Night Crawler

"We all know that Xmas is about ... sex," deadpans John Waters as the sold-out Castro Theater crowd recovers from a raucous standing ovation and nestles back into the plush seats. Waters smiles and looks out over the house with his great beagle eyes. In high contrast to the fantastical attire of his audience, the "King of Kink" is dressed simply in a sharp, skinny suit circa 1964 with a tie and 10-year-old shoes.

"I remember the thrill, as a small child, of sitting on a strange man's lap and whispering into his ear all my fantasies." The crowd roars in agreement.

"This is the season for LICKING envelopes, HANGING balls everywhere, STUFFING turkeys. ... Christmas is just filthy, that's why I love it!"

Tonight's show, "A John Waters X-Mas," has drawn the most sensational of San Francisco's very sensational night life. Even the most clearly heterosexual 9-to-5ers have decked themselves to the teeth in brightly colored fake fur and clashing animal prints while the drag queens have crawled over themselves in a desperate attempt to outtrash, outclass, or outlast their contemporaries, turning this into the largest collection of 6-foot-5-inch-and-over queens that this wee little "Night Crawler" has ever witnessed. The theater is spangled appropriately in gaudy Christmas garlands, flashing lights, and glow-in-the-dark snowmen, none of which detracts from the podium, which has been transformed into a makeshift John Waters altar.

The night begins with requisite Christmas-cheese footage: The Jetsons sing "Deck the Halls"; The Flintstones sing "Jingle Bells" with The Chipmunks; and Pee-wee Herman really sets the mood when he flutters his great eyelashes at the severe personage of Grace Jones performing "Little Drummer Boy." Judy Garland receives whistles and applause, and one gregarious drag queen in a white miniskirt plunges down the aisle, growling, "Oh Judy!" It's too much, but not enough. Liberace graces the screen with "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" and Charo ululates her way through "Feliz Navidad." All is well in the world.

When the cha-cha heels scene from Female Trouble finally flickers to life, the crowd is in a frenzy. They channel Divine, speaking the part of Dawn Davenport as she berates her parents for not buying her "cha-cha heels ... black" and ending with the faithful scream, "I hate you! Fuck you!" The crowd applauds viciously as she slams her family's door and speeds away in their car. During the roar, drag queen extraordinaire Joan Jett-Blakk crawls out of a large gift box and greets the judges of the Cha-Cha Heels Contest, Miss Patsy Cline of the Memphis G-Spots and Carol Lynley of Poseidon Adventure fame. The ensuing insanity is a practice in bad taste of the worst (and best) kind. Male and female drag queens of all shapes and sizes (mostly really big) try to gain the critical attention of the judges: Hair spray breaks out, catfights break out, panties are dropped, bodies are dropped, breasts are bobbled, and bottoms are bared all in the name of cha-cha heels. While the judges attempt a modicum of composure during their decision-making process, Miss Connie Champagne keeps the crowd on edge by delivering a spellbinding rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as a somewhat sauced Judy Garland. Unfortunately, this touch of class does not keep Dragzilla from ripping off On-a-Whim's wig when she places higher in the competition. As the contestants make their way back up the aisle, members of the audience throw in their inevitable 2 cents; a large leather fag, for instance, refers to Cha-Cha Heels winner Cliche as a "skinny little slut."

The contest completed, an officious Jett-Blakk begins reading a proclamation drawn up by the office of Mayor Willie Brown, which pronounces John Waters the "Patron Saint of Outlaw Cinema" and the "King of Bad Taste," and announces that because "the people of San Francisco worship and adore him, hereafter December 13th shall be officially recognized as John Waters Day." The ovation is deafening and the crowd is on its feet as the stylish director makes his way to the podium.

"I'm so glad that Female Trouble is finally being shown as a Christmas movie," smirks Waters. "Maybe it will become the Wonderful Life of the criminal set." The director settles comfortably into the roles of lecturer, humorist, and demigod, speaking at length about the things he loves best: crime as art ("Everyone looks so much better when they are in handcuffs"), the essence of style ("Mary Jane teased her hair perfectly in front and left the back an absolute rat's nest. She said, 'I don't care what people think of me when I leave a room' "), animal rights ("If one bunny has to die so that my mustache is on straight -- so be it"), pharmaceuticals ("Drugs are so retro"), fame ("Celebrities cannot have bad sex"), Don Knotts ("He is a holy man in my life"), sex ("Sex is all about confusion"), Christmas ("There could be such good holiday pornos: Jingle Balls, Santa Clause Is Coming, S/M Nutcracker ...."), and family ("It is very important to be with your family at Christmas time even if they are horrible").

Thank you and Merry Christmas. See you on the other side of the New Year.

Send comments, quips, and tips to crawler@sfweekly.com.

By Silke Tudor

 
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