An insecure Charm City misses its bad-boy star

Come home, John -- nobody loves you the twisted way we do

December 03, 2006|By Stephen Kiehl

Memo to: New York

From: Stephen Kiehl and the citizens of Baltimore

Yo, New Yorkers! Listen up, you arrogant punks: We want John Waters back. Sure, we allowed you to flirt with him for a while, to seduce him with your 24-hour pizza parlors and cultural riches. We understood: John turns trash into gold. He would be an asset to any city.

But he belongs to us. So we weren't threatened when he took an apartment in Greenwich Village. We didn't lose sleep when we saw pictures of him at those fancy-pants New York parties. We looked the other way when it seemed as if he was spending half his time in your town.

Now it's gone too far. John's latest movie, This Filthy World, is set in New York. It's the first of his 16 films not to take place in Baltimore. (Technically, of course, it's not a John Waters film because he didn't direct it. Directed by Jeff Garlin, it's a film of the monologue he has given around the country. But still.)

The movie was filmed at New York's Harry De Jur Playhouse in front of an audience of New Yorkers recruited by Netflix. In his performance, John displays an easy familiarity with New York, tossing off mentions of the Angelika and Ziegfeld theaters and Joe Jr. restaurant, which he says is in his neighborhood.

And last week's New York magazine featured Waters in one of its man-on-the-street fashion spreads. He talks about how he loves riding the subway.

Really, New York, this is too much. You already have Woody and Spike and Martin. You've got Sidney Lumet and Jim Jarmusch. We've only got John and Barry. So the point is: We'll fight for him. You may have 10 times as many people as us, but we're plucky and we're fighters. (Look no further than our professional football team for evidence of this.)

John himself tells us we have nothing to worry about. We called him up at his home in North Baltimore, and he did his best to reassure us. He admitted, "We did shoot [This Filthy World] in New York, and I have an apartment in New York." But he said the main reason they did it there was to get an audience of complete strangers.

John said he warned the Baltimore film commissioner that this movie would be in New York, adding, "I didn't feel disloyal." And he promises us his next movie will be in Baltimore.

"My home is here. My office is in Baltimore, and this is where I always come to be inspired," he said. "Baltimore's a huge character in all my movies. In This Filthy World, Baltimore is certainly a character. The Baltimore stories are some of the biggest laughs in the film. But everything I make fun of, I really love."

An unrepentant eavesdropper, John says he hears the best lines in Baltimore. Most we can't relay to you here, out of decency. But we can share this one: When he was at the Prime Rib once, a waiter asked a customer, "Madam, would you like dessert?" And she replied, "Christ, no! I'm bloated!"

Why, you'd be asked to leave Tavern on the Green for saying such a thing! And really, New York, what do you have to offer John? Times Square has been turned into a Disney theme park. Rents are so high the artists have been driven out of town. It's an upscale hipster paradise -- and that's one thing Baltimore will never be.

So don't even think you can win John over. He's ours.

Oh, and one other thing: Keep your paws off David Simon.

"This Filthy World" will be available through Netflix starting Dec. 12.

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