REVIEW: John Waters’ ‘Filthy World’

John Waters1_0“I hate to tell you, but your cat hates you,” John Waters said before a packed house at the Kessler Thursday night. That observation actually came pretty late during the festivities, which saw Waters — lanky in a mismatched madras-style plaid suit — riff nonstop for about 80 minutes before taking questions from the audience.

It was about the tamest observation Waters made, for whom the word “taboo” appears to have no meaning. In between war stories about the making of his dozen-plus films as a writer-director, from Mondo Trasho (made when he was just 23) to his last film, A Dirty Shame, which came out in 2004. He lamented that he was not molested by his grade-school priest (what does it say to a kid who is not attractive to a pedophile?), expressed pleasure that Casey Anthony was acquitted (“I just wanted to see Nancy Grace’s head explode”) and offered suggestions about how to show appreciation (“If a friend gives you a book by your favorite author? Give him a rim job”).

For the most part, the eclectic crowd ate up the uber-gay standup set, where Waters opined about oddities of the sexual world. “Is it amazing that all gay men know what a bear is and no straight people do?” he asked. But even he exposed the audience to terms most had never heard before. (Example: “A blouse” = “a feminine top.” And don’t even ask what a “blossom” is.)

If you’re inclined to be offended by an unoffendable person, you’d best steer clear of Waters who, despite the wide-eyed enthusiasm of an ice cream truck salesman, shows a perverse interest in the unusual. “Trailers for summer movies aren’t coming attractions, they’re warnings,” he spat, lamenting that even indie films paled by comparison to the creativity of TV nowadays.

Peppered throughout were elegant but obscure pop culture references to, for instance, Fitzcarraldo, Diane Arbus and Joey Heatherton.

“Isn’t laughter the enemy of masturbation?” he noted. “Who laughs while masturbating except a schizophrenic?”

Maybe so. But laughter is certainly not the enemy of a John Waters audience. It’s its life-blood.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

6 ways to fabulize your week

divineWe’re all about diversity in the gay community, and here’s how we prove it.

Let’s say you have a hankering to spend some time in the dark with gay Latinos this week. We got some suggestions. One is by seeing the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, a musical set in a South American prison. Another is checking out Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown at Teatro Dallas, which features nine comic monologues dealing with all aspects of the gay Latin experience in the U.S.

If you’re tastes fall more along the lines of WASPy gay humor, you can still try to scrounge up a seat to Kathy Griffin, who is performing tonight at the Verizon Theatre. She’ll certainly talk about Kardashians, Real Housewives and, of course, “her gays.”

If that’s not your style, perhaps a little drag is what you need. The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is screening a 35mm print of John Waters’ outrageous classic Polyester tonight at 9:30 p.m., followed by a John Waters-themed dance party at 11. Costumes are encouraged. (You know you wanna try out that Tracy Turnblad get-up you have!)

If you wanna up the fashion quotient, the DFashion Week runway show — an inaugural fundraiser benefiting AIDS Arms and LifeWalk — comes to the Rose Room on Saturday. You can get tickets here.

For those who prefer the whole smorgasbord of choices, and like to be entertained as well, Sunday night is the Voice of Pride finals at the Rose Room. Ten singers walk in, one walks out with the title, cash, plane tickets … and bragging rights.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Vito power

With his new HBO doc on activist Vito Russo, Jeffrey Schwarz keeps queer history in the limelight

RICH LOPEZ  |  Staff Writer

In a San Francisco screening for his latest documentary Vito, a young man in full-on rainbow garb reminded director-producer Jeffrey Schwarz of his purpose. In a post-film discussion that, man, attending with his mother, told the crowd that he had just come out and had no idea who Vito Russo was. Other than rainbows, perhaps he didn’t know much more about gay Pride and history.

“’This is my first gay anything,’” Schwarz recalls the young man saying. “’And today, I have a new hero.’ That encapsulates why I did this and how resonant Vito is today. He showed that you live your life as you wish. And be fearless and be brave.”

While the documentary takes a chronological look at Russo’s life, the message isn’t just a biographical look at the man. As one of the first and perhaps the most prominent activist, Schwarz ponders what Russo could have done had he not succumbed to AIDS in 1990.

—  Rich Lopez

Free “Christmas Evil” screening at Texas Theatre

Christmas ain’t over yet

In tonight’s edition of the Texas Theatre’s Tuesday Night Trash, they go all out for the Yuletide with the campy fright flick, Christmas Evil. When a kid finds out Santa isn’t real and a killing spree follows, well, it might be tough to connect the dots. Childhood trauma that leads to adult dysfunction might sound like a Dr. Phil episode, but thankfully, it’s in the 1980 hands of Lewis Jackson. What could be better?

DEETS: The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. 9 p.m. Free. TheTexasTheatre.com

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Hunx and His Punx release new vid today for ‘Lovers Lane’ and a free download

I was on the fence about the second album from Hunx and His PunxToo Young To Be In Love, released earlier this year. I loved the throwback sound, but too much of it bogged me down. Nonetheless, the band has released its video for the song “Lovers Lane,” the signature track from the album.

In keeping with the tone of the album, the video is very 8mm-home-movie-like as “a wandering Hunx is taken in by doppelgangers and sent on the road, to prom, and to the elusive Lovers Lane.” It has some nice camp in that John Waters way and even a whole lotta charm. Although I’m still trying to figure out the severed hand.

How’s this for a bonus? In addition, to releasing the vid today, they are giving away “Lovers Lane” as a free mp3 download. Find it on YouTube with this video, or just snag it here.

“Lovers Lane”

 

—  Rich Lopez

Texas Theatre series honoring Fassbinder, Sirk continues tonight with, ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the most prolific filmmakers in history, making 40-plus films before dying of a drug overdose at age 37. His style was varied, from comedy to epic to intense frank films that explored gay life in Germany in the 1970s. He was also a huge fan of Hollywood director Douglas Sirk, whose melodramas influenced a host of other gay filmmakers, including John Waters and Todd Haynes.

The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is holding a free Monday movie screening series that honors both Sirk and Fassbinder. It started last week with the screening of Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows; tonight, it screens Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder’s remake of that. The series continues on May 2 with Sirk’s Imitation of Life, followed on May 16 by Fassbinder’s In a Year with 13 Moons.

It’s free, and all showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Bring a hankerchief — they tend to be weepies.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Take 2

CASTING A WIDE NET | Paris, Texas’ Ash Christian scored a stellar comedic cast for his low-budget, North Texas-shot indie film that includes John Waters, Jennifer Coolidge, Leslie Jordan and Heather Matarazzo.

Gay Texas filmmaker Ash Christian’s second movie encountered death and cast changes on its way to its debut this week — in his home state

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SET OF ‘MANGUS’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It is New Year’s Eve 2009, and Ash Christian is ready to unwind a bit — probably for the first time in a month. In a few hours, after a haircut and a disco nap, he will be out partying at Dish in the ilume. The wine will flow freely that night, and at midnight he will ring in 2010 to the strains of Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

Ash Christian certainly is feeling something that day, and that is stressed. He had returned to North Texas a few weeks earlier for what was supposed to be a quick two-week trip to scout locations and raise money for his independent film, Mangus, which was supposed to finish filming before it had actually begun.

But as with a lot of what happens in Hollywood, things did not go as planned. Christian had an enthusiastic backer in Friley Davidson, a well-off Dallasite who had pledged a big chunk of the budget for Mangus. But Davidson died unexpectedly just before Christmas … and before he had cut the check for the film. (Several months later, Marty Hershner, owner of the Tin Room — Christian’s favorite gay bar in Dallas and the set for one of the climactic scenes — dies, devastating Christian.) It’s been a scramble ever since.

Christian is used to it by now. Although it’s only his second film, and he was only 24 when he started on it, Christian is already a veteran of the indie filmmaking scene and all the potholes that dot the road. He was 20 and about to shoot his first movie, Fat Girls, when civic leaders in the town of Canton, where photography was supposed to take place, pulled the permits a day before production was set to start because they didn’t like the gay content in the script.

ON THE SET | Jennifer Coolidge’s improvisation of a breadstick to look like a penis cracked up Heather Matarazzo during the last day of filming on ‘Mangus.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“I don’t know why we even wanted to film in Canton anyway,” he says years later. Christian found a replacement quickly in Waxahachie, and the final product became well-received on the festival circuit, praised for its quirky charm about a gay, musical-loving Texas boy and his chubby best friend (Ashley Fink, now on Glee).

Although not a financial hit, Fat Girls got Christian noticed in Hollywood. He “took a lot of meetings,” as they say, discussing big-budget projects studios wanted him to helm. But nothing seemed to fit. Whatever they wanted him to make isn’t what he wanted to make.

“You need to believe in your vision,” he said earlier this week over chicken flautas at Komali. “You have to be comfortable with your vision not being totally mainstream.”

That devotion has paid off in little ways. This week, Mangus gets its world premiere in Christian’s home state with two screenings at the Dallas International Film Festival.

“I’m happy it is premiering here, because so much of the crew was based here. It’s great for them,” says the Paris, Texas, native. “We already have some distribution offers, too, so we’re in a good place.”

It’s been a long journey from that day 15 months ago when I met Christian, one of his stars, actress Heather Matarazzo, and her girlfriend, Caroline Murphy, at Taco Diner in the West Village, where we discussed the film over fish tacos and quesadillas. There was a lot of excitement that day, as filming was about to start. They toasted with Diet Coke.

But things happen quickly and unpredictably in the universe of indie cinema: Sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes not. Christian was lucky to get Matarazzo to do the film — he wrote it with her in mind even though the two had never met.

(Originally, Christian had written a leading role for himself, until he got too old to play it. He doesn’t appear in the final version of the film at all.)

“I went to the premier of Saved [in which Matarazzo starred] and I came up to give you…” Christian begins, before Matarazzo interrupts.

“Was I nice?” she asks. Yes, he responds.

“I remember exactly where I was. He said I wrote this script for you — people say that all the time but this happened to be true,” Matarazzo said. He told her he wanted to film it in North Texas, which just happened to be where her girlfriend was from.

Murphy and her brother ended up writing music for the film. Then Matarazzo scored another coup for the film.

“Heather got Alan Cumming to take a part!” Christian gushes over his most recent casting decision. “She just sent him the script and he agreed to do it!” (The two had worked together on The L Word.)

But things are fluky. Within two weeks, Cumming will drop out, only to be replaced by Leslie Jordan. Jennifer Coolidge, who has been tapped to play the mother of the small-town kid Mangus, was still onboard though, as was Matarazzo, whose costume of Daisy Dukes, a blonde wig and hooker shoes “make you look like Jessica Simpson,” Christian observes. (That’s her character’s name in the film, too.)

Shooting was delayed, as was the fundraising to produce the damn thing, but it eventually proceeds. Even that, though, was not without its drama. It’s Feb. 10, 2010 — the last day of filming — and an unexpected snowstorm has all but ruined the final shots of the script. Overcast skies make the lighting all wrong for the scene, where Mangus’ mom welcomes him home. It doesn’t help matters that Christian is hopped up on antibiotics; he’s been fighting a losing battle against the flu all week. But there are no sick days when you’re making a movie in three weeks.

“This is my day, just sitting around,” Christian says with frustration on the set, waiting for his cast to get into costume. But a year later, he’s singing a different tune.

“Directing is my favorite part,” he says. “You learn a lot. [The final film] isn’t what I thought I was writing. Actors bring their own interpretations to it. Leslie is kind of amazing in the movie. Coolidge is great — she’s really, really funny. Some of the stuff they come up with is funnier than anything I could have written.” For instance, Coolidge suggests arranging the breadstick on a plate to resemble a penis; she keeps breaking up Matarazzo with her adlibs, necessitating numerous retakes.

Christian has learned some practical lessons as well to help him negotiate the minefield of moviemaking. He’s just wrapped on his third feature, Petunia, starring Oscar winner Christine Lahti and David Rasche, the movie he fully expects will usher him into “the next level” of filmmaking. And a new financial angel has just given him half a million dollars to put toward his next picture. (This time, he got the money in hand before something happened to the backer.)

And as always, things seem to work out. Eventually, John Waters even joined the cast of Mangus to play the part of — wait for it — Jesus Christ.

“I sent him word I would like him to be in my movie and a few minutes later I get this call, ‘Ash, this is John Waters. Can you send a script to my apartment?’ I wasn’t even sure if I needed to deliver it myself or send a courier or what. But he read it and quickly said, ‘I’ll do it; call my agent.’” They ended up shooting Waters’ scenes in Provincetown in front of a green-screen to be digitally inserted in the final product. He can’t wait for his local friends to see it.

Christian, who has lived in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan for years, says he fully expects to end up back in North Texas eventually. He likes Dallas, he says: The people and how much cheaper food is … and, presumably, the reaction he gets here to his movies. But until the screening, it’s across the street to drink sweet-tea vodka martinis and stare at the dick dancers at BJ’s. Hey, there’s a time for movies and a time to relax.

For additional information, visit MangusTheMovie.com.

Also of interest at DIFF:

In addition to Mangus!, some other films that came up on our radar at the Dallas International Film Festival include:

Boy Wonder — a psychological thriller about a comic book fan who witnesses the murder of his mother, becoming a vigilante by night as a super hero. Screens at AMC NorthPark on April 1 at 7 p.m. and April 2 at 10:15 p.m.

Lucky — A comedy about a fledgling serial killer (Colin Hanks), who wins the Iowa State Lottery, enabling him to pursue his hobby. Also stars screen legend Ann-Margret, who will receive an award from the festival. Screens at the Magnolia Theatre, April 1 at 7 p.m. and April 2 at 12:30 p.m.

More to Live For — A documentary about the quest for bone marrow donors (a procedure which holds the promise of becoming a cure for AIDS). Directed by Noah Hutton, the son of Debra Winger and Timothy Hutton. Screens at AMC NorthPark on April 3 at 9 p.m.

Rainbows End — This Texas-based documentary, which we profiled last week, tracks a kooky gay man from East Texas, pictured, as he sets off for L.A. to get Internet lessons from the gay and lesbian center there. Screens at the Magnolia Theatre April 1 at 10 p.m. and April 3 at noon.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

Peaches teaches

San Francisco drag diva and movie whore Josh Grannell aka Peaches Christ brings ‘4D’ movie experience to Dallas nightcrawlers

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer  lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

 Joshua Grannell as Peaches Christ
HORRORS! | Joshua Grannell (in Peaches Christ drag, above) gives scary-smart actress Natasha Lyonne, above right, a role to sink her teeth into.

ALL ABOUT EVIL
Inwood Theater,
5458 W. Lovers Lane.
Friday and Saturday at midnight. 214-764-9106

……………………

Toss a wig and dress on a grindhouse cinema, add a large popcorn with plenty of camp and fake blood on top and you get Peaches Christ. The San Francisco drag star (alter ego of theater manager Joshua Grannell) is taking the world by storm with a 4D tour of her gory-campy feature debut, All About Evil.

Making a delectable comeback, Natasha Lyonne stars as Debbie Tennis, a mousy librarian who turns crazed, murderous exploitation filmmaker. Evil’s co-stars include established genre icons and young matinee idols alike: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ hottie Thomas Dekker, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson and Mink Stole.

Having gained notoriety at legendary S.F. clubs like Trannyshack and her own 12-year-old cult film series, Midnight Mass, Peaches Christ has now embarked on an old-school “William Castle-style” tour of the U.S. featuring live performances and appearances from the film’s stars and local celebs. To get the scoop on what to expect, plus the 411 on this soon-to-be cult-horror household name, we spoke with Peaches/Grannell.

…………………………..

Dallas Voice: First, a couple of questions for Josh. For the uninitiated, who exactly is Peaches Christ? Grannell: Well, Peaches Christ is a deluded fan of all things cult movie and B-cinema, trashy old drive-in fare, and likens herself to being a cult leader: Silly, self-deprecating and a big dorky fan of movies and cult icons.

When was she created? I was at film school at Penn State University and making my senior thesis film, which was called ‘izzmopper: A Love Story, and there was a character in the movie who was a drag queen and ran a porn emporium. I loved drag — Divine, Elvira, Joan Crawford — and I wrote this character and the actor playing her was not really working out, so I was shoved into the wig and costume in order to save the movie. I make it sound like they held a gun to my head but I look back and wonder if I wanted to play this part all along.

Do people from outside of San Francisco get you confused with electroclash musician Peaches? Yes, people get confused. Right now in Germany she is doing a show called Peaches Christ Superstar. As if it was not bad enough! I’ve actually gotten to work with her and she’s awesome. I would love to do a duet someday and actually have a song to pitch to her when she’s ready.

OK, Peaches can come out now. You created and present the film event Midnight Mass in San Francisco, and of course Natasha’s character is movies-obsessed and runs a theater. So is All About Evil autobiographical? Peaches: Well, in a sense, yes. I really believe in doing whatever it takes to save neighborhood single screen movie theaters and this film is a way to describe what length we should be willing to go to save these cinemas — even if it involves criminal activity. You know, murder.

Is this a little like John Waters’ Cecil B. Demented? I think Cecil B. Demented was in line with Patty Hearst’s story, and ours is more like Female Trouble and Serial Mom. Because of the filmmaking aspect people think Cecil B. Demented, but it’s more about ego gone wild and a quest and desire for fame. Where sociopathic behavior seems completely appropriate. I love all of John Waters’ films. I grew up in Maryland, worshipping at the altar of Divine and Mink Stole. They were my heroes. The Dreamlanders and that group of renegade performers I really worshipped.

How did Natasha get involved? I’ve been a huge fan ever since I saw Slums of Beverly Hills. She was always at the top of my list and the film’s cinematographer, Tom Richmond, had shot Slums! The best way [to get an actor] is to go through the back door, especially when you’re a drag queen named after Jesus and a first time filmmaker. She read the screenplay and called me directly and we had a talk.

What was she like to work with? Awesome. She’s really smart. Almost scary-smart, like when someone’s so smart it makes you nervous a little bit? She’s definitely got that wisdom. I told her I was inspired to write this by this filmmaker named Doris Wishman, who was really the only woman making grindhouse movies when Herschell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer were. Doris said, Fuck it, I can do what these men are doing and make as much money and exploit women the same way. And Natasha said to me, “I knew her, before she passed away.” Like, who the fuck knew Doris Wishman? That was kismet! I had no idea she loved classic old movies and knew Doris personally. So it’s really a perfect fit. In releasing the film I’m discovering that she has a dedicated fan base and her fans are excited to see her in this movie because it’s the kind of role they love her to play, which is wicked and unhinged.

How about Nightmare on Elm Street hottie, Thomas Dekker? Well, Darren Stein, one of the producers and early champions of me making this movie, is a friend of Thomas. So when I was writing the movie and a part for a young man who loves horror movies and he’s kind of naïve and oblivious to what’s going on around him, but loves all the gore and violence, Thomas was on the Terminator TV show and played John Connor.I went to the set and during lunch in his trailer handed him the screenplay and one of the first things he asked was, “Is it true you know Mink Stole?” I said yeah, and he started quoting lines from John Waters movies and pulled out his DVD collection and it was every horror movie I loved from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. He had every David Lynch movie — he is that kid who loves great underground, transgressive art.

What exactly can we look forward to at this 4D experience? Midnight Mass and Trannyshack and the world I come from is about having fun and not taking yourself too seriously, and one of the things I wanted to do as part of this roll-out is to inject a real spirit of having fun and being ready to participate and dress-up in horror and monster costumes and what we’re calling ‘gore couture.’ We’re really there to have a good time and set the tone for enjoying this over-the-top dark comedy.

How gay are horror films? I think people underestimate how many queer people identify with horror movies. I used to think that was so unique — I’m gay and love horror movies. No. A lot of gay people do. It appeals to our sense of … justice? Darkness? Fantasy? People get to act out things they fantasize about but would never do in life. In general horror movies can be homophobic, misogynist, all the things I don’t like, but they can also be so over the top, something to not to be taken too seriously. I don’t understand humorless drag queens or horror movies.

What is your view on the state of horror films today? I think a lot of people are really negative because they’re down on the remakes or focused on what is making the most money but I would say just dig a little bit deeper because there are some incredible things going on in the world of indie horror. One of the things super exciting about the NYC engagement is I’m going to be introduced by Alan Rowe Kelly, who is this truly indie horror filmmaker working out of NYC. Look him up and you will see why I am so obsessed with what he is doing. For one, as far as I know, Alan appears as a woman but goes by the pronoun ‘he’ and makes these fabulous horror movies where the queerness and oddness is not the point. They’re just outrageous and wild and bizarre. He’s filming them in New Jersey for no budget and churning them out year after year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

19-year-old kidnapped, sexually assaulted in possible hate crime in Texas' Big Bend area

A 19-year-old West Texas man was kidnapped and repeatedly sexually assaulted on Sunday in a possible hate crime that’s being compared to the 1998 murder of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.

The Big Bend Gazette, a monthly newspaper in Alpine, reports on its Web site that the victim was kidnapped by two men outside a bar in Terlingua, near the Texas-Mexico border and Big Bend National Park.

The victim was driven in his own vehicle to a remote location in south Brewster County, where the suspects sexually assaulted him and set his car on fire, according to The Big Bend Gazette. The victim was then taken to a private residence in the same area, where he was again sexually assaulted. The victim managed to escape from the home and ran 3 miles across the desert to a highway, where he was eventually found by a sheriff’s deputy at 1 a.m. Monday.

The victim is recovering, and the two suspects have been arrested, according to The Big Bend Gazette. Daniel Martinez, 46, is charged with sexual assault. Kristopher Buchanan, 27, is being held on outstanding warrants from other counties. Additional charges against both suspects are pending.

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson didn’t return phone messages left by Dallas Voice on Wednesday.

John Waters, publisher of the Big Bend Gazette, said Wednesday that it’s unclear whether the attack was an anti-gay hate crime. But he said he contacted Equality Texas on Tuesday to get more information about anti-gay hate crimes in the wake of the incident.

Equality Texas political director Randall Terrell, who spoke with Waters, told Dallas Voice on Wednesday that although many of the facts aren’t yet known, “It sounds like Matthew Shepard all over again.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates on the case.

—  John Wright