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Bookends: multiple maniacs

7 January 2011

1:02 PM

7 January 2011

1:02 PM

Here is the latest Bookends column from the magazine

The film-maker John Waters specialises in weirdos. His new book, Role Models, is a collection of interviews and anecdotes
seasoned with off-beat fashion tips.

One of his earliest films, Multiple Maniacs, was a reaction to the Manson family massacres of 1969. He attended a pre-trial hearing where ‘the atmosphere was electric with twisted evil
beauty.’ He later befriended Leslie Van Houten, sentenced to life for the LaBianca murders, and he now lobbies for her to be granted parole.

There are no extremes of freakish behaviour he’s not willing to embrace. Raised as a Catholic, he particularly admires St Catherine of Siena who drank suppurating pus drawn ‘by the
ladle’ from the tumours of her patients.

He tells us his trademark moustache – achieved with a Maybelline eyebrow pencil – was a reaction to the ‘preppy look’ his parents insisted on. ‘Faith in your own bad
taste’ is his motto. As an ideal accessory he recommends ‘filthy fingernails’.

There are perhaps too many encounters with drag-queens and pornographers in this book, and Waters’ reverence for Johnny Mathis and Little Richard makes the chapters devoted to them
maddeningly discreet. But his views on literature are fresh and valuable. Ivy Compton-Burnett is a favourite. ‘Endless pages of hermetically sealed, stylized, sharp, cruel, venomous Edwardian
dialogue.’ Yet he fears reading her entire corpus. ‘Then there will be no more Ivy Compton-Burnett for me and I will probably have to die myself.’

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