One beloved Baltimore artist paid homage to another at the New York edition of the Writers Guild Awards ceremony last night. The Wire’s David Simon introduced John Waters, who was receiving the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement. Simon recounted how he “completely humiliated“ himself when he first met Waters as a reporter covering a memorial for Edith Massey, otherwise known as “the Egg Lady,” and was more interested in her “outrageousness” than her humanity.
The two eventually became close enough that Waters officiated Simon‘s wedding to his wife Laura Lippman. But Simon didn’t dwell on anecdotes about his friendship with the legendary writer-director. Instead, the crux of Simon’s speech was his eloquent articulation of Waters’ ”gift,” which is simply: “Fuck normal.” Here’s an excerpt:
Fuck normal. Fuck normal. There is no normal. Normal’s a lie. Normal’s a lock gate, a wall, a prison. Normal is a fascistic sentiment and one that prevailed within the American experiment for far too long. Indeed today in this country we are witnessing the last retrograde and reactionary assertion for whatever normal is supposed to be. John’s filmmaking and storytelling from the guerrilla effrontery of Pink Flamingos to the sweet civic affirmations of Hairspray are among the most eloquent arguments against standardized modes of being ever lensed. None of us are normal—Black, white, brown, Jew, Gentile, Muslim, atheist, Satanist, gay, straight, bi, transgender, whatever. The more honestly you assess all the varied allegiances, motivations, and impulses that cause human beings to get up in the morning and face the world and each other, the more you know that none of us is close to normal. Conjure even the known secrets of yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors and realize how ridiculous the very idea of normal is. Hell, if you find anyone with political and social opinions that soothe, someone without racial or religious idiosyncrasy, someone without sexuality that veers from the strict heterogenous application of the lights off missionary position, someone with 2.1 kids and a two-car garage and un-rusted lawn furniture on the manicured patio of their split-level rancher, I will argue that nothing’s more fucking abnormal than that. All of us are at least two standard deviations from the mean. If you think you’re not, it’s probably time to reflect on the grievous possibility of an un-lived life. Other writers and filmmakers and social voices have argued this very thing in their work. But pound for pound I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a greater and more influential enemy of normal and the lie that normal forces upon human lives than John Waters.
And, true to form, Waters took the stage to accept his honor and proudly cribbed from his screenplay for Female Trouble: “I wouldn’t suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls. I wrote that! Oh, we had dialogue then.” In his speech Waters took aim at some of his pet peeves, arguing that the WGA should curtail ad-libbing actors, editors who remove dialogue without “Writers Guild permission,” and hackneyed voiceovers added in post-production. He ended by self-quoting once again. “Make a list of all the people you fucked, and then apologize to their parents,” he said, invoking A Dirty Shame. “See, I got an award for writing that line. Anything is possible.”