John Waters Explains His Love for S.F. Muni, the Roxie Theater, and Die Antwoord

Categories: Q&A
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John Waters
Among other things -- like making movies and stuff -- film director John Waters is known for possessing a sick affection for public transportation in San Francisco. The part-time S.F. resident is coming to town for a performance of his Christmas show tomorrow (Saturday) night, a benefit for the Roxie Theater. (Tickets are $250 and go to support the nonprofit Mission moviehouse.) Naturally, we couldn't resist asking Waters to explain why he likes Muni so much, his history with the Roxie, and which rappers he's digging.

How much time do you spend in S.F. these days?

Depends. I come out there whenever I can. I really hitchhike. If anybody ever says to me, "Would you like to do something?" I say, "Where is it?" Especially if it's in L.A., I'm, "Oh yeah, I'll come," then I come to San Francisco. I hitchhike with airlines, with air fees.

That's cool.
In the old days I used to get drive-away cars and drive across the country, where you could get somebody's car for free -- and who would ever have given me their car then? But nothing bad ever happened to them. They still have that. Now they pay you, I think. In those days you had to pay for your own gas, even, but it was a free way to get there.

But who would have given you their car?
I know, and I brought all [these] other people with me, and you're only supposed to have one. But you know what? They always got their car, I never ripped them off. That and I never had an accident or anything.

Did you do anything crazy in the cars?
Oh [laughs] yes! I mean, not armed robbery. It depends on what you definition of crazy is. Certainly smoking pot and singing "God Bless America" as we drove through Utah with the sun coming up. But I wouldn't call that so radical in the '60s. It was too scary to get out of the car then anywhere then in America, what we looked like. I was with David Lochary, who had dyed gray hair with the roots in a shape of a heart -- before punk rock. So getting out of the car was an adventure you didn't want to take. Especially in the daylight.

Stay in from California to Chicago or whatever.
Actually on the way, the first time I ever drove, we had to let one of the passengers off in the mental institution on the way, before we got to Chicago. It was quite a trip. She was in the car with us, having a kind of breakdown right from the beginning. And it was an adventure -- I'm still friends with her. She would look to other families and yell "Help," which is not the best way to start out a trip driving across the country -- yelling, "Help, there are drugs in the car!" Anyway, now I fly first class. Things have changed, but ... my apartment is a few blocks from where I lived in my car when I was first coming to San Francisco, so I'm not that different. Now I just spend more money to wear clothes that look like rags. That then were rags. So it's really not so different.

You got the apartment fairly recently. What prompted that?
When I was young, San Francisco was one of the first places my films ever caught on so I always came to San Francisco, I always had friends here. It was kind of a fantasty I had. A friend of mine, who's a film distributor, I was visiting him and he said he was selling his apartment, I said, "You are? Maybe I'll buy it." And I did. And I love being there.

It's really really nice -- one of my favorite cities in the world. I'm thrilled to be coming back for the Roxie, which I've been going to for my whole life. But it's the only one that's still the same ... it still has this mission of being a real movie theater in the old-fashioned way -- of being a calendar house and showing new movies, old movies, extreme movies. It's an extremely great movie theater.

You're doing the Christmas show there. I guess it's been a while since you did that here.
I try not to do it for at least two or three years each time when I come to a city, because I think we need to get a new audience. It'll be good, I think, I hope. It costs a lot to see me this time, too, but it's going for a cause. It's not like I'm suddenly a Broadway ticket that is charging VIP seats. This is a benefit. So hopefully we'll have very cool rich people, or rich thieves who've stolen the money.

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