"You know, I'm sure that Johnny Davenport is probably not looking to be found today," said John Waters, the always hilarious and indefatigable cult filmmaker, talking about a fantasy he conjures up in his new book, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, about the 1980s gay porn star John Davenport. "But if he is hearing this, he was great in 'Full Grown Full Blown.' I love that title. I fantasized that he was his age [in the '80s] today...And we do get, actually, raped by a spaceman and then have magic anuses. And my magic anus sings a duet with Connie Francis. So, I guess I let my imagination go."
Indeed. Waters, who says he's always hitchhiked, albeit much shorter distances in his younger years, decided to hitch across the country, from his home in Baltimore to San Francisco, because his life had become too "planned." He records his experiences in Carsick but the first two chapters of the book are his fantasies -- best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios -- of what might happen on the road. The Davenport story, in case anyone needs it explained, is one of the best-case scenarios.
And the worst-case scenarios?
"Well, I get picked up by a militant vegan that poisons me and I get diarrhea and there's no worse thing that can happen to you when you're hitchhiking than diarrhea, really," he deadpanned in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. "I was totally afraid to eat anything on the trip, because you can't keep saying, 'Could you just pull over! Could you pull over!' So I get diarrhea. I [also] get poisoned by an insane gay militant who hates all straight people, who is into autoerotic asphyxiation. And I escape him. I meet someone that actually kills me. The [last part] I get murdered -- in a pretty funny way."
Once Waters got on the road, however, the actual experiences were just about the opposite, in which most people he meets turn out to be nice and love to chat. That, however, was if they picked him up in the first place.
"Most people thought I was a homeless man," he explained, regarding the hours he'd stand on the side of the road with a sign while cars and trucks would zip by. "I was 66 years old. I had a sign. I had a baseball cap that unfortunately said, 'Scum of the Earth,' which was not the best fashion choice. No, people didn't really recognize me. And when I got in the cars, sometimes they did, and they'd start laughing and screaming. In real life, [the people who picked me up] were incredibly open-minded, no matter if they were Democrats, Republican, single, male, female. I had a cop pick me up, a truck driver. The only thing that never -- no gay people picked me up. My gaydar is pretty good. I don't think a gay person picked me."
Waters hadn't announced he was working on the book and hitching cross country, trying to keep it all on the down low. But his cover eventually got blown when an indie band on tour, Here We Go Magic, picked him up, members recognized him and sent out a tweet that went viral. A woman who picked him up in Kansas said she knew him only because she had a gay son who was a huge fan. Waters said he then told her to call her son and she put Waters on the phone, exhilarating the young man, who'd just read online all about Waters' adventures.
Waters has in recent years lent his name to gay political causes in his home state of Maryland, helping Governor Martin O'Malley pass marriage equality in 2012, appearing and speaking at fundraisers. But marriage is definitely not for him.
"No, I don't have any desire to get married," he insisted, then giggled. "I hate weddings. You have to try too hard. I've really never had fun at a wedding. But I'm certainly for the right for straight gay people to get married [laughs]... It's great! Are you kidding? I'm militantly for gay marriage. Why would anyone be threatened by anyone falling in love?"
On his enormous success, having begun his career with cult classics like "Pink Flamingos" in the early '70s to eventually see "Hairspray" become a smash film and Broadway musical and now watching Carsick immediately hit The New York Times bestseller list, Waters says it's "all gravy."
"It's amazing to me," he explained. "I certainly have not been misunderstood in my career. I make people puke by saying, 'My dreams have come true.' But they have -- years ago! This is all gravy. But I wonder why you don't ever want to stop. You keep taking the risk because people in show business are insecure. Why do you think they keep having to put out projects that depend on whether strangers tell them they're good?And so, I guess I have not been satisfied. I have to keep doing stuff. I love my job."