Producer-director David Simon paid homage at the WGA Awards tonight to John Waters, his fellow proud son of Baltimore who received the Career Achievement In Writing Award from the Writers Guild of America.
Calling Waters at heart and essentially a writer, Simon said that “he is the great modern master of self-effacement and self-parody. The late-1970s was so long ago that we forget where we were on the continuum of [free expression],” he added, recalling Waters hounding the Maryland state censor. “The real gift from a great storyteller is this,” Simon said, pausing for effect. “F*ck normal. Normal’s a lie — a locked gate, a wall, a fascistic sentiment. We are all of us at least two standard deviations from the mean.”
After a fairly bowdlerized sizzle reel of highlights from Waters films including Hairspray, Pink Flamingos and others, the mustachioed one came to the podium and gave a thank-you speech that ranged from acknowledging his own weirdness and love of weirdness in all humanity to a ringing endorsement of the WGA and its efforts on behalf of fellow writers. He started, not unexpectedly, with an obscenity and then said, “Thanks for celebrating the “lunatic fringe” of filmmaking.
“Every morning I get up at 6 AM and try to think of something f*cked up,,” he confided. “And in the afternoon go out and try to sell it. Isn’t that what all writers do?”
Then he addressed his fellow writers. “I was afraid of the Writers Guild of America,” he said of his salad days. But he got wise. “What other union can demand you fly first class?” He listed a few new demands he felt should be in the offing, notably, “Let’s stop these movie stars from ad-libbing!” I thought he was talking about terrible awards speeches, but he wasn’t. He was talking moviemaking. “Say the lines as written!” he said. “Say your f*ckin’ lines and join the Writers Guild. And let’s attach some of the editor’s salary when they cut our lines without permission.”
Waters ended with some of that self-deprecation Simon had referred to: “I’d like to close with a line I wrote for Patty Hearst,” he said. ” ‘Make a list of all the people you f!cked and apologize to their parents.’ See? I got an award for writing that line.”