There was a torrent of trendy folks clomping around the streets of Grand Rapids this evening. They blocked roads, took up all the free parking, and exacerbated my existing hatred for the citywide event known, to those unfortunate to be in the GR-Know, as Art Prize. Needless to say, tonight was almost like existing upon a level of hell, one drawn to Earth by the intense intellectual vacuum produced by the pseudo-art savvy, mostly empty minds of various Grand Rapidians and art snobs visiting from abroad. Enter the hero of the night...John Waters.
Having grown up with bits of John Waters' work here and there throughout my occasional filmic explorations I was overjoyed to see that he would be gracing the town in which I live with a brief visit. I was even more elated to learn of his expressed lack of appreciation for the inept and over-publicized "Artsy" Western Michigan event. We had something in common!
I dropped my wife off at the front of the Civic Theatre and began my search for a parking spot with about fifteen minutes left before the start of the show. After about the first two blocks I realized that I would either be walking a great distance to the theatre or I would be paying an insane amount for an area in which to park my vehicle. I rounded many corners in my anxious search and after a while was convinced that the same slow-walking, vacant expression-wearing guy was at every crosswalk I happened upon. He wasn't the only deplorable, seemingly reoccurring character which stood in the way of my failing attempt to hastily park. There was a hoarde of shambling, culture-seekers, their faces blank yet sneering, crossing en masse at every red light, of which there were many. Sadly, it took more than the fifteen minutes to eventually find a lot where a mere (HA!) eight dollars rented me a space.
Hustling over a crosswalk myself, and feeling a deep subconscious shame while doing so, I made my way over a block's distance to the theatre. The woman at the front door kindly accepted my traffic excuse, informed me that John Waters had already taken the stage, and then directed me to the balcony. My eyes searched around for my wife who was nowhere to be found. So, assuming I was alone for the duration, I leapt up the three flights of stairs and entered into the semi-darkened auditorium, winded, and beheld a sea of distorted heads seated before of me. Past them, below, upon black cloth-draped stage stood the man himself. I took a seat and listened as he continued on about some woman he encountered in his early film career. Made it, I thought.
The talk went on for almost two hours. John was full of an admirable energy, pacing back and forth, barely taking a breath between anecdotes and strange reflections on the people and times he'd encountered and lived. The talk went from strange sex acts, to comments on the events surrounding the production of his films, to the peculiar varieties of subcultures within homosexuality. He spoke about the people he spent time with, the relationship types he preferred, and in a way he debunked the "John Waters Book Meme" proliferated around the internet. Overall it was a stupdendous time, and it ended nicely with the fellow patiently fielding a plethora of random, bizarre, and mostly pointless audience questions and comments. Unfortunately once that had ended there went the night. No photo opportunities. No chance to shake his hand and thank him for pushing the envelope and helping the creators of questionable material find a home for their work in the wider world. Just a simple gracious bow and an exit.
As we shoved our way clear of the theatre I found myself a little happier about things in general, a little more amused with the absurdities amongst which I lived, and almost positive that the people of my town weren't all that bad. Everyone who didn't pose an idiotic query during the question and answer portion seemed as happy as I if not more. There were folks meeting and greeting each other during the mass departure. It was quite pleasant. Then came the walk back to the car. I'll not delve into that and spoil the moment.
So, thanks to John Waters for coming to town. Even if it was just another meaningless paid obligation for him I'm glad I got a chance to see him. Hopefully he'll return to this crazy city one day and there will be a chance to talk to him face-to-face. Maybe someday.