From 'Pink Flamingos' to the Pink Dot

Since his notorious 1972 breakthrough film, "Pink Flamingos," director John Waters has exhibited a dogged determination to outrage. Whether it's his casting sensibilities (Waters regulars include Patty Hearst and ex-teen porn queen Traci Lords) or his production experiments (1981's "Polyester" was released in Odorama, complete with scratch-and-sniff cards for the audience), Waters always seems to choose the path not only less traveled but off the map altogether.

Waters' latest film, "A Dirty Shame," was released this month in a deluxe DVD edition, and a new gift-set collection of seven of his most popular films has been bundled with a bonus disc, "John Waters' DVD Scrapbook." And there's more: On July 12, the director's cut of 1990's "Cry-Baby," starring Johnny Depp, will be released.

Waters, who still resides in his beloved Baltimore, was in Los Angeles recently to tend to business, but he always makes time for some of his regular haunts.

The place to stay

I've been coming to Los Angeles for work and to see friends for years now. I'm more of a New York person, but there are things I like to do and see in L.A. too, and my routine never varies much. I always stay at the Chateau Marmont. The one time I didn't stay there I didn't get the [business] deal, so I'm almost superstitious about it now.

After I get settled in and go to whatever meetings I have scheduled, I'll call my friend Greg Gorman, the photographer, who drives us around. I'll make him stop at the Pink Dot [liquor/deli shop] on La Cienega, which I just love even though it's a scary-looking place with scary lighting. Even the customers are scary. You can order a pack of cigarettes and have them delivered, but I'd be too frightened to see what the delivery boy would look like. Then I'd have Greg take us to Mel's Drive-In on Sunset, where the waitresses are cast as hard-boiled 1940s diner waitresses. I think actually they're all actresses.


On Saturday morning I'll go to the first showing at the [Laemmle's] Sunset 5 theater. I walk there because people scowl at you as if you've just lost your driver's license. It's frightening to cross those big intersections in L.A. Then I'll go to Arcana in Santa Monica, where they have the best art books and catalogs, and the owners save things for you that they know you're interested in. I love the bookstores in the Los Angeles area. Like Book Soup. And Book City has great used books.

Then I'd go up to Hollywood Boulevard -- the old part, not the part that's being turned into Disneyland, like 42nd Street in New York. Then for dinner, Greg always wants to go to Pane e Vino on Beverly Boulevard. It's an Italian place, and just point to anything on the menu and it'll be good.

No fooling

On Sunday I always go to the California Institution for Women [in Corona]. My friend has been there for 30-some years. Her name is [former Manson Family member] Leslie Van Houten.

I taught in prison for a long time and I believe in rehabilitation, and she's the poster girl for the California prison system. She met one of the most notorious madmen in our country when she was 17, and if anyone deserves parole, it's her. I'm serious about this and I'm saying it with no irony. This is someone's life we're talking about here. Then, after I spend the morning there, I'm back to the airport and flying home.

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