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John Waters' Youth Manifesto

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John Waters
John Waters Photography by Maurice Haas

John Waters, cult filmmaker, comedian and "humble trash elder" proclaims the importance of LSD and seeking adventure in his Youth Manifesto

John Waters is the self-styled “Pope of Trash”. He’s the man who spent his teenage years taking LSD in the suburbs of Baltimore with Divine, who he later directed to eat dog shit in the cult film Pink Flamingoes. He’s also the author of the single best piece of romantic advice ever given: “If you go home with someone, and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck them.” So with the latter quip in mind, we looked through his fantastic interview with Cath Clarke, featured in the latest issue of AnOther Magazine, and sculpted the John Waters Youth Manifesto, an enlightening guide to growing up in the style of a pencil-moustached renegade. From dealing with bullies to how to stay young, this is an unconventional guide to life, imbued with the wit and wisdom of this perennially odd yet contagiously optimistic man.

John Waters on finding friends...
"I was curious. I was interested in human behaviour and things I didn’t understand. I always had extreme friends and we all took LSD together, which was an incredible bonding experience. However we were raised, we were running from our backgrounds to form some new thing, based on humour and excitement, adventure. Which is what all kids should have – adventure."

John Waters and Divine
John Waters and Divine Photo by Nelson Giles © Dreamland Productions

John Waters on beating the bullies...
"I think the people who beat me up realised I hated authority more than they did. But you can’t tell parents that: “Just make sure your children hate authority and they’ll do fine.”

John Waters on taking drugs...
"School was difficult but as soon as I took LSD it didn’t matter. Everything changed. My mother says: “Don’t tell young people that!” But it’s true. LSD gave me the confidence to do what I wanted. Once I took LSD, I didn’t care what people thought."

John Waters on parents...
"That’s the only thing you have to do with your kids. Make them feel safe. A kid can be crazy; they can be everything. But they have to feel safe. And it’s hard. My parents did that, and it’s why I never really went off the deep end."

John Waters with his parents, 1979
John Waters with his parents, 1979 Photo by Thornton Daniels, courtesy of John Waters

John Waters on regrets...
"It’s the only thing I’ve ever regretted in my whole life, smoking cigarettes. Because it was a nightmare giving up. It’s the only thing the government ever told me that was true: It does kill you! It was the hardest thing in my life, and I write it down every day. I’m on day 4,006 of giving up."

John Waters on staying young...
"I have youth spies, people that report to me and I give them poppers for good information. But mostly I’m still interested in life. I don’t think it was better when I was young. I think the kids that are 15 and getting into trouble are having as much fun as I did. So I’m still curious. I don’t have fear of flying. I have fear of not flying. Always thinking that tomorrow is going to be better than yesterday.”

Read the full interview in AnOther Magazine S/S14, out now. John Waters: Bad Director's Chair is at Sprüth Magers, Berlin until April 12.

Interview by Cath Clark
Intro by Tish Wrigley

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