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HomeFeaturedLegendary Cult Filmmaker John Waters is Celebrated By The Academy Museum

Legendary Cult Filmmaker John Waters is Celebrated By The Academy Museum


Pope of Trash
Pope of Trash exhibit (Credit: Eric Green)

Watch out Los Angeles, John Waters: Pope of Trash opens this weekend, add it to your own personal John Waters’ Tour of L.A. It is the first major movie museum exhibition of the Writer-Director’s filmography. A trailblazer in the world of Independent Film, his breakthrough picture, Pink Flamingos, was a massive hit with underground film enthusiasts and has perpetually played midnight shows at art house venues for decades.

Waters went on to direct many other wonderfully notorious films like Female Trouble and Desperate Living and a few more conventionally respectable ones like 1988’s Hairspray, which was subsequently adapted into a hit Broadway Show. This exhibit is a very colorful and humorous ode to the joy of Waters’ beautifully twisted mind. It’s, oddly, respectful and tasteful. Speaking at the museum recently Waters enthused about the exhibit, “It’s been done with humor and seriousness in a great way. And with no irony, which I keep saying as much as I love irony. Irony is snobbery in a way. There is none here. It’s told for real.

Pope of Trash exhibit (Credit: Eric Green)

Curated by Exhibitions Curator Jenny He and Associate Curator Dara Jaffe, with support from Research Assistant Emily Rauber Rodriguez and former Curatorial Assistant Esme Douglas. The exhibit is a very linear journey from the director’s beginnings through his years in Hollywood to the present day. The curators designed to draw in three distinct audiences: Devoted Fans, Moderate Fans, and people who are unfamiliar with his work. They did some astonishing detective work that took them to the heart of Dreamland, from Waters’s collection, The Reed Cinema Archive, and The Vincent Peranio Archive.

Vincent Peranio was Waters’s visionary Production Designer for many years, creating many of the director’s iconic props. Waters enthused about his partners in crime, “It’s definitely a dreamland reunion. Absolutely, yes, and this is one of the things that I think is a great lesson of your career is that you built this community of creative collaborators and that love is so strong and the dedication.”

Pope of Trash
Pope of Trash exhibit (Credit: Eric Green)

The exhibit boasts over 400 works from six decades from all of his body of work, mostly shot in his hometown, Baltimore, Maryland. From the moment you walk into the space you are transported to Water’s unique worldview with a John Waters Chapel, and then you make your way through a wall of Posters, Early DIY Ads, Barf Bags, A Smell o Rama Card, Real Newspaper Clippings along with Fake Prop Clips, Recreation of Bab’s Trailer in the Trash Trinity Gallery, rare photos from all of his films, costumes, and some handwritten script pages.

The list of eye candy goes on. The exhibit also features The Electric Chair from Female TroubleDebbie Harry’s exploding wig, Cry Baby’s guitar, Serial Mom’s Lamb Leg, and more. All highlight the craft of his collaborators and the creative spirit that shone from his early low-budget days and a through line to his bigger-budgeted films that never compromised his vision.

Pope of Trash
Pope of Trash exhibit (Credit: Eric Green)

A companion installation, Outside the Mainstream, is adjacent to the exhibit and explores other transgressive filmmakers as well. A film program begins on September 17th, including a screening of the very rare silent film, Eat Your Makeup, with live commentary by Waters. Without question, that screening is a must-see event.

When asked what attendees should take away from the eye-popping exhibit, Waters said, “A sense of humor that knows that we never make our enemy feel stupid. We make them feel smart even when they aren’t and then get them to laugh and then we can get them to listen. I’m not a separative.”

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