Film director John Waters is a bastion of bad taste and an idol to misfits everywhere. His films, from the 1970s “Trash Trilogy” ("Desperate Living," "Pink Flamingos," "Female Trouble") to his more recent mainstream successes ("Hairspray," "Serial Mom," "Crybaby") glorify juvenile delinquency, drug use, homosexuality, teenage pregnancy, bizarre sex, murder, and other hallmarks of a life well-lived.
This year, ditch the dry ice and "Monster Mash," and have a John Waters themed Halloween party instead.
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Listen, not all your friends are going to have as top notch cinematic interests as you. They may not spend their weekends watching marathons of campy schlock, remote control and Odorama card in hand. So you’re going to have to give them some guidance to get them in the spirit. Make it clear on the invitation that the dress code includes drag, big hair, catseye glasses, prom dresses, leopard print, and bad taste. Give them a few images to get inspired.
I highly recommend setting up a Make-Over Station. If anyone dares to come without at least a pompadour and a leather jacket, inflict a full face of glitter onto them without a glimmer of mercy. If Divine could inject herself with eyeliner with a real needle to make "Female Trouble," the least your friends could do is draw on a pencil mustache.
For further fuel for your hot rod mayhem, check out this Rookie article on how to dress like a John Waters character, this dreamy Pulp Zine photoshoot or this Pink Flamingos editorial for Interview magazine. Blogger Nicollette Mason’s Girl Gang collection for Modcloth and and the fashion/record label Wacky Wacko by Seth Bogan (of Hunx and His Punx) are both undeniably John Waters inspired.
Or thrift a pink prom dress and use fabric paint to stencil roaches all over it for a replica of the dress Dawn Davenport wears at the end of "Hairspray."
You have to be willing to get gross with the food at a John Waters party. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is. It doesn’t have to taste gross; but it has to look gross, and that’s enough to put some people off.
In "Pink Flamingos," Connie and Raymond Marble run an black market baby ring that supplies well-off lesbians with the offspring of kidnapped girls and their manservant, Channing. In a nod to Channing’s procreation methods, I served “Artificial Insemination Pudding” (really just vanilla) with a turkey baster instead of a spoon.
I also made deviled eggs in homage to Edith Massey’s character, Edie the Egg Lady. That was nothing compared to my most inspired creation, modeled after the infamous final scene in "Pink Flamingos."
In one long camera take, Divine follows around a dog, waits for it to squat and defecate, and eats the pile of poop, mugging for the camera with brown-smeared teeth.
You won’t have to go to such lengths to make these disgusting treats for your guests. Just melt one bag of chocolate chips and ¼ cup heavy cream, either in a double boiler or a microwave, with frequent stirring to make sure nothing burns. Scrape the chocolate ganache into a Zip-loc bag, cut the tip off one of the corners, and pipe the frosting onto store-bought cookies.
John Waters is known for defending the infamous “chicken scene” in Pink Flamingos by saying that it was no more cruel than factory farming and that they ate the chicken afterwards, anyway; consider barbecuing a pullet in his honor.
Some other ideas you might be ambitious enough to try: Baltimore Crab Dip, Corny Collins Caramel Corn, Francine Fishpaw’s Fishsticks, or a beautiful cake in the shape of a dead rat.
Dreamland film soundtracks are unmistakable for their retro mix of rollicking rock-n-roll, campy sincerity, sexually charged rhythm and blues, and chirpy novelty children’s songs. Link Wray’s junkie surf rock and Little Richard’s theatrical primal screams are mixed with opera arias and Beethoven’s Fifth.
To set the musical mood at your party, you can take a shortcut and play any collection of 1950s + 1960s popular music; playlists abound on your favorite music streaming service. Make sure there’s plenty of Elvis, Chubby Checker, and The Shangri-Las.
If you’d like a more curated sonic backdrop for your shindig, a fan has obsessively documented every song ever used in a John Waters film. Additionally, the filmmaker himself created a playlist of his favorite love songs for NPR, and provides a playlist of his preferred driving music at the end of his hitchhiking memoir “Carsick.”
Obviously, all of his movies should be playing soundlessly in the background. But there are plenty of other ideas you could work with.
Consider bribing one of your friends to perform a strip-tease to “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Buy a lobster costume and act out Divine’s crustaceous sex scene from "Multiple Maniacs." Drape doorways in leopard print fabric and scatter rubber rats everywhere. Have a limbo contest set to “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker. Give out cans of Aquanet as party favors. Fill your yard with pink flamingos.
And get ready for one of the most memorable parties you’ve ever thrown.