Making Trouble with The Pope of Trash

By Author Events Fri, April 28, 2017

In advance of our sold-out John Waters Author Event this Saturday, April 29, let’s get some background on the iconic director, writer, actor, art collector, professional hitchhiker, all-around bon vivant, and self-described Pope of Trash.

More than anything else, Waters is famed for his over-the-top, campy, raunchy, raucous movies. From his deeply transgressive early 70s cult films such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, the Baltimore auteur found mainstream success in the 80s and 90s with the films Hairspray, Cry-Baby, and Cecil B. Demented. The Free Library has quite a few of Waters’ films in our collection—check 'em out! (But only after you’ve put the kids to bed. This is, after all, the artist whose one-man show about his artistic roots is titled This Filthy World.)

We can’t show you some of our favorite John Waters clips here (but you can read more in a previous blog post), so we’ll happily settle for the trailer for Serial Mom, one of our favorite films.

And while we’re at it, here’s Johnny Depp singing the title song to Waters’ 1990 valentine to the teen rebel genre and rockabilly. You really have to love any film that has Ricki Lake, Iggy Pop, Patty Hearst, and Joey Heatherton in it, right?


Where else have you seen John Waters? Practically everywhere. Celebrated for his wit and cultural acumen, he’s appeared on dozens of variety and talk shows, including The Daily Show, The Graham Norton Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Saturday Night Live. Here he is in a hilarious 1988 Late Night with David Letterman appearance.


An astute film critic and commentator, he’s also appeared in a score of documentaries, including Divine Trash, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, and I Am Divine, an ode to Waters’ friend and cinematic muse.


Needless to say, we also love John Waters the writer. In addition to the screenplays for his most famous films, his five previous books include Shock Value, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, Art: A Sex Book, Role Models, and Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. You can find many of these titles at the Free Library, and if you really want an excellent primer to the inimitable pencil-mustached artist, here’s the podcast from his 2014 discussion of Carsick on our stage, wherein he discusses the kindness of strangers, filthy book titles, and his overall view of America.


Which leads us to Waters’ newest book, Make Trouble. Based on a viral commencement speech he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design, "The People’s Pervert" laid forth a manifesto for the weird, for the ornery, for the rebels, for all those seeking happiness, fulfillment, and success on their own terms. It’s utterly worth the 12 minutes and 20 seconds of your time.


This Saturday we’ll be looking forward to making trouble with John Waters and all of you, Philly.

And if you weren’t lucky enough to score a ticket to this sold-out event, no worries! Watch along with us for free at

John Waters Make(s) Trouble
John Waters Make(s) Trouble

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