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In 1972, not long after getting kicked out of New York University for smoking marijuana, John Waters released Pink Flamingos, a film he'd shot for $10,000 on the weekends with a group of friends. Plot elements included rape, murder, kidnapping, drug dealing, bestiality, tarring and feathering, voyeurism, exhibitionism, cannibalism, emasculation, and — famously — coprophagia. In other words, it was really funny.
Since then, Waters has gone on to direct nine more films. Then there's his work as an actor, writer, artist, and host of the hit TV show Till Death Do Us Part. The first major exhibition of his photography, appropriately titled "Rear Projection," debuted at Larry Gagosian's New York gallery last month, and he has several new projects in the works, including a Broadway show and, believe it or not, a Christmas movie called Fruitcake.
This Friday, he takes the Lincoln Theatre stage at 8 p.m. as part of the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, a name he takes issue with. "I've never understood the difference between a film festival and a gay film festival," he says. "Independent films always have some gay in them."
The routine he will perform is called This Filthy World, an autobiographical romp through his life that he constantly updates. It's designed to make the audience laugh but also acts as a pretty good guide for how to get a film made and how to function as a "crazy person" in the world. "It's like self-help for neurotic people who should be happier," he jokes. "I've done it in Oxford and I've done it in prison, and it seems to work everywhere."
Although Waters and South Beach seem like a perfect fit, his last visit to Miami was in 2002, when he screened the 1968 film Boom! at Art Basel. Described by Waters as the "greatest failed art film ever made," Boom! stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the Angel of Death. "Everyone was drinking while they were filming it," Waters says, "which may explain some things."
The film is more weird than shocking, which dovetails with Waters's often-misunderstood aesthetic. "I never tried to be shocking," he says. "I tried to be funny." Which is why he's never seen the infamous "two girls and a cup" viral video; he doesn't have any interest in a medium — the Internet — he claims is ruining many of his favorite things: music, movies, porn, and newspapers. "Not many people have figured out how to make any money from it," he says. "Do you notice the ads on websites? Have you seen how inexpensive they are?" He's also not interested in blogs. "Everyone thinks they have a story to tell," he says. "They don't."
He still loves television, though, proclaiming his favorite show to be HBO's recently completed series, The Wire, which was shot by many of Waters's regular collaborators. "It's the best show on TV since Pee-wee's Playhouse, which was the best show since Howdy Doody."
One might also think Waters, who spends much of the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, would schedule a long visit to South Beach. But he's here only one night. "If I was going out and doing things, I wouldn't be concentrating on the show," he says. "And I want to give a great show."
The closing weekend of MGLFF kicks off Friday with director John Waters and ends Sunday with a closing-night gala at the Shore Club. In between, there's no shortage of the three film-festival c's: celluloid, celebrities, and cocktails. Call 305-534-9924, or visit mglff.com for tickets and more information. All tickets cost $11 unless otherwise noted.
Friday, May 1
• An Evening with John Waters: This Filthy World: Lincoln Theatre, 541 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 8 p.m., $35
• John Waters afterparty: The Shore Club, 1901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 10 p.m., no cover
Saturday, May 2
• Annual Victory: Miami Beach Cinematheque, 512 Española Way, 1 p.m.
• Fig Trees: FIU Biscayne Bay Campus, 3000 NE 151st St., North Miami, 2 p.m.
• Experimental shorts: Miami Beach Cinematheque, 3 p.m.
• City of Borders: FIU, 4 p.m.
• Chica Busca Chica: FIU, 6 p.m.
• Shank: FIU, 8 p.m.
• Shank afterparty: FIU, 9:30 p.m., free with ticket
Sunday, May 3
• Ruby Blue: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 1 p.m.
• I Can't Think Straight: Colony Theatre, 3:15 p.m.
• Little Ashes: Colony Theatre, 6:30 p.m.
• Closing-night gala: The Shore Club, 9 p.m. to midnight, $15
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