An Evening with John Waters

October 14, 2011, 7:00 P.M.

Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall

The USC School of Cinematic Arts and
Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative present

                  An Evening with John Waters

Featuring a screening of Waters' groundbreaking exercise in poor taste, Pink Flamingos (1972).

The Q&A with John Waters will be moderated by SCA Professor James Egan, editor of the recent publication, John Waters Interviews, which will be available for sale at the theater.

7:00 P.M. on Friday, October 14th, 2011
Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall

Followed by a catered reception in Queen's Courtyard


Admission is free. Open to USC students, staff and faculty only with valid USC ID.

Reservations required. To RSVP, click here beginning Friday, September 23 at 9 A.M.

Attendees with confirmed reservations may pick up their ticket on the night of the event beginning at 6:00 P.M. in front of Norris Cinema Theatre.

In order to claim your ticket, please bring your USC ID and ensure that the information is the same as provided during the RSVP process. Please arrive at least ten minutes early. Tickets not picked up by 6:50 P.M. may be distributed to a standby list. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

About John Waters

Born in Baltimore, MD in 1946, John Waters was drawn to movies at an early age, particularly exploitation movies with lurid ad campaigns. He subscribed to Variety at the age of twelve, absorbing the magazine's factual information and its lexicon of insider lingo. This early education would prove useful as the future director began his career giving puppet shows for children's birthday parties. As a teen-ager, Waters began making 8-mm underground movies influenced by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Russ Meyer, Ingmar Bergman, and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Using Baltimore, which he fondly dubbed the "Hairdo Capitol of the World," as the setting for all his films, Waters assembled a cast of ensemble players, mostly native Baltimoreans and friends of long standing: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole and Edith Massey.

Waters made his first film, an 8-mm short, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket in 1964, starring Mary Vivian Pearce. Waters followed with Roman Candles in 1966, the first of his films to star Divine and Mink Stole. In 1967, he made his first 16-mm film with Eat Your Makeup, the story of a deranged governess and her lover who kidnap fashion models and force them to model themselves to death. Mondo Trasho, Waters' first feature length film, was completed in 1969 despite the fact that the production ground to a halt when the director and two actors were arrested for "participating in a misdemeanor, to wit:  indecent exposure."

In 1970, Waters completed what he described as his first "celluloid atrocity," Multiple Maniacs. The film told the story of Lady Divine and her lover, Mr. David, proprietors of a freak show who lure unsuspecting suburbanites into their tents to witness "The Cavalcade of Perversions." In 1972 Waters created what would become the most "notorious" film in the American independent cinema of the 1970's, Pink Flamingos. Centered on the great battle to secure the title "Filthiest People Alive," Pink Flamingos pitted Divine's "Babs Johnson" against Mink Stole and David Lochary's truly evil "Connie and Raymond Marble," while turning Waters into a cult celebrity. Pink Flamingos went on to become a smash success at midnight screenings in the U.S. and all over the world.

Waters followed the success of Pink Flamingos with three more pictures, spanning the remainder of the decade. In 1974 he created Female Trouble, the story of Dawn Davenport (Divine), a criminal who wanted to be famous so badly she committed murder. 1977 marked the premier of Desperate Living, a monstrous fairytale comedy starring the notorious Mafia moll turned stripper Liz Renay. In 1981 Waters completed Polyester, a wide-screen comic melodrama starring Divine and Tab Hunter. Filmed in glorious "Odorama," ticket buyers were given scratch 'n' sniff cards that allowed the audience to smell along with the characters in their fragrant search for romantic happiness.

In Hairspray (1988), Waters created "an almost big-budget comedy extravaganza about star-struck teen-age celebrities in 1962, their stage mothers and their quest for mental health." The film was a box office and critical success and starred the then unknown Ricki Lake, Deborah Harry, the late Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek. The success of Hairspray brought Waters major Hollywood backing for his next feature, Cry-Baby (1990), a juvenile delinquent musical comedy satire, starring Johnny Depp. In 1994, Waters released Serial Mom, the well reviewed, socially un-redeeming comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston, which was the closing night attraction at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

Pink Flamingos, the ultimate trash masterpiece, was again in theatres for a 25th Anniversary re-release in 1997, complete with newfound footage. Commenting on the long-lasting popularity of the film, director Waters proudly boasts, "it's hard to offend three generations, but it looks like I've succeeded."

Pecker, a feel-good movie about lesbian strippers, pubic-hair harassment and amateur photography, was released in 1998. It starred Edward Furlong and Christina Ricci. The Japan Times called it "a Disney film for perverts." Cecil B. DeMented, a comedy action-thriller about a young lunatic film director (Stephen Dorff) and his gang of film cultists who kidnap a real-life Hollywood movie goddess (Melanie Griffith) and force her to act in their own Super 8 underground movie, was released in 2000. Kevin Thomas of The LA Times, called Cecil B. DeMented “a fast, furious and funny fusillade of a movie.” A Dirty Shame concerns head injury sufferers who, after their concussion, experience a carnal lust they cannot control. It stars Tracey Ullman, Johnny Knoxville, Selma Blair, and Chris Isaak. Rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “wicked, kinky fun.”

In addition to writing and directing feature films, Waters is the author of six books: Shock Value, Crackpot, Pink Flamingos and Other Trash, Hairspray, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs, and Art: A Sex Book (co-written with art critic Bruce Hainley). His book, Role Models, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in May, 2010 and earned spots on the best seller lists for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Concurrent to his careers as a filmmaker and author, John Waters is also a photographer whose work, first represented by American Fine Arts and presently, the Marianne Boesky Galley in New York, has been shown in galleries all over the world since 1992. Three art catalogs have been published on John Waters’ photographs and sculpture beginning with Director’s Cut in 1997 (Scalo Books). John Waters: Change of Life followed in 2004 (Harry N. Abrams) to accompany a Waters retrospective exhibition at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. The exhibition traveled to the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, the Orange County Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum. And finally, in 2006, the catalog, Unwatchable was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name that opened simultaneously at The Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and de Pury & Luxembourg Gallery in Zurich. In April, 2009, Waters’exhibition, “Rear Projection” opened at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles.   

John Waters’ one man spoken-word lecture entitled “This Filthy World” is performed at colleges, museums, film-festivals and comedy clubs around the world. In 2010, he played to sold out audiences at the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Sydney Opera House. In 2006, Netflix released a film version of the live act that was screened at the Toronto, Berlin and Edinburgh Film Festivals. In 2004, the music compilation CD “A John Waters Christmas” was released by New Line Records and was followed up in 2007 by “A Date With John Waters”.

About Pink Flamingos

Renegade filmmaker and noted aficionado of expressive bad taste John Waters exploded into international infamy with this darkly comic, no-budget parade of the perverse (his third feature film, and first in color), in which plus-size cross-dresser Divine stars as Babs Johnson, a flashy criminal on the lam from the FBI who is hiding out in a trailer outside of Baltimore, MD. Accompanying Babs are her mother (Edith Massey), an obese and dim-witted woman who is malignly obsessed with eggs; her degenerate son, Crackers (Danny Mills); and Cotton (Mary Vivian Pierce), Babs' duplicitous "traveling companion" and Crackers' co-conspirator in unwholesome erotic play. While Babs would prefer to be left in peace, she takes great pride in her status as "the Filthiest Person Alive" (an honor confirmed by one of America's sleazier tabloid newspapers), and when Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary) announce their plans to take the title away from her, Babs is not about to stand idly by. The Marbles are a hateful couple who kidnap women, force their homosexual manservant, Channing (Channing Wilroy), to impregnate them, and sell the babies to lesbian couples found unfit for legal adoption; the Marbles then turn the profits back into pornography and narcotics trafficking. Impressive stuff, to be sure, but Babs is not about to take a back seat to anyone in a battle of filth, and when the Marbles throw down the gauntlet, Babs and her family retaliate in a no-holds-barred battle to determine who truly are "the Filthiest People Alive."

Featuring murder, bestiality, rape, dismemberment, coprophagia, a dizzying variety of sexual perversions, and a performance of "Papa Oom Mow Mow" you will not soon forget, Pink Flamingos is nonetheless a comedy, and a surprisingly successful one; shot on a budget of only 12,000 dollars, the film has grossed close to ten million dollars around the world, and its success launched John Waters into a career as America's leading authority on poor taste.

Rated NC-17. Running time: 95 minutes.


About John Waters Interviews

John Waters Interviews is the latest book in the prestigious series Conversations with Filmmakers, published by the University Press of Mississippi. USC Professor James Egan has assembled a collection of the most enlightening interviews and articles that have defined the career of this iconic filmmaker. To be released in October 2011, John Waters Interviews is filled with unique and personal insights that will be an invaluable and entertaining resource, both to Waters fans and for film scholars. Professor Egan brings a unique personal perspective to this anthology. He has been life-long friends with Waters, starting in 1973 while working with him on the production insurance for Female Trouble and Desperate Living. Spending time on the set, Egan got to witness Waters work at a seminal time in his directing career. Egan has also maintained a close relationship with many of the Dreamlanders.

John Waters Interviews will also be launched on the East coast on November 17th at the Museum of Modern Art, with a special retrospective evening of Mr. Waters' contribution to American cinema.

About James Egan (Moderator, Editor: John Waters Interviews)

Award-winning USC professor James Egan began working in the film business by providing production insurance for films by renowned filmmaker John Waters, on Female Trouble and Desperate Living. With John’s encouragement, James obtained his master’s degree from the UCLA School of Film and Television. Before he graduated, he had written and sold a mini-series, The Huxleys, to the BBC. While working for the BBC, James formed a successful working relationship with Zenith Entertainment. Wild at Heart Films continues to partner with Zenith Entertainment by producing Martin Scorsese’s The 12, a television series that has been sold to The SyFy Network.

James executive produced Jackpot (2001) by the Polish Brothers for Sony Pictures Classics, which won the John Cassavetes Award for best low-budget feature at the 2001 Independent Spirit Awards. In 2007, he produced Angels in the Dust with Participant Media, which won the Amnesty International VARA Award for Social Justice, and was distributed worldwide. With Mike Figgis, he executive produced Kimjongilia, which premiered at Sundance in 2009, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Arclight in August 2009, and won the 2010 One World Best Human Rights Documentary Film Award by the jury of the Human Rights & Democracy Network (HRDN) for the film’s artistic quality and powerful message.

As a screenwriter, James has sold a Christmas movie, The Gem Cutter, to Sony, and his romantic comedy Witch Wars to Disney for Jon Avnet to direct, as well as Hold Back the Sun to FOX. At the USC School of Cinematic Arts, James also nurtures the talent of up-and-coming screenwriters in his role as screenwriting professor. Most recently, Professor Egan produced Wild About Harry, a feature film starring Josh Peck (The Wackness), Tate Donovan (Good Night And Good Luck), and Adam Pascal (Rent), which will be distributed in Fall 2011 by Freestyle Releasing. He has partnered with Stereoscope on his youth scifi action film MAXHI, which he developed with successful game designer Chris Roberts (Wing Commander).

Check-In & Reservations

Admission is free. Open to USC students, staff and faculty only with valid USC ID. Reservations required. Attendees with confirmed reservations may pick up their ticket on the night of the event beginning at 6:00 P.M. in front of Norris Cinema Theatre. In order to claim your ticket, please bring your USC ID and ensure that the information is the same as provided during the RSVP process. Please arrive at least ten minutes early. Tickets not picked up by 6:50 P.M. may be distributed to a standby list. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $8.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in outdoor Lot M or V, or Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

About Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative

Visions and Voices is a university-wide arts and humanities initiative that is unparalleled in higher education. The initiative was established by USC President C. L. Max Nikias during his tenure as provost in order to fulfill the goals set forth in USC's strategic plan; to communicate USC's core values to students; and to affirm the human spirit. Emphasizing the university's commitment to interdisciplinary approaches, the initiative features a spectacular array of events conceived and organized by faculty and schools throughout the university. The series includes theatrical productions, music and dance performances, conferences, lectures, film screenings and many other special events both on and off campus. Each program invites students to dialogue and interact with artists, writers, professors and special guests. These interactions provide a dynamic experience of the arts and humanities and encourage active exploration of USC's core values, including freedom of inquiry and expression, team spirit, appreciation of diversity, commitment to serving one's community, entrepreneurial spirit, informed risk-taking, ethical conduct and the search for truth.

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Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago
Phone: 213.740.2330