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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 30.0° F  Partly Cloudy
The Paper


Cinematic shockmeister John Waters comes to Madison
A very tasteless Christmas

Waters: 'I'm always really frightened at living crèches.'
Waters: 'I'm always really frightened at living crèches.'
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It just doesn't feel like Christmas until an enraged drag queen screams "Fuck you!" at her parents, stomps on the gifts and pins her pleading mother under the gaily decorated tree. That iconic moment in Female Trouble, the 1974 film by jovial provocateur John Waters, features the writer-director's rotund, cross-dressing muse Divine (1945-1988).

Waters presents his one-man show A John Waters Christmas at the Barrymore Theatre Dec. 14. I asked him about Female Trouble and other cherished holiday traditions.

What can audiences expect to see in A John Waters Christmas?

I hope a well-written spoken-word act that covers every possible thing that can happen at Christmas. If you love Christmas, if you hate Christmas. If it makes you commit crimes at Christmas, if it makes you sexually turned on at Christmas. If it makes you feel abused - religiously, family-wise. If you buy presents, if you shoplift presents, if you take presents back and if you get no presents. I have advice for everybody.

Why this show?

This is probably the 10th Christmas season I've done it. I'm like Johnny Mathis. If it's Christmas, I'm working. A spoken-word act is another way I have to tell stories.

One of my favorite Christmas scenes is in Female Trouble. In addition to that, do you have Christmas associations with Divine?

Divine had Christmas lunacy. He almost went to jail at Christmas because he would go so crazy for Christmas decorations. He would charge huge amounts. Once the police came for bad checks. He denied it, and they made him take a lie detector test. He passed the lie detector test even though he was lying, and that's when I knew Divine was a good actor.

Love it or hate it, you can either participate in Christmas or -

You can't hide from it, and that's why I think you have to embrace it, even if you hate it. Because you can make fun of it, or you can subvert the rules of Christmas. I decorate the electric chair from Female Trouble. I also have a Unabomber birdhouse that I decorate.

I have not-great Christmas memories from childhood, and it's stressful.

If something terrible happened to you on Christmas, you need to get that out of your system. So maybe you go to a shrink on Christmas.

Do you have particular Christmas memories from childhood?

I'm always really frightened at living crèches. Whenever I see them, it's such a Diane Arbus moment. There's hay, and candles, with people putting their babies in there. Don't they know about fires and donkeys kicking people? They always seem like a disaster waiting to happen.

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