I thought I would meet you in Baltimore, I didn’t know you have a home in New York as well.
And in San Francisco, too. And I live in Provincetown for the summer.
Three I own, one I rent. Provincetown I rent. But, you know, that’s my 50. summer in Provincetown this year. I wrote most of my books there. I work there. I’m not a vacation man.
That place seems to be inspiring, Norman Mailer used to live there.
I know. He was one of my friends, he lived up the street, and his son, Stephen Mailer, was in „Cry Baby“, he was one of the main parts, he was the square against Johnny Depp – that’s Norman’s son! I know the whole family. I know Michael Mailer. And I am very good friends with John Buffalo. Norman used to come over for dinner, I liked him, I got along with him fine.
Did he like your work?
I don’t know. My movies he knew. I don’t know if he knew my photos. Well, I had many shows in Provincetown, but I don’t think Norman followed the art world at all really. I mean, Norris painted. But I’ve been in their house, and I don’t remember him collecting contemporary art. But is was art that Norman lived in a town that is known for one of the gayest towns in the world.
So this little gay seaside resort on Cape Cod is your favorite place on earth to write your books?
Oh, well, I write whereever I live. My job is Monday to Friday, in the Morning I think of something fucked-up I am going to sell in the afternoon. No matter where I live. I work 8 to 11 every morning.
How do you get your stuff together – given the sheer amount of homes you have?
Well, if I am writing a book, I take everything with me. All the notes. I only do the art pretty much in Baltimore, because I have a studio there, where I work. But I think that up before I do it – so that’s written, too. I think it up, and then it turns into something something else a lot. But still – it is conceptional in the way that I think it up, before I do it.
So, writing is really what I do. That would be, that should be on my I.R.S. form. Because I write my movies, I write my spoken word acts, I think up, what the art works are going to be, I write my books – that’s basically what I do. It’s just different ways to tell stories.
From 8 to 11 – why?
Because I am a very organized person. I get up at 6 a.m. I am the easiest person to kidnap ever. Because my routine is exact, to the second. Monday to Friday. So on a normal weekday, I get up at 6, I read five newspapers, look at my emails…
Oh, in Baltimore we got the Baltimore Sun, then, of course, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times – and the New York Post and the New York Daily News.
You really read the Post?
I need to read. Not their editorials, I have my own opinions, I don’t need others, I am way to opinionated for their editorials. I just need stuff. That’s my material! And then at 8 I go to my writing room to finish the books that I am working on. Or I write a movie or think about art stuff. The people, who work for me, come in at 10, but I don’t see them till around noon usually, and then we have a meeting, and in the afternoon I run my business. I think up fucked-up shit in the morning, and I sell it in the afternoon. Monday to Friday. Friday night I drink. Saturday…. I am so scheduled, that the hangover is planned three months in advance. That’s why I wanted to hitchhike across the country: I gave up all control, and I had to be spontaneous.
How is it going with that book by the way?
It’s finished. The book comes out June 3. It’s called „Carsick“.
So – how was it after all?
You’ve got to read the book. There will be a book tour. I hope I can come to Germany with a book tour and talk about all that.
Now that it’s over: I wanted another adventure, and I got one. I really did it by myself. I walked up front of my house in Baltimore and hitchhiked to my apartment in San Francisco, took 9 days, 21 rides. But a big part in the book is fiction, before I’d left I wrote the 15 best rides I could ever imagine, and I wrote the 15 worst. And I wrote my death the day before I’d left on the road for real.
And I could have never imagined the best and the worst if I had really done it. Because once I’ve really done it, you know what it is like. And I would recommend it. The people I picked were great, and I believe in the goodness of America. I believe in the goodness of people. That’s the most spiritual I get. And that was proven to me to be correct.
Nobody is hitchhiking anymore!
I saw one on the whole ride, and I told the guy: Don’t pick him up! I think people don’t even know anymore, what hitchhiking is. One kid asked: Mom, why is this man in the car? Who is he? Many people believed that I was a homeless man.
A whole way of living is gone?
It’s still there. In the West you see it more. I recommend it. People that pick up hitchhikers are always people that have overcome something. That’s what I’ve learned. And people are good to me.
You could try hitchhiking on your tour in Germany.
I think it’s much easier in Europe.
What exactly are you going to do over there?
First I am having a show at Sprüth Magers, called „Bad Director’s Chair“, which is kind of my Greatest Hits, since I never had a show in Berlin it’s work throughout my whole career that I am showing – including the very early movies that have never been seen exept once in a museum. Really early 8mm-films. And then I am doing three cities with my „My filthy world“ spoken words show. Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg.
What will the gallery show look like?
Like in the back of a Peep Show’s. That’s a better way to see them, not in a movie theater. You can see how we started, you see Divine when we were Teenagers… They work better like that. They don’t really work as full movies in a movie theater. I think that’s a much better place to show them.
Your films work better in the art world than in cinemas?
Oh yes, because the movies are technically terrible, and that works in the art world, it doesn’t work in the movie world. Bad technique and film, that really works in art. It doesn’t work in commercial business.
Why is that?
Because… I love the elitism of the art world, I am against „art for the people“. That is a terrible idea. It only really has to appeal to one other person for it to be called art. I hate it when I meet someone who says, I am an artist. I believe, I’ll be the judge of that. Don’t call yourself that! History will be the judge.
So, I try to be in my work the worst publicist ever. I look at movies and make stills. I took pictures on the floor of the marks that the crew had put on for the actors to hit, to be in focus, so that’s a publicity photo with every single thing that’s in the real publicy taken out and the one thing you can’t see left in. Because in every shot of the movie, they’ve to hit the mark. But you don’t see that much. So thats the opposite of a publicity still.
So all my work in a way is about show business and sadness regular people must feel everyday you wake up and you are not in show business…. And I don’t mean that in a smartass way, because you can be even worse if you are in show business. I believe that the people with the least self esteem join show business. Because for the rest of our lives we have to ask strangers, if we are good or not. We have to prove it over and over and over. People who have good self esteem, they don’t need be proven. So I think artists, everyone in show business, have the lowest self esteem. These people are damaged. People including me. So – I like to make fun of that. And I also know that the art world is suspicious about celebrities, so I mock that, because I am a celebrity. I am over exposed, and I used all that in it, too – to make fun of the fact, that I’ m crossing over, and in America the art world hates that.
Tell me more about art vs. film, please.
I do believe, that stills are what you remember, not movies. Especially before there was DVDs or Videos. Those stills like in „From Here to Eternity“, they’re making all the beat. That’s what you remember, you don’t remember the movie! It’s the stills that have been reproduced as posters over and over…
Well, then: Why would you bother to shoot a whole movie, if, as you say, what remains from „Pink Flamingos“ is just the still of…
…that shot of Devine with a gun!
Oh, I was actually thinking of Devine eating dog shit…
Devine with a gun! That is the shot of the movie! For one second. But it is not taken from the film!
It’s a posed shot, but that’s more remembered than the shot in the movie.
That means, in movies…
All movies are too long!
You should just go through them and take the stills you like best and take’em out and put’em in storyboards on your wall, then you don’t have to see the movie. You just remember the movies in the best way possible. You’re the editor.
Is that why you haven’t done any movies for ten years now?
No. The reason was, the last one didn’t make money, so I can’t get the money to make new one. And the film business has completely changed. They want me to go back and make movies for like 500 000 Dollars. I am not an underground filmmaker at 67, I’ve done that. I’ve made 17 movies, they’re all easy to get they’re on Box sets, they’re on TV in America! So it’s not like I am burning. I want to make another one. But: my last book was a best seller in America, you know, I am telling stories, it doesn’t matter how to me.
I still have meeting about making movies. But they want movies now to be tent pole movies that they can play in China, and no subtitles, just action and special effects. and costs a 100 million dollar. that’s what they are looking for. And Oscar baits. That are all the movies that are out right now, they all want to win the Oscar. That’s so serious.
Ever thought about crowd funding?
No. Because I am not poor. I feel like that would be dishonest to publicly beg. I could sell one of my homes and do it, but I don’t want to do that either. When I was starting out, I would have definitly done that. For Pink Flamingos and all that. It’s a great way. I think the Divine documentary was funded that way. I’m for it. But for me, the same way, as much as I loved Occupy Baltimore and the Occupy movement – what am I gonna do there? I have three homes! That would be hypocritical. They’re having the same fun I had, too, when I went to riots in the sixties: to get laid, get high, be in the newspapers, I had a great time doing that. And they are having a great time doing it now: to get laid, get high, be in the newspapers
I had a great time doing that, and they have a great time doing it now. And they eventually might have a couple of homes. So, I am for that movement, but you can’t be an anarchist with three homes. I think you can’t. You’d look like a fool, that’s pretentious to pretend that you are that.
If I was young I wish I got for Christmas Bitcoin gift certificates, to sell gros You know, if I was young, maybe I’d be a hacker. Because that’s what you are if you’re a juvenile delinquent today. You’re sitting in your parent’s house, they haven’t seen you for years – and you’re in the business shutting down governments on your computer – thats a juvenile delinquent today
Cry Baby, Johnny Depp, would be a hacker today – and probably he wouldn’t look half as good as he did with Rock’n’Roll…
No style: He would have a bad posture.
But same way: Obama should have had Julian Assange design this Website for the Health Care –it would have worked. Let hackers do it, not all white men in the government, they don’t fucking know how to do a website!
What then happens to all these things you, Mr. Waters, have been so famous for: All these questions around taste, anti-taste, bad taste, good bad taste, bad bad taste…
Well, it is still there.
But hackers don’t seem to be into taste at all!—why all these exclamation marks?
No, they have taste. It’s who they pick as their target – that is there taste. They are curating.
Who they pick, is their taste. They should hack and put every Republicans porno movie collection online. With titles. That would be so great. You could easily do that.
There is taste. Like: Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers – the perfect example, there are still movies that come out and take taste and do it in a new way. And it is hard. Because Bad Taste now has become just a bad Hollywood. Hollywood makes 100 Million Dollar Closeout Comedys, and they are not so funny anymore. A couple are. But they get 40 copies of it. So I think we have to do bad taste back in the theaters. Do activism: When there is product placement, go Boo! Big horns! I think sometimes kids should fight back.
How do you define Bad Taste nowadays?
Real bad taste is Reality TV. It looks down on the subject matter, makes fun of the people. That is bad bad taste.
Good bad taste? Spring breakers might be an example. I think Johnny Knoxville is great bad taste. I think Johnny Knoxville has the spirit of my early movies more than anybody. Only better. He makes millions of Dollars.
He looked like he really enjoyed beeing in „Dirty Shame“
Oh, he just loved it. And I love Johnny. He is the only straight man that I know who is a big follower of the Bear Movement. He went like: All I want is to be on the cover of „American Bear“, but they would not let him, not hairy enough.
Up there in Provincetown you might have quite a lot of them, right?
Oh, pff, the Bear Movement. I mean, they used to be chunky, but now they are like 800 pounds. It has gotten bigger.
On the other hand: Obesity IS an American problem, here at least it is turned into a sexual fetish….
Oh, yes, they are making it sexual, but those are called Chubby Chasers. And then there is feeders. Feeders are people that become S&M chubby chasers and then they keep feeding their lovers, so they get fatter and fatter, and they get put funnels in their mouth and ground up cheese cakes, and they can’t move and then they fuck up. That’s feeders. That’s the other side.
Did not see them in „Dirty Shame“…
No. I put them out of it. Or Blousers. That’s my other favorite one, that’s about a femine top. I’ve heard Bears say: Oh, he such a blouse. What is a blouse? Oh, you know: a femine top… It is a good term.
Now, that you go to Germany for a couple of shows – what will you tell them over there?
Well, it’s not so different anywhere in the world anymore because of Global communication, everybody can see everything. I used to go to Berlin a lot when the Wall was still up. And it was more fun. Now, that is politically incorrect to say, but it was only Punks, gay people and old nazis. You could live there and not going to the Army. You know that.
And the clubs, like the „Dschungel“, places I went, that were like opened at 4 in the morning with Emergency Room lighting for just young people were really great. So I am not coming to Berlin to tell anybody how to be fucked up. They have a history of being one of the best fucked up places in the whole world. But I am going to talk about how to be a happy neurotic. And will talk about German movies and some of that stuff.
But still I believe that sadly everyone is a little bit the same. Now Germany still has some of its own, well, Communist chic – is that over? When everything moved to East Berlin?
Well…as far as I know…
I loved the idea of Communist chic.
People are moving back to good old West-Berlin: another sort of nostalgia.
So Communist chic lasted a certain time and then it was too limited? Stasi chic, hilarious.
We still have a club called Berghain. You might have heard about it. That old Stalin era factory building in East Berlin: dark rooms, techno, American tourists… Weekend still stretches from Thursday to Wednesday.
That’s the thing! Unlike New York. It still has this island feeling, you are away from everything else. It has an amazing nightlife, whereas New York doesn’t. I mean, do you know a cool dive bar to go to in Manhattan? I don’t.
What happened to them?
It’s just too expensive. This is within the curtain of irony. If there is a hillbilly-bar, it is a fashion bar, it is ironic. You know, the bars I go to in Baltimore, they are not ironic. People say: Why would you get an apartment in New York? They actually say that. But Berlin has places that are not ironic. That are still homegrown in a great way within imitating anything.
I remember certain 24/7 watering holes in Schöneberg.
You see, all those wonderful places I can’t go to anymore because I am on tour. I have to get up and go to the airport at 6 o’clock in the morning. You know, all these tours people go like: Ah, you gonna see this and that. I wish I could. Maybe I should go back to Berlin and not work. Not have two openings, three shows.
Hamburg is a cool town, too. Cologne might have the biggest gay community in Germany: A lot of people there are really into your work….
Germany has always been incredibly supportive with my work.
And still – I suppose there might be some cultural differences.
Yes, there will. But I certainly will tell them the ones they don’t know. My job is to be a filth spreader, you know, to come and tell them about things that might not have hit there yet. And certainly in the questions and answers THEY can tell ME about stuff I don’t know, which is a fair trade. I am the Henry Cabot Lodge of filth.
Which German films will you talk about?
Well, I don’t know, because I missed so many. My favored one this year was about Hannah Arendt. My ten best list is in Art Forum, you can see it there. What are the other German films? I usually go for French depressing movies. Bruno Dumont is my favorite. Certainly Fassbinder I know. I’m friends with Herzog. So, all those films… To be honest: I don’t know the new German films. They are not playing here like they used to be. That movement is over. But the same way all movements are over. Except for Hollywood.
Hollywood has crushed everybody else. And now in America for an independent filmmaker it’s better to be in television. There’s better television.
Netflix did my first „My filthy world“. But in a totally different version from what I will be doing here.
All those shows for binge watching are actually better than most independent movies. Do you have that in Germany?
It is about to hit there, as far as I know.
So they are watching „House of Cards“ and that stuff? Original German programming has not made it yet?
Are there still independent films in Germany?
Because the Government gives them money to do them! Which is always amazing to me. The government here would try to stop you. The government gave Fassbinder money! It’s unbelievable for us to imagine that. In this country, they would go like: Are you kidding?And if that didn’t happen in Europe – what would happen to world cinema? It would be really over. So it’s kind of amazing to me. They still do it. Can that last?
One can only hope so. Germany puts a lot of money into Hollywood movies. To have them being shot in Berlin.
Oh, that’s the same in America. Each city gives tax rebates and all that.,
The problem – personal opinion – is this one: German films that try to emulate a Hollywood movie always end up looking phony.
Well, the worst is: a German director makes one independent movie, and it is a success, the-THEY lure him to Hollywood to make a 100 Million Dollar movie and they know that second time will crush him. He’s never going to be able to tell them what to do. With a 100 Million Dollar movie nobody does. The more money you get, the more the are going to tell you what to do. They are totally blown up and their movie is not successful, and their career is OVER.
That’s a terrible thing to happen!
Don’t you think that Pedro Almodovar is very smart to never have come to America and make a movie? I think it’s brilliant how he has done it.
Woody Allen, another one, he has the best career of anybody. Because he just makes the next movie. It doesn’t seem to matter if they make money.
He gave me an interview a couple of weeks ago, it was about „Blue Jasmine“. He always has the financing done before he even finishes the script. That’s what he told me.
He has the most enviable career of any director. And I said that to him. I said: When you finish the last day of postproduction of a movie, the next day is preproduction of the next one. And he said: Yeah. And I: I hate you! I am a big fan of all of his movies. My friends in San Francisco told me, they loved that movie in San Francisco, because Woody Allen is the only person who can make it look ugly. San Francisco!
That was actually one of my questions: Why San Francisco? And he told me, that he did not know that many places in the U.S., where he could imagine to live for three months.
…and to eat!
Oh yes: the cuisine had to be fine, too. So that’s why he picked San Francisco.
I know, it’s a great city, I get why he likes it.
As we are talking other filmmakers: What do you know about Christoph Schlingensief?
Is he the one, we gave the prize at the Venice biennale? I was on the jury. I didn’t know about him before that.
He is not that much known in the United States?
Maybe he is. I didn’t, certainly not a lot. But even if you didn’t like his movies, I think that presentation was amazing. I am really happy we picked that.
Now here’s the problem: He started out to be a filmmaker, then moved on into theater and performance, eventually he hit the art world. But unto this day, four years after his death, there are grim gatekeepers, who don’t want him to be there.
I know. I even know people that don’t like his movies, but say it should have won because of how they did that… First of all they brought that body of work to a lot of people, most of them didn’t know about him. But it was presented so amazingly, it was like in a church, a catholic cathedral of bad taste. So I thought it became art, even if his work wasn’t always.
I think he never cared about that. He just did.
He wouldn’t have mind if he knew he won the Venice biennale, I know, he would have not shown up or something.
I was stunned at the sometimes really ferocious criticism on that decision.
I loved that, we were happy, when we heard about that. That’s exactly what he provoked all his life. We heard afterwards that our decision had not been embraced by everyone in the art world, which I thought great.
Is this something that you experiencend as well?
I made exploitation films for art movies, and no one else did. And my movies failed miserably when they played in real exploitation theaters. Because of the irony. When the people that wanted to see Russ Meyer movies, than they did not think they were funny. They thought they were scary and sexy. They wanted to jerk it-LO off to them. I like Russ Meyer, but I wouldn’t jerk it-LO off, watching Russ Mayer-movies. And his movies to me got worse, when he believed his good reviews and did them for intellectuals. They failed then to me. Not completely of course, because Russ was completely addicted to tits. He was at my house –and I’ve told the story before – but it was like that, I had him in my library, he lunged for a book, it was called „The Melons“, but that about the family, he thought it was about tits. So that proved to me, that Russ was not faking. He really was obsessed by tits.
So my movies… no. The Museum of Modern Art bought a print of „Pink Flamingos“ really early, and I thought it would help us in obscenity cases…but it didn’t, we still lost. We never won in court ever, because if you show that movie to a jury at 8 a.m. – they freak out. Did it hurt me? No. I always did the best, the grossest with the best and the smartest which is neighborhoods, I am embarrassed to admit.
The intellectuals were the ones who came. They were the ones who supported me. The true exploitation audiences did not. BUT: It wasn’t just gay people. The people that formed my first audiences where any minority that couldn’t even get along with their own minority. It was gay people who didn’t like other gay people. Black people who didn’t like other black people. It was bikers that didn’t like other bikers. They couldn’t even fit in with them!
And I still care. And make fun of that. I don’t think about what’s gayly correct, what’s straight correct: I am against separatism, that’s my main political thing. I hate separatism of any kind. So, I like the uncomfortable version. I’m talking about a new bar I want to call Flip Flopper, where gay people have to act out in public their fear of heterosexual sex. That’s what would work in Berlin?
Well…I don’t know, maybe?
Flip flop! For guys with confused dicks and girls with vagabond vaginas. It’s something I talked about. Where twinks have to perfom cunnilingus, blitch girls have to get teabagged by male athletics. So… that’s one of my show. I am just trying to go to the next step of what I experienced growing up with. Sexclubs – they dont have them anymore. But, well, in San Francisco, there is one called Blowbody, it always makes me laugh.
Yes, and I always think, that’s on their IRS form, in tax things. „Blowbody’s“. And it’s still open. And I always thougth, there should be a Blowbody’s in every city. And they put that on their ad! Without asking me. That’s really embarrassing. So I am always seeking out: What is the new extremes. What is happening today that is surprising to me. And that’s youth’s responsibility: To surprise me. And people my age.
Did you have more fun back then?
Do I think we had more fun in the sixties? No. I think they are having just as much fun. If they’re shutting down the government of a foreign country in their bedroom, all by themselves. They are having just as much fun we did the day LSD was illegal going to a riot.
So life doesn’t get less interesting?
No. More interesting. I’ve got youth spies. Which I give poppers to. If they come with a new band. Just to pay’em off. Invite them to a party. Give’em porn. Oh really: that’s a cool group. I love King Krule. You’ve got to keep beeing nosy about what people are thinking.
But you need your spies, you wouldn’t hang out at a King Krule concert yourself?
I need spies. Also the press is spies. Reading all the papers is spies. I go to bars in Baltimore still.
You happened to say Baltimore was a more interesting place than New York is.
Oh, so much more. We have edge. We have edge there, believe me. Come on down, you will get scared.
But yeah, kids are moving there. It’s really cheap in Baltimore. Like as much as when people tell me about Berlin. You can get a great apartment in Baltimore for cheap. You can buy a mansion for a million dollars. One bedroom apartment costs more here in Manhattan. So. But then you also can get mugged.
Baltimore has a certain reputation…
Yeah. „The Wire“ is true.
The Governor is my friend, he hates „The Wire“ so much, they hate those shows. Because they think it makes Baltimore look bad.
What else besides „The Wire“?
There’s „The Wire“, and then there’s a new one, called „The 12 o’clock boys“, that’s going to come out: ghetto kids go downtown scare white people. It’s soooo good. I love race movies, that scare white liberal politicians. We have a lot of them in Baltimore. „Pressures“ was the first. But that wasn’t about Baltimore. I always wanted to do the sequel where they move back to Baltimore and team up and have a mother-daughter-gogo-dancer-outfit and then she gets pregnant by Justin Timberlake, and they have little Pinkie, a little white rapper, that becomes a star in Baltimore…
Sounds tempting. But you don’t feel scared to live there?
No. Not scared.
You wouldn’t get mugged?
No. Ok: I wouldn’t go to the worst ghetto street, standing there and looking in my Blackberry.
I’ve taught in prison for a long time, I get along with people. I am not easily intimidated.
But anything can happen. Life is not fair. I don’t believe in Karma. I had great friends that are dead and I know assholes that are alive. So…
As we were talking about fear….
Well, culturally: fear. I would say you should buy art, that you hate, before it hates you.
No, that’s not an original point. But I think it is true.
I know that a lot of collectors would say the same kind of thing.
But how is it on stage, in a theatre, doing spoken word shows: no fear, no stagefright?
No, I’ve done it for 40 years. It’s fine, I just did a Christmas tour, 12 cities in 14 days.
It’s no notes, and it’s completely written, and I speak for 70 minutes.
How is that working? How do you memorize your text?
My Anti-Alzheimer’s exercise. I’ve been doing it for so long. That’s how I make my living. I have to do it. And I think people pay a lot of money to see me – and I come out with notes? No. But it is like scary the first time because I don’t have notes. In a play there is always another actor that can whisper you the line or something. But it’s just me. And then I just start talking. Before I have to be alone for half hour before I go on, no matter if I had done it ten days in a row, I picture words, last words, so I have to find my place back in that picture and get back on track. And then I keep going. Or I realize I left out three paragraphs. I can try to work it back in. But that is tricky… It’s all like mental pictures.
I don’t know how else to do it. 70 minutes of material that I didn’t write? I could never do it.
When I am in movies and I have to memorize dialogue, I am terrible.
I toured with „Hairspray“ last year, with the symphony, where I was kind of on stage, and I had a teleprompter for that, which was fine, but when I had to play the gym teacher I had to do like 6 lines, I always felt like I was going to forget them. Because I didn’t write them.
What is your stand on the term „guilty pleasures“?
Well, I wrote a chapter in one of my books. It used to be a column in film Camera, where always the most artistic directors would pick trasyh movies, so I did the opposite, I picked „Brazil“ or incredibly serious art movies, because they are not my guilty pleasures, but they are… My Ten-Best-list is in Art Forum every December, and it is the opposite of what most people think I’d like. I love like difficult depressing movies. I feel good anyways, I don’t need a movie to make feel good. A hate that! I like a feel bad movie, it makes me feel good. They aren’t my guilty pleasures. I guess, if I had a guilty pleasure it would be something that I would like and everyone else did. That rarely happens.
The „New Yorker“ just ran a story on their website on the term „guilty pleasure“, a polemic against the term. They were arguing like: Let’s take the world guilt out of the pleasure….
Yes! Because what that means is usually: A intellectual director is picking a trashy movie they like. THATS what always happens. I did the opossite, and my specialty has always been placing things that other people don’t like. I never say negative things about people in the press. I learned a long time ago. Since I do – I go to a dinner party, and who sits next to me? The person I just dished.
I don’t think critics should be allowed to go to Film festivals and dinners. I dont think they should be at dinners, unless they are restaurant critics. I’ve sat to major critics. I am a professional. I can do it. But they’ve given me terrible reviews or – good… either way… they have too much power. So it’s phony, the conversation. I think all critics should not be allowed to mingle at all. If they have that power. which almost none of them have anymore. The only thing what is used to be for an art film – if you got a good review in the New York Times it was a big hit. Now that means nothing, but a bad review still hurts. That’s what’s changed.
We have this discussion in literary criticism…
Most papers dont even have any! My book is coming out in June, unless being overlooked….
I built a career on bad reviews. That wouldn’t work today. That was in the 60s, when it was Us vs. Them. And the established critics were square. They were left over. And they rose to the bait. And that bait was what we used for ads. That would never happen today. All critics are hip. There is no critic that is stupid enough to fall for that. Except Rex Reed.
Is that a problem? Do you miss the square ones?
No, it can never go back. Because everyone is hip now. That’s why I always say, I want to be an insider, that’s the ultimate perverse thing, and I am in a way.
Are there any outsiders at all?
No! Every person says they are an outsider. Even Obama! No one wanted to be called an outsider, it was an insult. Now everybody wants to be called that. So I don’t want to be that anymore. I want to be in control of power in the inside. That really makes people nervous.
What happened to all those non-outsiders from back then? All those high school jocks and prom queens?
I talk about them in my program: From the day they graduate from high school their life is downhill.
They eventually become outsiders?
No, no one cares. That’s worse: they’re neither. I don’t go to my high school reunions, but a friend went and showed me a little paperwork and the big Alpha’s interest today was – he put: „Doing things around the house.“ That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read in my life. That’s not an insider nor an outsider. That is: powerless. An insider or an outsider both have power. He has none.
The stunning thing here is: It’s all about hierarchies. In a horizontal way: insider vs. outsiders. Or in a more vertical way: high art vs. trash / underground… Why is that?
It’s all the same. It’s the middle that is always been troublesome. At least for me. All of my life I liked the high life and the low life. Until I hitchhiked across America, where I was totally with the people I gasped for be out of the middle. They where the kindest, smartest, street smart great people. So it really changed my life. And I say that whenever someone uses the word flyover people, I don’t know if you know that word…
Basically everyone who is neither East Coast nor West Coast?
It’s worse than saying the n-word to me. it’s equal. I don’t say white trash. A lot of liberals think they still can say that. That’s the last racist term that is allowable. White trash is classist. How can you think it’s not racist? I know really like liberals say that. Or: trailer trash. That is as offensive as the n-word actually.
So liberals can be …
They can be worse than fascists. I am a bleeding heart liberal. I am such a liberal, you can puke. But my assistant is a republican, and she runs my entotaled filth world with an iron fist. I adore my asistant. I give her credit for her courage. We don’t talk politics. She’s frontally nude! In my last movie. In „Dirty shame“. She answers the door, nude, and she was 57 years old. She’s an actress. All kinds of people believe in all kinds of things.
All the more then: Is underground still a term that is useful?
Yes. Of course – no, I don’t think I can still can be an underground film maker at 67 years old. You have to be angry and young. They are doing their first movies with friends. Everyone makes their first movies with friends. Now they make it with cell phones. And Hollywood buys their cell phones pictures and spends a half million Dollars to make it look worse. As a found footage movie.
The thing is: they’re looking for it. When I was doing it, they were not looking for it. When I made „Cry Baby“, Brian Grazer’s wife went and looked at my old films and said: You gave this man money?!
Today it would help you to get money in Hollywood.
Now that even Hollywood is embracing those cell phone esthetics – would you still call it „counter culture“?
It’s harder to be legit. I’ve always said, if you could make the first movie that got rated NC-17 and got no sex and no violence – you would have the most devious great movie! I don’t know what that could be. That would so scare people: No sex, no violence. The two things that make people nervous. I guess it would be so sad religious.
Maybe the film on Amish people that you fantasized about in „The 101 things I hate“…?
Now in television, there is an Amish show! There is Amish porn, I think.
There will be!
I would need a definition of trash.
That’s a word I don’t say anymore. I say filth.
What makes the difference?
Filth has a more punk rock edge to it. Trash to me is over. To me trash is a word that doesn’t work anymore because what used to be trashy Hollywood makes. it’s on every TV show now. Every TV show is dirty. Every sitcom has fart jokes, gay jokes. So trash to me is you’re dating yourself.
When I made Mondo Trasho – no. And Warhol did Trash at the same time. We did not know we were doing that. We both used that title at that time, not knowing that the other person was doing that, too.
Filth is more punk rock, more confrontational. Trash is not confrontational at all anymore. Filth still is. Filth still makes people a litte more nervous. But filth is dated, too.
Maybe the word now is just: funny?
That’s more threatening. Because you are not depending on all those things that are not new anymore.
Maybe the newest thing is: just funny.
That sounds scary.
Scary is always good.
But you sure took it as a praise when Burroughs christened you the „Pope of Trash“?
Are you kidding? I’ve been living off that. For 20 years I’ve been exploiting that one. That was being anointed. That was like being knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
(c) PETER RICHTER
Ein sehr kleiner Ausschnitt aus dieser Konversation erschien Anfang Januar 2014 im Feuilleton der Süddeutschen Zeitung