By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
After the initial shock of finding few outrageous souls in the crowd, I begin to study these seemingly bland characters. They all look like squares. Kinda nerdy and creepy. Three pimply teenage girls wander around in awe. A bloated Doris Day/Beverly Hills/retired nurse/art collector sips white wine. A fleshy couple in the middle of the floor French kiss like it’s a job. There’s a guy who looks like a Jerry Springer mannequin. Patricia Hearst–style fashion is everywhere. Bland is not so boring after all.
And that’s precisely the point. Being into John Waters is not about being hip or cool. It’s having the instinct to be different. And in this part of Los Angeles, that means the opposite of cool. Waters has always embraced the outsider, the fattest kid on the block, the most unpopular student in class. And maybe that’s what brought together L.A.’s finest collection of misfits at El Rey. Many are devoted to the point of piousness toward Waters, with few expectations for tonight’s performance. All simply waiting for that message from John Waters. Looking for that affirmation that they’re not alone.
Then suddenly he’s on. Walking onto the stage like a professor in an auditorium, he lectures to his hungry, impressionable audience that “there aren’t enough negative influences for young people today.” Is he onstage to fill that gap? Fifteen minutes into his act, it’s clear that his idea of vaudeville performance is simply standup comedy. For an instant there is a pang of disappointment, a desire to see that 300-pound transvestite come out onstage puking and screeching. But Waters keeps his fans rapt, regaling them with one sick tale after another. Telling stories about Divine, Edie the Egg Lady, the singing asshole in Pink Flamingos. Listing his favorite porno film titles, Schindler’s Fist being number one. Giving tips on the best places for cruising — try the voting booth because voting is so boring anyway. Waters’ warped sensibility glows like a blue ribbon on a jar of peaches in the state fair.
There’s always been that side to Waters. That dichotomy of sickness and sweetness. John Waters means no harm. He’s just out there having fun. Giving to his fans what they want. He even closes with a Q&A session. When someone asks whom he’d pick to play him in a biopic, he doesn’t hesitate. That could only be Don Knotts or Steve Buscemi. But he’s really a “carny at heart.” He’s already looked into it. A Tilt-A-Whirl costs only $100,000, and with the steady income from the tickets, he’d probably make out just fine.
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