A John Waters Christmas
Published: Dec 10, 2013
Do you know John Waters? Of course you do — he’s the film director from Baltimore. The one with the sinister moustache. The one who makes those hideously campy and upsetting movies: "Desperate Living,” “Female Trouble," "Hairspray," “Pink Flamingos” and “Polyester.”
He’s a sick puppy. And proud of it. “I’ve always tried to please and satisfy an audience who think they’ve seen everything," he says. "I try to force them to laugh at their own ability to be shocked by something."
So the Christmas holidays — like all "official" culture — thrill him. "As a kid it was always a big moment," he recalls. "It brought out people’s emotions. People seemed so berserk about it and everything. It always interested me and I always try to find extreme stuff about Christmas, like weird Christmas movies, Christmas music."
His favorite Christmas movie: "Christmas Evil." It is, he says, "about a man who’s shaving one day and he notices that the shaving cream makes him look like Santa Claus, so he begins to take on the life of Santa Claus. He spies on children, gets a job at a toy factory and starts lurking around people’s roofs. So people just think he is an insane lunatic. It’s a lovely, great movie."
His idea of a cheap holiday thrill: "The mere mention of a stocking stuffer sexually arouses me."
And, not least, there’s the joy of holiday music, especially songs from his childhood, like "Santa Is a Black Man." As he notes, "I used to hear it on the radio and loved it, because it pushed people’s buttons. Baltimore was a racially tense city — there were riots, George Wallace was shot there. I thought the song was delightful because it has a child singer, and then the father comes in and sings about Afros and says "Right on!" It’s the mother lode of Christmas lunatic songs."
It took decades, but Waters has finally managed to assemble a CD’s worth of holiday songs as grotesque as "Santa is a Black Man." That they were conceived with sincerity — well, as much sincerity as the record business will tolerate — makes these songs all the more delightful to him. "I don’t think there is an ounce of irony in any of them," Waters says. "I think that’s what makes them so good, because I am weary of irony even though I am an irony peddler." [To buy the CD of 'A John Waters Christmas' from Amazon, click here.]
There is the obligatory contribution from Tiny Tim.
"Little Mary Christmas," so named because she arrived at the orphanage on "a sparkling Christmas day." Several contributions from one-hit wonders of the late ’50s and early ’60s. "Santa Is a Black Man," of course.
And my favorite, "Here Comes Fatty Claus," a country ditty that begins "Here comes Fatty with a sack of shit and all them stinking reindeer."
The cover of the CD shows Waters, in black tie, sitting in an elegant living room. There’s a tree and a stack of presents. It such a pretty picture that you may have to look twice before you notice that half of the tree is in flames.
Which is pretty much the spirit of the entire project: reverent but twisted. Capable of shocking and offending — and of providing deep pleasure. Only you know how "A John Waters Christmas" will play in your circle of family and friends.
Me, I’m getting a few. Most are gifts, but one stays here, filed right next to Liberace’s autobiography and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s picture book and the Donald Trump talking doll. Because this baby has "classic" written all over it. Or, at least, "collectible."