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John Waters is an American filmmaker, writer, and artist who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films, which have earned him the titles "pope of[…]

Waters tells about some of his favorite bars, including those rare gay bars that play rap music. “Rap music, for some reason, really alienates gay people, which makes me laugh.”

Question: You must know some great offbeat bars around the country. What are they like?

John Waters: I do, but I don’t know that there are any left in New York, really.  There’s places I go, but they’re all filled with irony.  They’re all faux-something.  The fact that you move to New York makes you faux-something.  There’s bars in Baltimore that I take New York friends to that are really alarmed by them.  They can’t believe they’re out... that would be impossible to have in New York because they’re blue collar bars.  They’re like, they don’t have that here.  Maybe they have it in Queens, but they’re not going to have it in Manhattan.  You can’t even have hipster bars here.  You have to live in Brooklyn because it’s too expensive to live in Manhattan.  

So, I’m just saying, I do know there’s bars in Baltimore.  I know a few in San Francisco where I live.  I know really none in Manhattan.  I mean, there’s places I go that I like, but I can’t say that I know a real dive bar that is filled with characters that are New York characters.  There probably is, I don’t know it.   

What makes a bar great?

John Waters: For me, undiscovered... Blue-collar definitely.  A certain tension from the type of people that go there, and rap music.  I always love to have rap music.  It keeps away a lot of people I don’t like.  I especially love gay bars that have rap music.  That really works.  There’s only, I’ve only been to about two in my whole life... And not a totally black one either.  Just like where it plays.  Because rap music, for some reason, really alienates gay people, which makes me laugh.

What else makes John Waters laugh?

John Waters: Wit makes me laugh, not jokes.  I hate when people say, I have a joke to tell you.  I go, "ah, la, la, la, please." I hate it when somebody tells me a joke because they’re never funny.  But I like people’s wit, I like to be surprised.  Or I like somebody that is totally clueless that says something that takes my breath away, just overheard dialogue, like the guy I asked in the bar, “What do you do for a living?”  And he said, “I trade deer meat for crack.”  He was serious.  He wasn’t telling me this... but what dialogue.  I could inspire an entire movie from that one line because there’s a lot of backup questions there.  But unfortunately, he was at my house and my friends said, “I’ll get rid of him because there were a bunch of people that came over after a bar... not for anything as exciting as you might imagine.

Recorded September 10, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller