Monday, October 19, 2009

Goodnight ladies!

Relaxing after a weird and woolly weekend. I don’t go out socially so much these days, but when I do I tend to find myself in unusual places. Late Saturday night found me having drinks with the great smut-film director John Waters in a suburban hotel bar. This is just the sort of low-grade celebrity-grubbing, I later realized, that blogs were made for—and so I’ll recount, to the best of my ability, an amusing evening spent with cinema royalty.

Yony has spent the last four years working on a documentary film about the legendary pervert and Beat author William S. Burroughs, and in the course of filming has had occasion to interview and befriend numerous famous eccentrics. He doesn’t often make a big fuss about it, but after a recent trip to the Provincetown Film Festival he came back brimming with excitement over a wild night spent drinking and doing poppers at John Waters’ opulent home. One drunken and clueless reveler, he reported, accidentally drank an entire bottle of poppers.

I’ve never been close to an adoring fan; I’ve watched and enjoyed Pink Flamingos and a couple others, but never developed a particular passion for Waters’ movies. But when Yony told me he was coming to a suburban community college with his stand-up comedy routine, I was sufficiently intrigued to want to come along—dinner and drinks were further incentive. I packed up my poppers, and spent the afternoon getting high and making a pornographic collage to offer the famous director—whether as weasely favor-currying or a simple gesture of appreciation from one weirdo to another I’ll let the reader decide. I also, admittedly, started drinking rather early in the day.

The event was way out southwest, at an immaculately dinky community college in Palos Heights. Why Waters consented to appear here, rather than someplace hipper and more urban, I have no idea; perhaps he found the locale fittingly trashy, or wanted a chance to freak out the squares. And indeed, he was probably the most outlandish-looking fellow ever to walk out on the stage of the Dorothy Menker Theater, dressed in a bizarrely-tailored suit and wearing his trademark pencil-thin moustache, looking more than anything like a vintage carnie.

The show was actually pretty tame. He mostly talked about his films—to be expected, I suppose, as no one was paying $15 to hear John Waters expound on astrophysics or Victorian literature—tossing in some anecdotes from the pervert fringe, such as the time he had a party and some genius drank the poppers (“See?,” Yony grinned, leaning over in his seat). Actually, to be forthright about it, I don’t remember a whole lot of the act. I was drinking steadily, a vile concoction of vodka-and-something which we’d snuck into the theater. If nothing else, Waters’ ability to commit a 60-minute monologue to memory struck me as an impressive feat. To get up in front of a crowded auditorium and just talk for an hour—I know few people who could pull that off.

After the show, Yony took me into the bowels of the basement, where Waters was entertaining in his dressing room. A star, it seems, can never be rid of his sycophants, and there we were—a fawning little gaggle of admirers and hangers-on, including Rusty Nails, Chicago’s would-be film impresario, who I’ve known since my stoner-punk teen years and who never fails to give me the creeps (I’m verging, I realize, on gossip-column dishiness: Spotted! John Waters and Rusty Nails, relaxing in the basement of the Moraine Valley Community College!) I found an opportune moment to offer the director my collage—it depicts a young stoner-punk boy, with a torso made of chicken breasts, sitting in front of a gruesome, toothy orifice and masturbating contentedly. Much to my embarrassment, Waters more-or-less declined my gift (“I’ve got absolutely no room in my luggage,” he pleaded)—and then proceeded to pass it around the room, that the others might have a chuckle. I was mortified, but drunk enough not to care.

After a tedious and lightly-catered reception, the little gaggle decided to go off in search of a suburban watering-hole for a little nightcap. We ended up at the Marriott Hotel, drawn there by Waters’ radar sense of faux-luxuriant sleaziness (or, it was the only place open.) As if on cue for one of Waters’ grotesque fantasy sequences, the hotel bar was crowded with sagging, heavily-lipsticked old cougars, dressed in a blinding array of sparkly, sequined garments, all getting plastered and letting their hair down: some sort of corporate event with a—rather arbitrary, I thought— New Year’s Eve theme.

Nothing particularly interesting happened, actually. We sat around, talking and drinking—drinks were on the generous director, who I apparently insulted by telling him he looked like a “demented bellhop” (it turns out his bizarrely-tailored suit was in fact a chic artifact from some celebrated Japanese fashion designer). He also gave us his private, off-the-record assessment of the Roman Polanski case—being an amateur reporter of few morals, my ears pricked up at “off-the-record”, but I was at this point too inebriated to remember anything of what he divulged, thus squandering a potentially juicy headline: Roman Polanski Blah-blah-blah, Says Pervert Film Director John Waters.

And then the night was over—though not before I enjoyed a last, gloriously drunken moment in the hotel corridor. I was stumbling down the hallway, gleefully shitfaced, and when I passed by a group of the sequined cougars, I found myself loudly serenading them: “Goodnight ladies! Goodnight ladies!” Imagine my delight when they, equally shitfaced I’m sure, joined in unison: “Goodnight ladies! We’re sad to see you go!” Hideously attired, the women all resembled, in their own way, Waters’ cross-dressing anti-hero, Divine. It was, for me, a moment of near-transcendence—and then my mind’s camera faded to black.

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