John Waters’s First Film Goes from Baltimore to Lincoln Center

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John Waters's first film

Director John Waters’s retrospective Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take? opens at New York’s Lincoln Center today. It’s big deal. According to the Baltimore-born director, it’s “the first time I can say I’m really being honored without irony.”

All of his films will screen between now and Sept. 14, classics like Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, and Polyester, as well as more obscure ones like Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs. But one of the most obscure has to be Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, his very first film, from 1964.

The plot involves “a surreal marriage between a white ballerina and a black man, conducted by a KKK priest and set on a rooftop with the Baltimore skyline as the backdrop.” The 17-minute movie was made for $30. (Waters claims he stole the film through a friend who worked at a camera store.)

Hag in a Black Leather Jacket “only played once,” Waters told Rolling Stone, “at a beatnik coffeehouse in Baltimore and we passed the hat. And I don’t recall many people putting much in.”

Sure, it took fifty years. But going straight from a Baltimore “beatnik coffeehouse” to Lincoln Center is pretty impressive.


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