Erotic Santas, Gay Reindeer, & The 12 Days of Christmas According to John Waters

Photo by Greg Gorman

“Is Santa erotic to people? Do some people like to have sex with people dressed as Santa?,” asks Pope of Trash and Patron Saint of Christmas mischief, John Waters, when we chatted on the phone a few weeks ago. As the reigning King of film’s seething, smutty underbelly for over fifty years now, the brilliant legend of the screen, stage, and page is once again taking his act on the road for his annual holiday special, A John Waters Christmas.

The thinly-mustachioed filmmaker, author, artist, and underground icon will head to City Winery this Sunday for his one man show—a night filled with deliciously sinister X-rated Xmas humor. So in honor of the event, Waters and I caught up to uncover just what it is he loves so much about the holiday, the gay undertones of the season, and how to properly come into the New Year.

WHAT HE LOVES ABOUT CHRISTMAS:

It’s everything—the pressure, the emotional intimacy, the unnatural desire to please. It’s always filled with pain and pleasure.

HIS FEAR OF LIVE NATIVITY SCENES:

I like to find them and go to them like people go to haunted houses on Halloween. They’re such perverts, I always think every person there is out of their mind.

SANTA CLAUS AND SEXUALITY:

Santa just looks like a bear to me, a polar bear—that’s what he is! The elves are twinks, and Prancer…is that a gay reindeer? Is Santa erotic to people? Do some people like to have sex with people dressed as Santa? I guess they do. 

THE INFAMOUS ANNUAL JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS CARD:

My assistants start nagging me about it in July—”Have you thought of it yet?!” It’s a huge ordeal, they’re all hand-sized, and we usually send out 1,8000 of them. They go all over the world, and some people get invitations to the party too, so it just becomes like Santa’s workshop around here.

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES:

Christmas Evil is great. I also like porn parodies of Christmas too, like Santa’s Cummin’! by Jeff Stryker.

decArtwork by Declan McCarthy

CHRISTMAS MUSIC PREFERENCES:

Oh, I listen to everything from jazz and hip hop to rap and the blues. Then also the Chipmunks; I love playing the Chipmunks at Christmas, it makes people run out of the house if you play it too much. 

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS HE HATES:

The worst is obviously when it’s obviously been gifted from somebody or they got it at work—that would be the rudest present. But I would just throw that out. I do have a swag bag I take on Thanksgiving to my family for all my nieces and nephews with all the things I don’t keep that people send me. So they get to go through it, which is funny because sometimes there’s T-shirts with insane things on them, but I guess by now I’m the crazy uncle so they’re used to it.

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS:

I either have it at my house and cook the dinner or go to my sisters. I also have a Christmas party the Saturday before Christmas. That’s a party I’ve had for 45 years, and it’s everybody from relatives and politicians to criminals. It’s a very mixed crowd.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS HE LOVES:

No one ever knows what to get me, but it’s always books. I have a list of books that I’m always asking for. Usually a book by favorite author that I never knew existed, that would be the very best present ever. I also collect collectible books, and I collect porn parodies, soft-core stuff. I just love to find books that are, to me, art objects even just by the cover. You don’t have to read them, they’re just funny to look at sitting there. I got a book yesterday and I just love the title: Queer Bergman–but he wasn’t gay! And then there’s another I got called Queers, Rednecks, and Country Music—I just think that title’s pretty good.

A PRESENT FOR SOMEONE HE HATES:

The worst gift you could give a young person is a hard-line phone for their bedroom. That would be the meanest thing you could do…or a CD player!

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MEMORIES:

The Christmas tree falling over on my Grandmother, hearing her scream, the sound of her hitting the presents, Clarence the handy man running, Bernice the cook running, and my Grandmother under the tree. It was a happy memory and my Grandmother later thought it was very funny. I’ve used it in my movies and in my Christmas show and now people tell me stories of when their tree fell over—it happens a lot!

THE BEST PART OF PERFORMING A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS:

It’s like being a politician. You get to meet the people that help you make a living, so it’s great. And it’s how I make my living! 

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