Filmmaker and writer John Waters models a face mask with his likeness outside Atomic Books. Credit: Rachel Whang.

President Joe Biden may think the COVID-19 pandemic is over, but John Waters isn’t so sure.

The Baltimore-based writer and filmmaker said in a recent WNYC podcast with Anna Sale that he likely won’t hold his annual Christmas party for the third year in a row, because he’s not comfortable yet.

“I still am not having it,” he told Sale this month during an edition of her “Death, Sex & Money’ podcast, entitled “Inside John Waters’ Home (But Not Inside His Colon.)”

“Two hundred people in my house without masks, drinking. I’m not ready for it,” Waters said. “Will I ever have that party again? I don’t know.”

For nearly five decades, Waters’ Christmas party has been “one of the city’s most coveted invites,” as The New York Post once put it, combining his friends from Baltimore with celebrities from his movies and the art world and others.

Waters’ disclosure on the podcast was unusual because he generally says his party is private and off the record, and he doesn’t talk about it. At the same time, in his last book of essays, “Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder,” he wrote about the time in 2016 that he missed his Christmas party because he was in the hospital briefly with a kidney stone and the bash went on without him.

“It must have been a slow news day” because word of the incident spread internationally, he wrote. “I had only been in the hospital for one night!”

During a book signing Sunday at Atomic Books for his new novel “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance,” author John Waters signs a fan’s arm. Photo By Ed Gunts.

Just before this month’s podcast on Sept. 21, Biden had said on 60 Minutes that “the pandemic is over” – a pronouncement that some public health experts called premature. (“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” is the way Biden put it.)

Waters’ last Christmas party in Baltimore was in 2019, shortly before the novel coronavirus was declared a global health emergency. He admits he’ll miss his annual gathering.

“The one I had in Baltimore was my Baltimore party,” he said. “There were people there that have helped me or I’ve known my whole life. I only see, I’d say, half the people that are there that one time a year now, at the party. And I know I’ll probably never see them again. We’re still in touch, and I’ll miss that. But I ain’t dying for that. Honestly, I’m not comfortable with that yet. Will I go back to that? I hope so, but I don’t know.”

But worries about the pandemic aren’t preventing the Pope of Trash from going on the road to spread his filth. He told Sale that he’s scheduled to visit 20 cities after Thanksgiving with his spoken-word holiday show, A John Waters Christmas. He’s already on the road for speaking engagements and other events, including his Camp John Waters gathering for superfans in Kent, Connecticut, just after Labor Day. He has a museum exhibit opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art, “Coming Attractions: The John Waters Collection,” on Nov. 20.

“I’m going to 10 cities this week,” he said on the podcast. “I did five last week. I have a 20-city Christmas tour…People always say why don’t you retire? I think if I retired, I might drop dead the first day.”

John Waters with Chris Cortolillo (left) and Tom Williams. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Now 76, Waters is careful to wear masks and take other precautions when he’s in public. During a recent tribute to him and others organized by AIDS Action Baltimore, he wore a mask when he wasn’t speaking to the audience. He had an orange mask during a reception at C. Grimaldis Gallery last March. At book signings, he sits behind a Plexiglas shield and interacts with fans.

Before Thanksgiving, Waters’ shows are generally called False Negative. After Thanksgiving, they’re called A John Waters Christmas. He has False Negative shows scheduled at the Fox Theater in Tucson, Arizona, on Oct. 15 and the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Oct. 22, part of the Six Bridges Book Festival. He’ll host the Halloween Meltdown in Oakland, California, on Oct. 8 and 9.

Waters’ Christmas show dates include: The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, California, on Nov. 29; Neptune Theater in Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 30; Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon, on Dec. 1; McDonald Theater in Eugene, Oregon, on Dec. 2; the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, on Dec. 3; Belly Up in Solana Beach, California (San Diego area) on Dec. 4; Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 5; Kessler Theater in Dallas, Texas, on Dec. 6, and Soiled Dove Underground in Denver, Colorado, on Dec. 7.

Also, the Columbus Theater in Providence, Rhode Island, on Dec. 10; Civic Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Dec. 11; the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Dec. 12; Avondale Music Hall in Chicago, Illinois, on Dec. 13; The Sheldon in St. Louis, Missouri, on Dec. 14; Asbury Hall in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 17; City Winery in New York City on Dec. 18; Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Dec. 19; Wortham Center for the Performing Arts in Ashville, North Carolina, on Dec. 20; The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia (Washington, D. C. area) on Dec. 21, and Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore on Dec. 22.

Just as he doesn’t want to retire, Waters isn’t a fan of retirement communities.

“I get ads for retirement communities that infuriate me and I put them right in the shredder,” he told Sale. “How dare you? Including the one my parents were in. Don’t think you’re getting me!”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.