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Divine and friends action figures from John Waters’ ‘Female Trouble’

“Mr. Wineberger, Dawn Davenport is eating a meatball sandwich right out in CLAESS!”
Divine’s official social media guru directed my attention, yesterday, to the work of sculptor Tyson Tabbert, who recently created a batch of “action figures” for John Waters’ masterpiece Female Trouble.

In Female Trouble, perhaps Waters’ best film, Divine plays Dawn Davenport, career criminal and fame seeker. An addiction to injected liquid eyeliner sends her on a berserk crime spree, ending in art/murder. In one of its most famous scenes, Dawn destroys the family Christmas when she doesn’t receive the gift of “cha cha heels” she is expecting. “Nice girls,” it turns out, “don’t wear cha cha heels.”

Tabbert has created an entire playset devoted to this iconic cinematic scene.

Unfortunately, according to Tabbert’s Instagram, the figures are not for sale. But maybe if enough people beg him? I know I’d throw down for the “Female Trouble Christmas Morning Playset.” It would have a place of honor every year, right next to the Nativity and Christmas shit log.


More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
A sackful of holiday greetings from Divine, Edie the Egglady & Miss Jean Hill (NSFW)

Here are the grand goddesses of John Waters’ Dreamland repertory company, Divine, Edith Massey, and Jean Hill, making spirits bright for the holidays in this collection of pin-up photos.

Though all three performers have sadly left this planet (Divine in 1988, Edie in 1984, and Jean Hill in 2013), their beauty and glamour lives on.

The majority of these photos were taken for novelty Christmas cards in the ‘80s—the sort you would have found at a Spencer’s Gifts back in the day.



More after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Cool T-shirts featuring Ken Russell, Klaus Nomi, John Waters, Sylvia Plath & more

It’s getting near that time for buying presents and shit. The one present I’ll certainly be adding to my holiday wish list of hoped-for Christmas goodies is a Ken Russell T-shirt from Hirsute History.

The l’enfant terrible genius of British cinema, Unkle Ken—the man responsible for such classic movies as Women in Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils, Tommy and Altered States—is just one of the many hirsute heroes to be found on a range of colorful clothing available from Hirsute History at Amphorphia Apparel. Here he joins Sylvia Plath, John Waters, Susan Sontag, Jerry Garcia, Ada Lovelace and a whole bunch of other artists, scientists, ideas and stars that’ll look good on your body.

So, if you fancy wearing a Ken Russell or an Ada Lovelace, then hop over to the site or get a retina burn from the selection below.
Ken Russell.
Sylvia Plath.
Groucho Marx.
More fab T-shirts, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
American Gothic version of Divine and John Waters

There’s really not much to say about this fantastic painting of Divine and John Waters taking the place of the old prairie couple in Grant Wood’s iconic 1930 painting “American Gothic.” I simply dig it.

I had a hard time tracking down the artist as I misread the signature as GG Allin. To be honest for a few moments there I actually thought the late shit-hurling hate rocker painted this. The artisit’s name is spelled GIGI ALLIN and here are links to her Instagram and website.

The work in progress via Instagram
Via Divine on Facebook

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully’: John Waters’ commencement speech at RISD
11:07 am

Current Events

John Waters


I should say right off that I am really qualified to be your commencement speaker. I was suspended from high school, then kicked out of college in the first marijuana scandal ever on a university campus. I’ve been arrested several times. I’ve been known to dress in ludicrous fashions. I’ve also built a career out of negative reviews, and have been called “the prince of puke” by the press. And most recently a title I’m really proud of: “the people’s pervert.” I am honoured to be here today with my people. ~ John Waters

Seriously, just stop what you’re doing and give your undivided attention to John Waters as he gives one of the best commencement speeches EVER to the Rhode Island School of Design’s graduating class of 2015. Waters nails it. Every damn bit of it.

You’re lucky. When I went to school, my teachers discouraged every dream I ever had. I wanted to be the filthiest person alive, but no school would let me. I bet RISD would’ve. You could possibly even make a snuff movie here and get an A+. Hopefully you have been taught never to fear rejection in the workplace. Remember, a no is free. Ask for the world and pay no mind if you are initially turned down. A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip: All you need is one person to say “Get in” and off you go. And then the confidence begins.


Never be like some of my generation who say “We had more fun in the ’60s.” No, we didn’t! The kids today who still live with their parents who haven’t seen them in months but leave food outside their bedroom doors are having just as much fun shutting down the government of foreign countries on their computer as we did banning the bomb.

If you’d like to read the entire transcript, you can find one here.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Insanely adorable amigurumi of Divine and John Waters
02:43 pm

Pop Culture

John Waters

Pope of Trash John Waters and Divine (“the filthiest person alive”) couldn’t look anymore adorable as amigurumi by knitting maven Captain Howdee. I just want to squish the hell out of these dolls ‘cause they’re so damned cute.

These were posted on Captain Howdee’s Flicker page back in 2007. I not sure if they’re for sale, but oh my gawd do I wish they were! I’d like to see an Edith Massey amigurumi. Imagine what that would look like! Why not a David Lochary doll, too?

via Divine on Facebook

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
John Waters eulogizes Dead Boy Stiv Bators in heartfelt video tribute
10:00 am


John Waters
Stiv Bators

The untimely passing of Stiv Bators is one of the most unexpected deaths in punk history. After years of onstage self-mutilation, brutal falls, and even an incident of theatrical hanging gone wrong that left him medically dead for several minutes, Stiv was hit by a car in Paris in 1990. He even walked away from the ER feeling fine, without seeing a doctor, only to die in his sleep later from a concussion. Bators, by all accounts a sweet guy, was mourned by many, including John Waters, who directed his brilliant performance as the dirtbag Bo-Bo in Polyester. The video eulogy you see below is a sincere moment of tenderness for the Pope of Trash, and a fitting tribute for such a lovely, disgusting punk legend.

In the director’s commentary on the Polyester DVD, Waters remarks that Bators’ girlfriend Caroline—who sprinkled his ashes across Jim Morrison’s gravesite in Paris—confessed to him that she snorted a bit of Stiv’s ashes to feel more connected to him

(Iggy Pop’s tearful videotaped condolences to Stiv’s parents are also quite moving, if you’re near a box of Kleenex.)

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
John Waters on ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’!

There’s no way that the director of Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, and Female Trouble could live in a boring house; viewers across the country got a good glimpse of the home of John Waters when the intolerable Robin Leach and the crew of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous paid a visit to his house in the suburbs of Baltimore.

Pretty much every moment of the episode is solid gold. Waters plays up the occasion for maximum humor, while also treating viewers to a glimpse of his favorite Baltimore watering hole, the Club Charles.

John Waters is amazing as always, but some of the best lines here are intoned in Robin Leach’s patented plummy shriek: “It is the house of a man who wrote the book on schlock value and plays it for all it’s worth! ... The man who calls the shots swears he has three all-time idols: Anita Ekberg, Liberace, and Francis the Talking Mule!” (In between those two statements we see Waters’ receptionist inform him that Mother Theresa is on the line, to which Waters responds with an irritated, “Tell her I’ll call her back!”)

More Leach: “It’s a fine line between parody and the macabre: A jar of dirt from the lawn of mass murderer John Wayne Gacy sits next to polio vaccine!” I was trying to figure out the timing of this…. there is a reference to some more profitable movies Waters has made, so I suppose it has to be after Hairspray in 1987.

Also, check out Rookie Mag’s gallery of pics taken at Waters’ home.

(Poster by Sarah Hedlund)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
John Waters calls ‘Fuego’ ‘a hetero film for gay people to marvel at’
01:13 pm


John Waters

From the Dangerous Minds archives: For those of you snowed in today, here’s a sizzling hot cult film to keep you warm. Highly recommended!

I first heard about Armando Bo’s lusty 1969 Argentinian sexploitation film Fuego (“Fire”) due to John Waters championing of the film, but I didn’t actually get to see it until last night. I’m always interested in seeing something that John Waters is enthusiastic about and I reckon that quite a few of you feel the same way. If so, then you need to watch Fuego toot sweet.

It does not disappoint.

Fuego stars the outrageously hot, extremely well-endowed Isabel Sarli, who has the sort of “brick shithouse” build that Russ Meyer was so very fond of. Fuego and Meyer’s Vixen would make a great “ants in her pants” double bill, but a more appropriate match-up would be Female Trouble and Fuego, which now that I’ve seen it, was obviously a big influence not only on John Waters, but also on Divine. Much of Dawn Davenport—the character’s fashion sense, walk and bouffant hairdo—would appear to be closely modeled on Isabel Sarli. Sarli was also an outrageously hammy actress and Divine just took her already over-the-top “undulating” acting style and turned the volume up to 11.

Sarli plays the insatiable, irresistible Laura and in this role, lemme tell ya, she is perfectly cast. Laura is a complete uninhibited and naturally this gives Sarli plenty of excuses to doff her duds, which she does constantly and we see her engaged in trysts with both men (any man seems to do, her catchphrase—normally screamed—is “I need men!!!”) and with her older, lizard-like lesbian maid. A wealthy businessman named Carlos (director Armando Bo, who also wrote the script and the insanely incessant music) sees some girl-on-much-older-girl action on the beach and later attends a party at Laura’s boyfriend’s house. Soon Carlos is seeing Laura, but he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. She roams the streets flashing her tits and he is constantly catching her in bed with other dudes. It happens a lot.

The first part of Fuego is where most of the skin is shown, whereas the later half is talkier, more melodramatic and way more nuts. Laura realizes that her uncontrollable urges are causing her husband grief when he nearly kills an electrician he catches her bonking. They go to a “sex expert” to discuss what can be done about her “condition” (a Pocket Rocket might help...) During a gynecological exam, Laura has a thundering orgasm. The pair travel all the way to New York where Carlos is told by a doctor there that the only thing that can save Laura is his unwavering love.

I won’t tell you how it ends, but when you know in advance that Armando Bo and Isabel Sarli made 27 films together—with her rolling around with little to nothing on in every single one of them—and that they were famously lovers for years (although he never left his wife for her), you can start to project all sorts of psychological things onto Fuego. First off, Bo wrote the script and so he therefore wrote the cuckold role for himself. There’s also the voyeuristic aspect of Bo arranging to see his woman getting her tits out for so many other guys.

There’s a certain “subtext” to Fuego, let’s just say.

Waters calls Fuego: “A hetero film for gay people to marvel at” and truly, it’s a movie that covers all the bases. I’d recommend watching it in a group, like Birdemic or something like that. It’s enjoyable no matter what, but like most “so bad that it’s good” movies, experiencing it for the first time with other people is the way to go. I also recommend the dubbed version (below), the actors obviously had fun with it.

Armando Bo died in 1981 and Sarli stopped making films. She is now a cult figure with a devoted following. Sarli was feted at Lincoln Center in 2010.


The NSFW trailer for Fuego:

In the clip below from his John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You show, the Fellini of Baltimore waxes poetic about one of his favorite films, admits that he “stole” a lot of stuff from Fuego and you can see some of the opening titles:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
It’s ‘Pink Flamingos’—for kids!
11:04 am


John Waters
Pink Flamingos

The great outré film director John Waters will be screening his new movie Kiddie Flamingos in January, which reportedly depicts children performing a table read of his signature film, the utterly perverse midnight movie classic Pink Flamingos. This is Waters’ first new filmed work since 2004’s gleefully oversexed A Dirty Shame. Per ArtNews:

Called Kiddie Flamingos, the video depicts a table read of Waters’ 1972 film Pink Flamingos, which is as full of any kind of obscenity and depravity that one would hope to imagine–only here it’s been recast as a children’s movie, with child actors and all the X-Rated content “defanged and desexualized,” according to the gallery, which also calls this G-rated version “more perverse than the original.”

I am dying to know how a script as unabashedly raunchy as Pink Flamingos’ could possibly be bowdlerized into kid-safeness while leaving ANY of its plot intact. The film depicts a sexual act with a chicken, mother-son incest, murder, a singing butthole, the kidnapping and confinement of women for forced breeding, and, probably most infamously, the actual consumption of dog shit on camera. Screenings will be held at NYC’s Marianne Boesky Gallery, on W 24th St in Chelsea, as part of Waters’ exhibit “Beverly Hills John,” which is scheduled to run from January 9 - February 14, 2015.

Enjoy the original theatrical trailer for Pink Flamingos. As Waters himself points out in its brief introduction, it’s a montage of audience reactions, and no actual scenes from the film are shown!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Young, loud, snotty: Famous punks just hanging out

Jello Biafra at Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1978 by Jim Jocoy
Jello Biafra at Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1978
Jim Jocoy and his family left their home in South Korea and arrived in the town of Sunnyvale, California, when Jocoy was only 17. He enrolled at UC Santa Cruz, but later dropped out once he discovered the burgeoning punk scene that was exploding all around him. Jocoy got a gig at a Xerox store, hung out at punk clubs by night and started up a punk zine with his friends called Widows and Orphans. That’s when Jocoy decided to pick up a camera and started shooting photos of his friends and bands whenever he happened to find himself someplace interesting. Jocoy found himself in lots of interesting places.

Olga de Volga of the San Francisco band VS. Geary Street Theatre, SF 1980 Jim Jocoy
Olga de Volga of the San Francisco band VS., Geary Street Theatre, SF 1980
Jocoy’s remarkable photos ended up in a book in 2002 called We’re Desperate. I reached out to Jocoy in an email, and the photographer graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions about his days growing up as a young punk in California.
Sid Vicious. San Francisco, January 14th, 1978 by Jim Jocoy
Sid Vicious, San Francisco, January 14th, 1978
Tell me about your now infamous photo of Sid Vicious.

Jim Jocoy: The photo of Sid was taken after the last Sex Pistols show in SF. They performed at Winterland on Jan. 14, 1978. He took a cab to my friend Lamar St John’s apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district. I was outside as the cab pulled up. He was alone and got out and pissed in the middle of the street before going into the apartment. I ran into him in the hallway and asked if I could take a Polaroid photo. He nodded yes and that was it. He spent most of the evening in the bathroom with a couple of “fans”.
William Burrough's at his 70th birthday party in SF, 1984 Jim Jocoy
William Burroughs at his 70th birthday party in San Francisco, 1984

I understand that you presented a slide show of your photos to William Burroughs in honor of his 70th birthday. How did that go?

Jim Jocoy: The party was held at a warehouse in the Mission district belonging to the artist Mark McCloud. He was known for his (real) LSD postage stamp art. Burroughs allowed me to take a photo of him that evening. He wore an nice blue suit and had his briefcase in hand.

What’s your favorite memory of a show you saw back in the day that really blew your mind?

Jim Jocoy: I would have to say it was the first Ramones’ show in SF at the Savoy Tivoli on August 19th, 1976. It lasted about 30 minutes without a break, only “one, two, three, four!” between songs by Dee Dee. It was such a sonic boom of pure rock energy as I had never heard before. It was in the tiny back room of the bar/restaurant. It was like ground zero for launching the punk rock scene in San Francisco. A few weeks later, many of the seminal SF punk bands started performing regularly at the Mabuhay Gardens, the first main punk rock venue in the city.
Punk girl in leather SF 1978 Jim Jocoy
Punk girl in leather skirt, SF 1978
Jocoy’s photos were only shown in public twice (one of those times was at Burroughs’ birthday party), and then were stored away for almost two-decades before seeing the light of day once again between the covers of We’re Desperate. So here’s a glimpse of what punk rock looked like back in the late 70s and early 80s, through the lens of a simple 35mm camera with an oversized flash taken by a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Many thanks to Jim Jocoy for the use of his photos and captions (written by Jim) in this post.
John Waters at the Deaf Club in SF, 1980 by Jim Jocoy
John Waters at the Deaf Club in SF, 1980
Johnny Genocide Geary Street Theatre SF, 1980 Jim Jocoy
Johnny Genocide, Geary Street Theatre in SF, 1980
Poison Ivy of the Cramps in the dressing room of the Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979 Jim Jocoy
Poison Ivy of the Cramps in the dressing room of Mabuhay Gardens, SF 1979
More young punks after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
John Waters calls it ‘the worst taste thing I ever did,’ Divine in ‘The Diane Linkletter Story’
10:44 am


John Waters
Diane Linkletter

In my tireless quest to become a John Waters completest, I’ve been perusing his interviews and writings for lesser-known films. So imagine my thrill at finding his 1970 16mm short, The Diane Linkletter Story on the humble platform of YouTube! (Okay, don’t hate me because I didn’t even have to trek my ass down to a repertory cinema. I’m in my 20s. Do those even still exist?) For the uninitiated, Diane Linkletter was the daughter of Art Linkletter, a family-friendly media father-figure, and host of such wholesome television fodder as, Kids Say the Darndest Things!. Art was also a staunch conservative, and by the late sixties he was touring the country, giving lectures on the growing “Permissiveness in this Society.” But what really solidified his “brand” as the nation’s moralizing Republican dad was his “duet,” with Diane, “We Love You, Call Collect.” (If you’ve never heard it, click the link, and try not to puke.)

The spoken word recording is among the most insipid drivel I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard “The Christmas Shoes.” Over a maudlin score, Art and Diane read aloud a fictionalized correspondence between father and daughter. The daughter has run off to join the counterculture, and the father gives loving advice while begging her to come home, or at least call. This wild child is breaking her dear dad’s heart, and the listener is meant to sympathize with the family, but ultimately blame the daughter and the decaying morals of our time. It’s quite the pearl-clutcher.

Tragically, in October of 1969,  just months after the release of “We Love You, Call Collect,” Diane Linkletter jumped from a sixth floor window to her death. Perhaps from grief, maybe he believed it or maybe even to do some damage control, Art Linkletter quickly told the press that Diane had only jumped under the influence of LSD. When Diane’s toxicology report came back clean, he still stuck to his story, with a second career as an anti-drug crusader. Art and his late daughter even won the 1970 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording, and Art maintained that all proceeds from the record went “to combat problems arising from drug abuse,” whatever that means.

Starring Divine as Diane, and Waters regulars Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary as Ma and Pa Linkletter, The Diane Linkletter Story is a satirical interpretation of Diane’s final moments, similar to the style of drug moral panic films of the time. It even opens and ends with excerpts from “We Love You, Call Collect.” But that’s not the worst of it.

Waters actually made the movie the day Diane’s death made it in to the papers, and showed it before the funeral even happened.

I think the film is a gem, and it’s not like the surviving Linkletters were going to make their way up to Baltimore to see it. Waters has since praised the idea as an excellent exercise in creativity—instant movie-making from the headlines of today. And before you get too sensitive, he’s since found out what everyone with half a nose for Republican careerism had already suspected—that Linkletter always knew Diane’s death wasn’t drug-related, but in fact used his daughter’s suicide to push his anti-drug political agenda—so who’s in bad taste now?

Below, a cringe-worthy “showdown” takes place when douchey conservative TV host pits Art Linkletter (on phone) against Timothy Leary, the man he blamed for his daughter’s death:

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Tennessee Williams saved my life’: John Waters talks role models in animated short
09:19 am


John Waters
Tennessee Williams

A young John Waters, already a foxy creep beyond his years
I know he’d probably hate to hear me say this, but this clip from a recent John Waters interview at the New York Public Library is so sweet and sentimental, it almost feels wholesome. And I mean that in a good way, I swear! Waters starts by praising the squeaky clean chanteur Johnny Mathis, whom he believes can mend the partisan rift in our country with his mirror-fogging make-out tunes (I adore Mathis, but since my mother was named for one of his songs, he’s a pretty solid mood-killer in my book).

The interview starts to turn up the pathos when The Pope of Trash starts talking Tennessee Williams, and it reaches critical mass when he speaks warmly of his supportive parents, who really went out of their way to encourage their admittedly very strange son.

The animation is pretty clever, too. The drawings were scratched out on the fly, in real time during the interview, and given life afterwards. The very first image suggests artist Flash Rosenberg is familiar with Divine’s most famous scene from Pink Flamingos—-but not to fear, it turns out to be a cinnamon roll!

Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The nose knows: John Waters’ brilliant ‘Odorama’ gimmick in ‘Polyester’ remembered
09:39 am


John Waters

Polyester, Odorama
I think most cinematically literate people are aware that John Waters exploited the decades-old yet ignored concept of making the nose an integral part of the cinematic experience when he made his sixth feature, Polyester, in 1981. I’ve known that since I was a teenager, and I knew that it relied on the use of scratch and sniff cards distributed to the audience. But I’ve never been to a screening where that happened; how often do those happen? I don’t even know what the smells represented on the card were, although I can well imagine at least a couple of them.

Whether consciously or otherwise, Polyester refers back to the grandaddy of all olfactory motion picture experiences, Scent of Mystery, which exploited the exciting and surely soon-to-be-ubiquitous technique called “Smell-O-Vision,” which featured the immortal tagline, “First they moved (1895)! Then they talked (1927)! Now they smell!” Smell-O-Vision used a far more ambitious system involving pipes and stuff. (When the mechanism didn’t work properly on the first night, the fate of Smell-O-Vision was sealed.)  Oddly, Scent of Mystery had a pretty good cast, including Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lorre, and Denholm Elliott. (I was about to write, “in the title role”—but caught myself. Elliott was the star of the movie.)
Polyester, Odorama
The ten smells on the Polyester Odorama card seem very witty to me: they were, for the record, “1. Roses, 2. Flatulence, 3. Model Airplane Glue, 4. Pizza, 5. Gasoline, 6. Skunk, 7. Natural Gas, 8. New Car Smell, 9. Dirty Shoes, and 10. Air Freshener.” I also didn’t know about this gleeful bit of prankishness on Waters’ part:

In the original theatrical showings, the scents were arranged by number, with audiences instructed to scratch the card when the appropriate number flashed onscreen. Audiences never knew what they’d be smelling, which was half the fun: While flowers might be onscreen when the number flashed, a pair of smelly tennis shoes would be shoved into the scene at the last second. No one wins a prize for guessing what the gleefully subversive Waters wanted his audience to smell.

I’d bet money that there are DM readers out there who have attended screenings of Polyester with the original cards—anyone care to report on the experience? Did Waters fake out the audience, as reported above?

Waters’ Odorama had a curious coda in 2003, when Nickelodeon decided to use the general concept in the third installment of their Rugrats franchise, Rugrats Go Wild. The trouble is, they didn’t stop with the general concept; they also used the copyrighted term Odorama as well as the logo. Irritated, Waters threatened to sue but was stymied when he learned that New Line Cinema, the studio that released Polyester, had let the copyright lapse. In any case, Rugrats Go Wild executive producer Julia Pistor somewhat conveniently claimed that it was a heartfelt homage: “We loved all that great stuff William Castle and John Waters pioneered. ... We loved that low-tech interactivity. That’s what inspired our ‘Odorama.’ ” In the movie John Waters: This Filthy World, Waters is heard to grumble, “a check would have been an homage.”
Here is a theatrical trailer for Polyester:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Way USA’: Sleazy punk/comedy travelogue is the greatest cult video you’ve probably never seen

Okay, listen up, because this is one of the single best things that I have ever posted here on Dangerous Minds. I’ve waited for a good version of this to get uploaded to YouTube since we very first started the blog and now that’s finally happened. There have been over 17,000 items posted here and THIS, as I see it at least, is one of the very, very top best of all those various things…

What am I talking about? It’s called Way USA, a pilot for a punk/comedy travelogue that was done for MTV in 1988 and hosted by the silver-tongued—and absolutely fucking hilariousTesco Vee of The Meatmen. It was directed by Peter Lauer (although it’s missing from his IMDB page), then a staffer with MTV’s graphics department who has since gone on to direct dozens upon dozens of major television shows that you have seen, including Strangers with Candy and Arrested Development.

The copy I had was acquired working at the post production house where it was edited. I’m not 100% sure that it even aired on TV. Although Way USA was produced at a time before MTV aimed its content squarely at teenagers, it still seems a little racier than I recall them ever getting back then. (It says at the end that there was one done in Niagara Falls as well, but I have not seen that.)

So, yes, Way USA is a punk/comedy travelogue that begins when Tesco sells his soul to the Devil (in the form of East Village lounge crooner Craig Vandenberg, here billed as “Tony LaVentura, the Adonis from Paramus”) for a good time traveling across America in opulently sleazy style.

First stop, it’s “Charm City—that ‘s Baltimore—and what trip to Baltimore would be complete without making a pilgrimage to the Pope of Trash, John Waters? Naturally Tesco checks that one off his list as well as visiting the notorious red light “Block” district, eating two dozen eggs at a diner with an “all the eggs you can eat” policy, an S&M session with the late plus-sized greeting card model Miss Jean Hill (her segment is a stone classic), visits strip clubs, a crime blotter news reporter, a faith healer/exorcist and does various other things around “the hairdo capital of America,” as Waters so lovingly puts it.

In the late 80s, I’d show my VHS copy of Way USA to anyone and everyone who visited me (people used to do quaint things like that back then). I was really keen on it and thought it was absolutely groundbreaking and hilarious (it’s aged very well). I’ve seen it so many times that as I was watching it just now, I started to realize HOW MANY of Tesco’s lines (or slight variations thereof) I use ALL OF THE TIME. And I’m not talking about a few of them, there must be 100 things he says in this half hour show that I regularly say to this day. For example, last week, sitting across from someone about to tuck into an appallingly unhealthy meal, I deadpanned “If your heart stops, I’ll kick you in the chest.” I got this from the eggs scene, which I haven’t seen since like 1990 probably, yet still quote.

In an alternate universe, Way USA would have made Tesco Vee a huge TV celebrity. Seriously folks, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If more people knew about Way USA twenty-five years ago, if would probably be as revered today as Heavy Metal Parking Lot or the Butthole Surfers’ Entering Texas are.

Two more things: Way USA was shot on Super 8 film, so if it looks a little “soft,” this is actually the way it was supposed to look. This is, in fact, a very clean upload. However, the sort of jarring “commercial breaks” (Kembra Pfahler clad only in red bodypaint singing and swearing, a Roy Rogers spot, Tesco in San Francisco) included here have nothing directly to do with Way USA and I think come from The Devil’s In The Details, a DVD that Tesco Vee sells on his website. It’s pretty clear what’s from the show and what’s not from it, but you’ll see why I mentioned it, it would be confusing if you were seeing it for the first time otherwise. (As for the cable access footage of Kembra—who is a good friend of mine, I must ask her what that’s from!—and a few other things in the added parts, I’ll give the obligatory NSFW warning).

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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