John Waters—filmmaker, actor, writer, mensch—has a new book out: Role Models. We talked about it recently on KPFK 90.7FM in Los Angeles.
Q. You reveal in your new book that Johnny Mathis is one of your heroes. But I was shocked to learn that, when you went to his house, you saw a picture of him with George Bush.
A. I have pictures in my house that are worse. On my coffee table I have a textbook “Surgery of the Anus.”
Q. That’s not worse than a photo of George Bush.
A. Okay, I have a cigarette lighter that’s a crucifix.
Q. The problem is that apparently Johnny Mathis is a Republican.
A. I guess so. I didn’t ask him. So what? Why do all liberals seem shocked when people disagree with them? My assistant’s a Republican. I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I’m a limousine liberal. I only voted for Obama because he was a friend of Bill Ayres. Republicans hate Obama as much as we hated Bush. Let’s hope that this November they aren’t as smart as we were last time.
Q. You report that Nancy Reagan would come over to Johnny Mathis’s house to sing Christmas carols.
A. I read that in a magazine. So what? Patty Hearst comes over to my house. What’s the difference?
Q. You made Patty Hearst a star.
A. She was a star anyway—a reluctant one. So Nancy Reagan comes over to Johnny Mathis’s house to sing Christmas carols — that doesn’t mean they’re talking politics. To me, Johnny Mathis is a great man. He’s a gentleman, and he can still sing. There’s no oldies act there. He’s beyond fame.
Q. You were raised a Catholic. What do you think about the sexual abuse scandal in the Church?
A. People who become child molesters are terrible. They rob children of their dreams. I’m against NAMBLA, I’m against all of it. However, I don’t think anyone chooses to be a child molester. I’ve taught child molesters in prison, I could pick them out the first day. But I think that people who hide child molesters do have a choice. In my mind, they are worse than the molesters themselves. They are hiding them for money, to avoid being sued, and to protect a religion that in my mind is against most everything I believe in.
Q. You went to Catholic high school. Did the sexual abuse scandal in the Church affect you at all?
A. I got a call from an organization of kids who had been abused by one teacher at my high school. He was there when I was, but I didn’t remember him, and these reports came from later. They asked me to help, and I said “He certainly never had sex with me.” I hung up, and then I thought, “I was even rejected by the child molester. Should I be happy about that — or is that another kind of rejection in high school?” I didn’t know how to take it.