Role Models is the most recent book by John Waters. Marketed as a memoir, it’s really more of a memoirish collection of essays paying homage to the numerous role models Waters has looked up to over the years. Of course, if you’re at all familiar with Waters — a.k.a. the Sultan of Smut/King of Bad Taste/Pope of Trash — you might already have the feeling that his role models aren’t exactly of the Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa variety. No. Instead, Waters’s role models run the range from Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo and her Comme des Garçons clothing line to the “freaks” he grew up around in Baltimore. Being a prolific writer in addition to being a filmmaker, Waters has had the chance to meet many of his role models over the years, and it is from these encounters that he culls many of the stories in the book.
In the interest of keeping my word count down (I love Waters and this is still gonna be a long post, y’all) and the review PG-13ish (him being the Sultan of Smut all all), I’m only going to touch on a few of my favorite essays in the collection. Fascinating as I found “Outsider Porn,” that one did not make my cut.
I’ll start with “Little Richard,” which appears in the last half of the book but gives some funny, interesting insight on what Waters was like as a child. He was a handful early on, and Little Richard was an early role model (in fact, that’s who inspired Waters’s trademark pencil mustache). Of all the people Waters has interviewed in his life, Little Richard was one of the people he most wanted to meet since he idolized him growing up. He writes: