John Waters talks gay rights, LSD, and the importance of old movie theaters

John Waters
John Waters John Waters/Admire Entertainment

John Waters is prolific, filthy, and better read than most of us — and he recently took time out after returning from his 55th summer in Provincetown, RI., to speak with GayRVA ahead of his mid-October appearance at the Byrd Theatre.

First off, he doesn’t remember much about Richmond. I was told a story about famed local-drag queen/hot mess Dirtwoman being sent up by limo to Baltimore for a John Waters screen test, only to do so poorly she was sent back on a Greyhound — a story Waters says he’s often reminded of, but doesn’t actually remember.

“People alawys ask me about her… but the story might have been exaggerated,” he said. “I took a lot of LSD. I don’t know the truth in that story, but there’s probably some truth in it.”

I ask if he believes there’s always some truth in a lie, and he said no.

“There are a lot of lies about me.”

The filmmaker, author, stand up comedian, and cult-classic guru did have some nice things to say about RVA.

“Richmond has always been good to me,” he insisted, though he admits his first memory of the city is its “hard to fly into.” But he’s got family in Virginia — a sister in Alexandria and another in the Southwest part of the state where he spends Thanksgiving.

Throughout his travels, he said he does remember the Byrd Theatre and is excited to come to town to help support the famed movie palace.

“These are the kinds of theaters that won in a way. People always said they wouldn’t survive – just like bookstores. They thought indie bookstores wouldn’t survive, but look what’s gone? Boarders is gone!” said Waters. He stressed it was support from communities that helped keep theaters like the Byrd alive, and how they play an integral role in keeping people in a town.

“People need a good movie theater and a good bar,” Waters said; a sentiment he shared with former Maryland Governor Mike O’malley. “Without them, people would leave. They’d go to New York, all the smart people will leave. Get good bars and good movie theaters.”

It’s the little things in the Byrd — terrible seats and all — that make Waters such a fan of theaters from years past.

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