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Role Models

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  3,748 ratings  ·  523 reviews

Here, from the incomparable John Waters, is a paean to the power of subversive inspiration that will delight, amuse, enrich--and happily horrify readers everywhere.

Role Models is, in fact, a self-portrait told through intimate profiles of favorite personalities--some famous, some unknown, some criminal, some surprisingly middle-of-the-road. From Esther Martin, owner of t

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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Doubly Gifted
107th out of 132 books — 25 voters
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Community Reviews

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Kimley
Yep, got my very own personalized copy!



John Waters is infectious. And I mean that in the best possible way. His passion and enthusiasm for his "role models" is so genuine and palpable that it's impossible to not want to sit down with him immediately and chat on and on in a relentless, otaku way about all these wonderful people and obsessions - even the ones that are so completely disgusting and horrifying! But that's Waters' charm.

There's nothing I love more than a bona fide celebrity who is in...more
Jessica
A story, rather than a review.

Or both, I think.

Two lovely British friends came to visit. We took the bus to New York, and then Boston.

In Boston, we visited Harvard, and Harvard Book Store. I saw this book, and picked it up from the Biography/Celebrity section.

The next day, I flew back to Baltimore.

As I was waiting in line at the airport, I swore I saw someone that looked like John Waters. "No, that cannot be him," I thought, as nothing as ever really happens to me, ever.

After the two hour plane...more
Marvin
From John Water's Role Models:

You should never read for "enjoyment". Read to make yourself smarter. Or less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends' insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick "hard books". Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for God's sake, don't ever let me hear you say, "I can't read fiction. I only have time for the truth." Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of "literature"? That means fiction too, stupid.


John Waters isn't exactly a role model fo...more
Scot
Okay, John Waters is not for everyone—never was, never will be, and certainly never aspired to be. However, when they remade Hairspray the film as a musical movie based on an incredibly successful Broadway play, and John Travolta won the stiff competition for the part first played by Divine (his beady eyes as Edna Turnblatt still haunt me), it was clear how successful and widespread John Waters’ cinematic subversion coming out of Maryland in the 1970s truly was—from an upstart challenge to the p...more
Tosh
There is something so comfortable about John Waters' essays. He is an extremely reasonable man in an unreasonable world. The beauty of this book is Waters' riffing on old friends, various famous people who inspired him, and the best part is a tour of his town's (Baltimore) most sleezy bars, which he's an natural consumer of.

Also his appreciation for various Gay Porn directors is both hysterical and moving at the same time. John Waters is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of character who can...more
Dan
Nov 22, 2011 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
i've been arguing for years to anyone who will listen that john waters is one of the great essayists of our time. why he doesn't enjoy the epic "bestseller" status of, say, david sedaris is completely beyond me.

this is a book devoted to the people who've inspired him throughout his life, and it includes some of his very best stories. the absolute tour-de-force is the narrative of his friendship with leslie van houten. van houten was one of the manson girls in the late 60's, and waters has been v...more
Lanaya
"Excited? I was apoplectic. Especially every time Clarabell got near Princess Summerfall Winterspring, the goody-goody but sexy Indian maiden nonpuppet star of the show. If only he could have burst out of his glorious 'muteness' to say her name out loud- the best name ever! The only other name I wish were mine today (except for Lord or Lady Haw-Haw, which I can't use because they were Nazis)."
Juliandra
Pg 164 sums it up for Goodreads bookworms... "You should never just read for "enjoyment." Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgemental. More apt to understand your friends' insane behaviour, or better yet, your own. Pick "hard books." Ones you have to concentrate on while reading."
Here's where John reached out from the linen-wannabe pages and made me gasp in awe. From this, it is clear that we have more than dirty thoughts in common. Three years of running a book club forced me to bite my ton...more
Kate
It's like John Waters and I have tons of mutual friends, except they're not people, they're places: The Bottom, Club Charles, The Kit Kat. That's why, in 2004, my roommate and I invited John Waters to our Funky Kingston Reggae Revival. And do you know that goddam sonofabitch never even called in his regrets! After reading this book, I just have one thing to say to you, Monsieur Les Eaux: Stay the hell away. I don't want you and your clever stories anywhere near my lowly summer parties.

John Wate...more
Ethan Miller
If you're a fan of JW's Crackpot or Shock Value you know what you're getting. Role Models doesn't disappoint. This is basically American culture writing with a keen artists perspective loaded with black/gallow's humor about transgressive hobbies and obsessions. I was particularly engrossed by the fascinating chapter on 'gay outsider porn' and the chapter (complete with step by step instructions) on how to read and enjoy abstract modern art, particularly his decoding of a Cy Twombly scribble piec...more
Sasha
First, a few words of praise. All right, more than a few.

So what made me seek solace in the words of an eccentric smart-ass like John Waters?

For starters: boredom, pop culture, cheesy books that stayed on the bestseller list for 187 weeks then later it flagellated to the Manson murders, his flamboyancy, a barbaric number of books he owns, a shocking peek on some role models of his own and of course, an introduction to the demigod of the Southern Gothic Literature, Tennessee Williams.

I immensely...more
Ismail Elshareef
I'm a big fan of John Waters' irreverent, twisted films. From the cultish "Female Trouble" and "Pink Flamingos" to the mainstream "Polyester" and "Hairspray." I love them all.

John Waters pioneered the campaign of turning filth into camp. When Divine ate dog excrement (for real) in Pink Flamingo, I was petrified. But I LOLed at the absurdity of the whole thing.

In this hilarious autobiography, Waters introduces us to some of his role models. Don't be alarmed, not all of them are pervs. The belov...more
jess
My first reaction:
This book is just pure fucking maniacal hysterical brilliance. You need to read it. Immediately. Get the audio book, please, because there is nothing comparable to the slithering way that John Waters pronounces the word "hilarious."

And after I finished the book:

This is a memoir-ish collection of inspired essays about John Water's "role models" - mostly people he idolizes, but also some minor dabbling in his own potential cult leader abilities. Here he is, the Pope of Trash, th...more
Lisa
Even though this Playaway had a few technical glitches; I was so glad I kept listening.

I have never seen a John Waters film from beginning to end, but I do remember visiting my friend Chris Barton in his multiple apartments in Muncie, IN and there always seemed to be a Waters' movie playing in the background. I knew of Divine because of him and could even identify her today if a photo was in front of me. But...I couldn't tell you which film she was in (was she in all of his???) or anything else...more
Natalie
John Waters's ability to sound genuinely appreciative of & obsessed with the icons in his life without sounding crazy & fanatical always impresses me. We're cut from the same cloth, he and I, charmed by the inner lives of wasted child actresses, riding dirty city buses in your best Commes des Garcons ensemble & respecting the long, always relevant career of Johnny Mathis. John Waters the reporter is surprisingly competent: well-researched, with personal bias but always willing to pla...more
Paige Dukes
John Waters has been a hero of mine for some time and this book has done nothing but increase that sentiment. Touching stories of friendship combined with laugh-out-loud tales of debauchery make this one a must read for any fan of the king of filth. I still find myself laughing from time to time as I am reminded of a passage or two.
bobbygw
A great collection of essays from America’s most wonderful, funny, quirky and cult film director (who can forget, once seen, the marvels of ‘Pink Flamingos’ and ‘Female Trouble’). For those who aren’t already fans of his journalism as well, John Waters is a natural writer; you can hear his voice as he reflects, shares, meditates and wryly comments on a wide range of topics. He’s also very well and widely read, and his cultural interests are equally wide-ranging and, unsurprisingly, archetypally...more
Ashvin
This was almost a 4 star book until a little more than half way through, and then it tanked. I decided to read this book because I like hearing Waters speak (in interviews on radio shows and what not). This is despite the fact that I have seen--and thoroughly hated--Pink Flamingoes. (I neither hate nor love his more mainstream movies.) One chapter that was unexpectedly moving was the one about his friendship with a former Manson girl (as in one of Charles Manson's followers who participated in k...more
Elizabeth
Oct 16, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dirty boys and girls
Shelves: 2011
This is an excellent hang over book. It's breezy, funny and interestingly trashy. I've always liked the idea of John Waters being in the world, appreciated the openish of his filth. It doesn't hurt that he is a ferocious bibliophile and if you are too you will feel a little bit of kinship there on that element alone.

I wouldn't call myself a rabid fan, I like some of his movies and projects more than others but I love the idea of them. You just need to have a healthy respect for him to enjoy thi...more
jenn
Jan 19, 2011 jenn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Memoir-esque collection of essays, which I totally loved, except for the last two. Specifically, I don't like reading about art without being able to see the piece (for obvious reasons), and the "Cult Leader" essay was funny but didn't go anywhere - I question the effectiveness of ending a book of nonfiction on such a highly satirical note. Sorry, JW.

But anyway. This guy's life is awesome. I like how he's basically always working at something, (and not just making movies/being famous) except on...more
Taylor K.
Jun 06, 2013 Taylor K. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Waters' fans
Oh John Waters, you magnificent kook, I wanted to love, to adore this book. I mostly just liked it.

The issues I had were less with the content and more with the editing/style/presentation. The essays are a little inconsistent, with some being knock-outs, and others being a bit of a slog. The chapters where he goes and visits his various heroes and role models or their family members are definitely the best ones. His interview with Johnny Mathis, with friends and relatives of various Baltimore he...more
Autumn
What could be more delightful than a book about role models by one's own role model?

John Waters is aware that fans of his cult movies look to him as an exemplar of certain ideas about taste, social class, gender and fame -- specifically, inverting the dominant culture's stance on all of these things to create a Dreamland for 'minorities who don't even fit in with their own minorities'. He has always been open about his own fandom, whether reflected in the stuntcasting/retrocasting of Tab Hunter...more
Kit Fox
Sort of like his movies, some chapters in this book are more entertaining than others. I personally enjoyed the ones on Johnny Mathis and Little Richard more than the ones dealing with ex-Manson Family members and modern art, but there's a little something here for everyone--and Waters is quite the gifted storyteller. But, regardless of all of that, John Waters continues to solidify his position as America's awesomely cooky and weird gay uncle; the one who gives you twisted movies to watch and b...more
K
Of Little Richard, John Waters says, "...I have always wished I could somehow climb into Little Richard's body, hook up his heart and vocal cords to my own, and switch identities with him." I totally want to do that with John Waters; I always have, but never as much as while reading this book. It's everything you might expect and ask for from John Waters, and more. Always encouraging you to be your best and freakiest self, how could you not love him? Want to be him? Be his beard, if he wanted on...more
Sarah
Where do you start with John Waters? I love Cry Baby and Hairspray, but I wouldn't call myself a cult fan of John Waters. I'll probably never love bad taste and subversiveness to a tenth of the degree he does, but I thought this book was entertaining and well written. I asked myself what is it exactly that I like about him? I think it is that he is enthusiastic about people and ideas he finds interesting, and is authentic and forthcoming. He's opinionated but respects others' boundaries.

There's...more
Michele
John Waters showed me time and again it was ok to be weird, it was ok to be an outsider and always much more fun. This book is no different. It acts as a written self-portrait guiding you through the magic and filth that makes up John Waters. He is warm and charming and when reading this you feel like he is right there with you. As the author reminisces about his life you can image yourself huddled together in grungy sticky vinyl booth in a dark Baltimore bar as your favorite uncle dishes the di...more
Amy
Oct 25, 2010 Amy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir, 2010
I love love love John Waters BUT this book not so much.
This started out ok but I really lost it on the ridiculously long chapter about his friendship with one of the Manson girls. I just don't care that much...
I just got a little tired of his need to constantly remind the reader that he is weird and wacky. First of all, I know that and secondly, having to remind the reader of it kind of makes you a self-promoting bore.
A better book to read about John and his life is Shock Value and Crackpot.

Saxon
The essay about good "bad mothers" was instantly accessible to me. That offspring of such mothers often look back at their upbringing with "bemused detachment" was right on.

Some of the essays were better than others, but that's typical.

I think what really makes this special is that Waters is a pop- and fringe-culture encyclopedia, particularly from a certain era before I was born, so I put the book down every few moments to look up some reference he dropped. It was educational.
Anna Merritt
I have always been a big fan of John Waters, both as a filmmaker and as a personality. I have practically worn out my copy of his spoken-word special "Filth" Deficit to say, he is one of my favorite people.

This was the first of his books that I have read and I really enjoyed it. It was fascinating, unpredictable, and a bit sick. So, definitively John Waters.

The book (non-fiction) contains a series of chapters discussing varies people who have influence the author's life. These people rang from...more
Ron
Haw! A great read. Who knew I wanted to know about Johnny Mathis, Little Richard, gay pornographers and Leslie Van Houghton's life after
Charlie Manson? But Waters made all of these topics, and others, enormously interesting, very informative and hugely entertaining. A wonderful batch of essays that captures Waters' zeitgeist perfectly.
Read as a recorded book, read by Waters himself. I usually avoid books read by the authors, but I can't imagine anyone giving a better reading. You could tell he...more
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MizzGhetoBooty~Isis~Baby_Doll 1 17 Nov 09, 2011 06:47PM  
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17366
John Samuel Waters, Jr. is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, personality, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films: Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. He is recognizable by his pencil-thin moustache.
More about John Waters...
Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste Trash Trio: Three Screenplays Art: A Sex Book

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“Being rich is not about how much money you have or how many homes you own; it's the freedom to buy any book you want without looking at the price and wondering if you can afford it.” 493 likes
“You should never read just for "enjoyment." Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends' insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick "hard books." Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god's sake, don't let me ever hear you say, "I can't read fiction. I only have time for the truth." Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of "literature"? That means fiction, too, stupid.” 385 likes
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