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Acclaimed Director John Waters to Speak at ODU Nov. 10

Waters by Christopher Smith for The New York Times

Acclaimed director John Waters will give a lecture on Thursday, Nov. 10, for ODU Presents, a new lecture series that focuses on Old Dominion University's research initiatives and outreach efforts in civic and cultural arenas. His talk, titled "This Filthy World," begins at 7:30 p.m. in Webb Center.

During his long and storied career, Waters has directed 16 movies, many of them cult classics including "Pink Flamingos," "Hairspray," "Cry-Baby," "Serial Mom" and "A Dirty Shame."

Born in Baltimore in 1946, Waters was drawn to movies at an early age. As a teenager, he began making underground movies influenced by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Russ Meyer, Ingmar Bergman and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Using Baltimore, which he fondly dubbed the "Hairdo Capitol of the World," as the setting for all his films, Waters assembled a cast of ensemble players, mostly native Baltimoreans and friends of long standing.

Waters made his first film, "Hag in a Black Leather Jacket," in 1964, and followed with "Roman Candles" in 1966 and "Eat Your Makeup" in 1967. His first feature-length film, "Mondo Trasho," was completed in 1969. In 1972, Waters created what would become the most "notorious" film in American independent cinema of the 1970s, "Pink Flamingos," which went on to become a smash success at midnight screenings all over the world and turned him into a cult celebrity.

Waters followed the success of "Pink Flamingos" with "Female Trouble," "Desperate Living" and "Polyester." In 1988, he made the film "Hairspray," which was a box office and critical success and starred the then-unknown Ricki Lake, Deborah Harry, the late Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Pia Zadora and Ric Ocasek. The success of "Hairspray" led to "Cry-Baby" (1990), starring Johnny Depp, and "Serial Mom" (1994), starring Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston.

ODU Professor and English Chair Dana Heller, the author of "Hairspray," a book that explores the film's themes of gender, class, citizenship and race, calls Waters an American treasure. "There is simply no other way to say it," she said.

"Waters' films are iconic, his satirical sensibility merits comparison to Rabelais and Twain, and he's never been afraid to speak truth to power," said Heller. "With his long-overdue performance at ODU, we celebrate not only the far-ranging sphere of his cultural influence, but the ascendancy of ODU to the ranks of universities cool enough to appreciate his genius."

In addition to writing and directing feature films, Waters is the author of several books: "Shock Value," "Crackpot," "Pink Flamingos and Other Trash," "Hairspray, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs" and "Art: A Sex Book" (co-written with art critic Bruce Hainley). His most recent book, "Role Models" (2010), earned spots on the bestseller lists for the New York Times, "Los Angeles Times" and San Francisco Chronicle. Waters is also a photographer whose work has been shown in galleries worldwide since 1992.

Waters is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is on the Wexner Center International Arts Advisory Council. He is a past member of the boards of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Printed Matter Inc., and was selected as a juror for the 2011 Venice Biennale.

Waters' ODU lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, however, and guests are encouraged to RSVP at 683-3116 or www.odu.edu/ao/univents (event code PFW11).

This article was posted on: October 24, 2011

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