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December 22, 2011

A typically quirky, raunchy John Waters Christmas

I'd love to know what the two dear little old ladies, clutching their canes, expected when they entered the Lyric Opera House Wednesday night for "A John Waters Christmas."

Were they in the wrong place? Did they get the dates mixed up, and thought it was Thursday, when the Irish Tenors will perform there? Were they expecting Johnny Mathis?

(During the show, Waters, a longtime fan of the singer's, said he thought it would be funny if he and Johnny booked concerts on the same night, one at the Lyric, one at the Meyerhoff, and then switched places without warning their respective audiences. Sounds cool to me.)

If those sweet looking elderly souls actually knew what they were in for, they have my great admiration. Even I was embarrassed hearing some of the raunchier stuff our Baltimore icon said in his roughly 80-minute monologue.

Waters has been doing an extensive tour -- more than two dozen performances all over the place, including Down Under -- and the Baltimore gig served, appropriately, as the last stop.

Decked out in a spirited, Isaac Mizrahi-designed red suit, Waters kept more or less to the Christmas theme, mostly by ...

mentioning (unprintable) gifts he would find interesting to give or receive.

Along the way, he dispensed keen observations on human behavior ("If you are old enough to remember the fashions, you are too old to wear them") and, especially, sexuality (this guy probably knows more about gay and straight sexual habits than most gays and straights). Of course, he also reminisced about Baltimore people, places and practices -- no one can do that better.

Like some of his movies, the results were uneven, a mix of wickedly funny peaks and dry spells. But those peaks sure could be formidable; mentions of Connie Francis and the 1961 movie "Susan Slade" were particularly delicious. Waters' assured, rapid-fire delivery was never less than impressive, as was the way he fielded questions from the house afterward.

And what a distinctive audience it was, ideal for people-watching in the lobby beforehand. Several seemed to have dressed as if they expected a casting call for the next John Waters film.

It turns out that some of those folks were not on their best behavior. A Sun colleague told me that she and her party were stuck in the midst of persistently rowdy types in the balcony, including a drunken woman who vomited into her purse. I guess there's irony or something in a Waters-like scene playing out during his own show.


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drama Queens


Yes, I'm the one who was subjected to the vomit-purse scenario. All I can say is it's a typical Baltimore night out when the most offensive thing at a john Waters show is NOT John Waters.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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