Detroit’s annual Dirty Show, a celebration of erotic art in all its myriad forms, welcomed the crown prince of deviancy and master of bad taste, Mr. John Waters, to the Motor City to enlighten attendees on the finer points of, well, being dirty. Not that the audience really needed much help. Dommes, daddies, and heavily-inked degenerates of all kinds swanned about the Russell Industrial Center’s exhibition hall in various revealing or suggestive outfits, really only settling down for Waters’ performance, a revised version of This Filthy World the filmmaker and raconteur claimed was “dirtier, filthier than before.”
Waters regaled the audience with anecdotes of his early filmmaking years, from how he got Divine to eat dog shit on camera to which drugs resulted in the smoothest productions, and aside from a few left wandering the exhibition, had everyone listening with rapt attention. He also discussed my very stock in trade, pornography, calling out the hetero porn industry for rendering even the most filthy vulgarities quite bland. (Case in point: anal prolapses are called “blossoms” in gay porn, “rosebuds” in straight.)
Looking around Dirty Show 16, it seemed Waters was onto something. The more outlandish and adventurous works hanging on the exhibition hall walls were not predominantly heterosexual. Where the female form was used (from a clearly male view point) it was as an object of distant appreciation, an almost abstracted lust that no longer produced a physical reaction in the viewer, just a gentle appreciation of the form before them. Following Waters’ line of thinking, it’s not greater video definition, hotter or younger women, or more “intense” schtupping that straight porn needs, but that obscure element of genuine filth that could reinvigorate what many regard as a floundering industry and (yes) art form. Whether this filthiness can be found in the throng of recent step-incest movies or Kink & Co’s consistently taboo-smashing aggro-fetishism remains to be seen. If you ask me, though, it’s far more likely to spring from a figure like Dana Vespoli (arguably the most sour-looking woman in porn yet a fan- and critic-favorite for her truly adventurous performing career and boldly individual and highly inventive work as a director). With female performers launching themselves as directors after Belladonna, Bobbi Starr, and Ms. Vespoli paved the way, and with the 2015 AVN Award for Best Director going to a woman, Mason, it seems women are only gaining more strength and, we can only hope, bring a decidedly filthy and blazingly original element back to porn.
And, no, unfortunately we can’t hold out hope for Mr. Waters’ foray into mainstream hetero hardcore, which he considers about as sexy as open heart surgery. And besides, the man William Burroughs called The Pope of Trash is trying to get the financing together for a long-gestating family-oriented film.
Photos by John Froelich, Detroit Free Press