Legendary filmmaker John Waters is known as the “Pope of Trash.” He’s also been called “The People’s Pervert.” Though he has a repertoire of shocking cinema masterpieces and brilliant books (as well as the stage adaptations and film remakes of Hairspray), Waters initially made a most unique name for himself with Pink Flamingos (1972), a cult film that got traction and a devout cadre of followers as a movie-house midnight program alternating with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Since then, Waters has remained a popular figure of influence, always welcome on talk shows and the “lecture” circuit. Even though he has not made a new film since the 2015 Kiddie Flamingos (a kid-friendly table read of Pink Flamingos), the in-demand 71-year-old auteur is still artistically on the go, whether penning a tome about his cross-country hitchhiking experience (Carsick) or collaborating on museum exhibitions (most recently at New Orleans Museum of Art).
On September 22 to 24 of this year, in Litchfield (ha ha Orange Is the New Black unintentional reference) County, the first ever Camp John Waters was held! At $599, it was a dream for campers described as “filthy freaks.” Tickets for the getaway (the accommodations, an actual campground called Club Getaway that was decked throughout with pink flamingos) sold out quick after the announcement in April 2017, prompting a 600-person waiting list and the scheduling of Camp John Waters 2018. “Filthy freaks” aka John Waters weirdo fans descended from all over the world to enjoy Bloody Mary Bingo, drag brunch, drinking in the archery range, arts and crafts projects (enemy bracelets and satanic Christmas ornaments), and a guest appearance by Mink Stole, one of the original members of Waters’ Dreamlanders acting ensemble. Waters himself came around to read everyone a disturbing bedtime story, sit down for a meet-and-greet, and judged a costume contest that was followed up by a dance party. In all, the “Pope of Trash” found Camp John Waters to be a resounding success.
“It’s like Jonestown, but with a happy ending,” he said.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements of next year’s Camp John Waters.
All photos (Andrew White for The New York Times)