John Waters Scares Iggy Pop and Other Things We Learned

Pop doesn't do heroin with stray dogs and he's not impressed with how much dogshit Divine ate in Pink Flamingos, either.

(Photo by Janette Lopez)

SFW: What memories do you have of playing in Oakland? What was it like during the 1970s and ’80s?

Iggy Pop: Did I play in Oakland? I dunno. I remember being pretty impressed by the fashion sense of the Black Panthers in the ’70s. Did I play Oakland on Halloween, maybe? I remember judging a Halloween costume contest somewhere in the Bay Area. The winner split himself down the middle: One side was Hitler and, on the other, he looked like Virginia Woolf. I visited Billie Joe [Armstrong] in Oakland a couple of times and recorded at a warehouse Green Day maintained, which I suppose isn’t as exciting as telling you that I shot heroin with a stray dog or something. 

Do you remember what it was like seeing your first John Waters movie and how it affected you?

I saw Pink Flamingos at its premiere. It was at the Nuart [Theatre] in West L.A., and Divine arrived in the back of a garbage truck. The roll-away trap door opened, and out spilled Divine and a bunch of drag harpies. The first scene in the movie hit really close to home, because I was raised in a trailer park, and the neighbor had a pink flamingo in his lawn. Also, I freaked out over the opening track, “The Swag,” by Link Wray. John probably thought it sounded trashy, but I admired it more than anything I had ever heard. Possibly because I’m trashy. Wow! The dogshit-eating scene didn’t really do much for me because it was such a small piece of shit. I mean, it wasn’t even a turd; it just looked brown and runny. Still, eww.

How was meeting John Waters for the first time?

I’ve always thought John’s pretty scary, to tell you the truth. But I appreciated the effort he makes to be a nice guy. I was really impressed by his cigarettes, his mustache, his wit, and his taste in hotels and friends. I don’t remember if he called me about Cry-Baby or what. I was really pleased to have the work. He was very patient with me. My co-star and wife in the movie, Suzy Tyrell, was a holy terror. She would do things to me like decorate a sex doll obscenely with hideous lipstick and hang it from my shower nozzle, for a little surprise when I got home from work.  

Also, when you work in movies, they give you something called a per diem, which is a little envelope full of lovely cash which is supposed to cover your personal expenses while shooting.  All actors love this, because it’s real green money, for nothing — and no taxes, managers or agents deducting, and no delay. So Cry-Baby was my first per diem, about $400 cash, and the maids stole it out of my room as soon as I went to shoot the next day. That’s Baltimore! 

Can you tell us anything about how “Gimme Some Skin” came together? Did the record label hate it? And how did it make it onto a Burger Records Cassette Tape this year?

“Gimme Some Skin” is one of my faves, too. At one point, we were practicing and writing five days a week in a dirty little hole in the ground in Fulham, London, U.K., not far from Kings Road.  We had a lot of numbers like that, that were based on [James] Williamson’s hyped-up, heeby-jeeby, axe-murderer riff collages, and this was the best of them, I thought. It fell to me to try to make some sort of song out of it. Typhoid Mary is a Bill Burroughs character, and in his novel she sucks all night on an old asshole. I threw in my two cents to the effect that Mr. Burroughs knew quite a lot about aiming his product at a target demo of youthful and naive junkies. I can’t think of a better home for it than a Burger Records cassette. Back when I used to actually read my royalty statements, this one invariably earned one penny every quarter, so I included it on a hits package of my own, out of pity. I really love the song and performance, and it’s so great that when it’s time for the guitar solo there isn’t one. Nothing changes.  

Living in Berlin in 1977, how did you and David Bowie manage to release four LPs — The Idiot, Lust for Life, Low, and Heroes — in one year?

We stayed in and ate dinner and went to bed early maybe three nights a week. That gives you lots of extra energy. The music around was [The Sex] Pistols, The Damned, Blondie, Kraftwerk, Tom Waits, Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Brian Eno, et cetera, et cetera. I think it’s fair to say we both really enjoyed making recordings in that era, to the point of obsession. It was very freeing to be far from the crowd of shitheels and all the biz and bo-hum U.S.A. 

Besides The Buzzcocks and X, are there any groups that stick out to you at this years Burger Boogaloo?  Have you ever seen Guitar Wolf, who are playing right before you?

Never seen Guitar Wolf. Just listened to Jet Generation, and it’s fucking great. I know Jacuzzi Boys, I’ve always liked them, and they’re really strong live. You sent me a vinyl LP once called Have a Pizza Me but I’m not sure that was by Personal and the Pizzas

Do you have any other stories about hanging with Ginsburg or the Beats besides “Gardenia”?

Well, I had lunch with Allen once at the deli on Fairfax — is it Canter’s? He had the matzoh-ball soup. 

Is there anything you want to tell the Oakland freaks or John Waters before melting our faces off July 1?

No.

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