Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Role Models by John Waters

First things first: I love the cover. Love it. The crude line drawing, the touch of green on his socks, the framed pictures scattered about at his feet, the bright white background that will undoubtedly get a little dirty as time goes on (I'd probably be annoyed by this if it were any other book). It's perfect.

Role Models
is a collection of essays about the people who have inspired John Waters, and it's a pretty varied group of people: Johnny Mathis, Tennessee Williams, former Manson girl Leslie Van Houten, local Baltimore eccentrics such as a lesbian stripper named Lady Zorro, amateur gay pornographers, and so on. The writing is very conversational, as though you're having a chat with him (albeit a very one-sided one). On the one hand, it's not exactly new territory if you're a Waters fan, but it's still entertaining.

One of the more memorable, if rather divisive, chapters concerns Waters's friendship with Leslie Van Houten. He befriended her in the 80s after interviewing her for Rolling Stone, and has advocated for her release ever since. Which is where the preachy parts come in, but they don't really bother me (I think he makes a pretty convincing case). What might be my favorite passage in the book is found in that chapter: "When the cops finally caught the hippy killers and I actually saw their photos ("Arrest Weirdo in Tate Murders", screamed the New York Daily News headlines) I almost went into cardiac arrest. God! The Manson Family looked just like my friends at the time!...'The Manson Family' were the hippies all our parents were scared we'd turn into if we didn't stop taking drugs."

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