What John Waters listens to

John Waters wants you to know that he was way ahead of the scam trend. Four years ago, when he started writing his first novel Liarmouth: a sentimental romance, of a con man with a penchant for stealing luggage, Anna Delvey was not yet the viral magazine story and the Netflix sensation she is today. Marsha Sprinkle, its rather despicable protagonist, wasn’t pulled straight from the headlines, but was based on a stranger-than-fiction story he once heard from a friend. “He discovered suitcases in his attic and found out his girlfriend had stolen them at the airport,” the legendary director recounts via landline from his Baltimore office. “I took that little fact and turned it into 250 pages of madness.”

Liarmouth is as mad as anything the 76 year old man self-proclaimed “former of filth” has ever put in the cinema – and, like anyone who has seen Pink flamingos know, that means something. This delightfully trashy novel has it all: trampoline-loving adults, doggy-style butt lifts, a talking bisexual phallus, and ear masturbation. The last subject, which relates to the climax of the novel, was inspired by an instruction book titled Ear masturbation, by writer Michael Goldstein. Although Waters mentions the book, which mysteriously ended up in his library (“I think a fan sent it to me, maybe it was him?”), it doesn’t appear even after a exhaustive Google search, except for a mention in the acknowledgments of his novel.

If he was directing me, it was hard to tell – again, Waters, more than most, is likely to boast an obscure collection of arcane profane. And throughout his nearly 60-year career, he’s left people wondering how seriously they should take his boundary-pushing work. Despite this reputation – or perhaps because of it – Waters has become the leading purveyor of politically incorrect and sexually experimental kitsch that appeals to those with a strong gag reflex. “I’m just amazed that I always do the same thing,” he says. “And that’s thanks to all the wonderful people who have loved what I’m doing and talked about it.”

However, he is concerned that some may be offended by Liarmouth— namely, the Jonas Brothers, as a particularly gruesome lie told by Marsha involves the band dying in a gruesome tour bus accident. “I just thought that would be the meanest thing she could say to a child,” he said, looking a little guilty. “I’m a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I hope they’re not mad at me. Waters didn’t reveal his favorite JoBros song, but he did talk about the music he listens to as he prepares for the his own tour.


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