John Waters was exhausted when I crossed paths with him May 19 in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Ada, Oklahoma.
The legendary director of cult-classic films like Crybaby and Pecker had flown into Dallas and was picked up in a car by an East Central University student for the ground portion of his trip. Waters was in Ada to be keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Momentum Ada film and new media festival a few hours after our pleasant albeit brief encounter. His arrival was punctuated by a terrific thunderstorm directly overhead with crashing thunder and spectacular lightning.
Waters’ remarks for his presentation, titled This Filthy World, that evening in the university’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center were parts stand-up comedy routine, wry social commentary on a variety of topics and thumbnail sketches of the 16 decidedly outside-the-mainstream films he has directed since 1964.
The 71-year-old’s stamina continued to be tested after his performance, as he greeted an incredibly long line of fans, autographing new copies of his books they’d just purchased. Storms raged on outside, and he sheltered in-place alongside his new Okie friends.
The next evening back at home in Norman, my wife, Barb, and I re-visited a VHS copy of Waters’ 1988 Hairspray to be reminded that Waters is indeed a counterculture genius.