My Space: John Waters’s Writing Room in Baltimore, Full of Kitsch

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My Space: John Waters’s Writing Room in Baltimore, Full of Kitsch

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My Space


John Waters

Age 71

Occupation Film director and writer, most recently of “Make Trouble” (Algonquin)

Location Baltimore

His Favorite Room Mr. Waters lives in a 1927 Italianate-style house that he admired as a boy and later bought because, he said, “it looked like Dracula’s house.” His second-floor writer’s room is filled with pop-culture ephemera: a bottle of Tylenol from an infamous 1982 recalled batch; old props from his movies; an autographed tube of Justin Bieber-endorsed acne cream. “They’re like relics,” Mr. Waters said. “Like religious items that you keep.”

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What’s your writing routine? Every morning, Monday to Friday, I get up at 6 a.m., and I read six or seven newspapers, look at my email and come here at exactly 8 o’clock. Everyone in the world that I know knows don’t call here, don’t email, I’m not going to answer. And then in the afternoon, I go in that room and sell the ideas.

Is eating a bowl of oatmeal part of the daily process? This is fake. I collect fake food. I don’t eat when I’m writing. I think it can lead to writer’s block if you eat a lot.

What object from this heap of bric-a-brac most inspires you? This great Grace Metalious figurine. Can you believe they sell this? She wrote “Peyton Place.” And she wrote “Return to Peyton Place” and “The Tight White Collar” and “No Adam in Eden.” That was her complete works. Then she got hugely successful and drank a lot and died. I loved her.

Why? “Peyton Place” was the first dirty book I read. And she scandalized the nation, right?

“Make Trouble” is your reprinted speech to the graduating students of Rhode Island School of Design. Any advice for young artists about setting up a home? I think it’s very important to have a trash can from a writer you like. I tried to buy Ingmar Bergman’s trash can at his auction, but it went for too much. This trash can is Patrick White’s, the novelist. So my bad ideas go in the same place that Patrick White’s bad ideas went in. That way you don’t feel bad. You roll it up, throw it in and go, “So did Patrick White.”

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