carlotta in Waters’ 1977 cinematic atrocity Desperate Living exclaiming, “Look at that pelt!” as one of her evil henchmen stripped naked in front of her).

He said he loves learning new sexual slang. One of his friends recently told him he’s a “blouse.” When Waters asked, “What’s a blouse?” his friend explained, “An effeminate top!”

At the end, he wished us all a “filthy, bisexual, biracial Christmas!” It was a heart-warming end to the night, and rest assured I’m doing my damnedest to live up to John Waters’ Christmas wish. Which reminds me: I've got to get me some pelt!

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