#TBT: Happy Birthday, John Waters!

Filmmaker, writer and photographer John Waters turns 70 this Friday, April 22, so for this Throwback Thursday, let's take a look at his long career.

Waters got his start making wild transgressive camp movies in the 1970s. Using a cast of regulars and a Baltimore setting, his black comedies featured desperate people doing outrageous things. In Pink Flamingos, for example, people do a litany of depraved acts (cannibalism! murder! scatology!) to earn the right to the title of filthiest person alive.

Hairspray, a movie from his later, mellower, more mainstream period, combines civil rights and TV dance competitions, and served as the basis of a Tony award-winning Broadway musical.

For more on his work for the big screen, check out his films and screenplays.

Of his written work, I like Role Models the best. The first chapter, while about Johnny Mathis, lyrically ranges over a dozen examples of people living the creative life. The chapters in this book are not short homilies about noble people. Instead they are wildly digressive and full of ideas and people who could have been and occasionally were in a John Waters movie. One whole chapter is about the dive bars of Baltimore, a wonderful read in itself. Many of the chapters are self-contained gems. I frequently stopped and fact checked the people mentioned in the book—Did they really exist? And so far, yes they do!

Role Models is also available as a downloadable audiobook.

Carsick, Waters' tale of hitchhiking across the country, is so over the top I found it hard to believe, but it'll get you laughing.

Carsick is available in other formats.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library