Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation


For film connoisseurs, there is rarely a story too minute about a production or a detail too obscure about an actor.  Luckily for those with insatiable appetites for film lore there are a few books out there that should quell their hunger.  These books all tell stories that show, no matter when the production or era, that people were just as strange back in the day as they are now.  It’s no wonder there have been so many popular films about Hollywood’s strange dark side (think Hollywoodland, Ed Wood, Sunset Boulevard, or Postcards From the Edge), the tales recounted in these books are true and are as strange or stranger than anything Hollywood’s top writers could imagine…


Shock Value by John Waters

This book is the closest John Waters has come thus far to a memoir.  In it he details, though a series of essays, his early life in suburban Baltimore, shockingly normal if you consider he would later go on to be dubbed the “Pope of Trash” or “King of Puke.” His college career at NYU, which was cut short due to lack of interest and and a marijuana scandal.  Most interesting are his early encounters with beyond bizarre characters like Mealcum Sole, a modern day Mea West, who dressed like a prostitute, wore so much make-up it melted off her face in the heat, and supposedly fucked Jack Kerouac in a buffalo exhibit at the Baltimore Zoo.  The book is rife with photos and stories of prostitutes, burlesque strippers, and other curious people he and his dreamland crew (Mink Stole, David Lochary, and, of course, Divine) saught the company of.  The book also goes through most of his early, more grounbbreakingly shocking films and has interviews with Herschell Gordon Lewis (the “Wizard of Gore”) and Divine (where she talks about the most she’s eaten in a single sitting and recounts the time Elton John invited her to join him and Elizabeth Taylor on his private jet as a birthday present).  Waters seems intent on not leaving out a single detail of his exploits with his outrageous and larger than life crowd, and you get the feeling that he could make an entire alternate filmography just by adapting his real life into movies.  An interesting follow-up book is Crackpot, though more a collection of essays written for various magazines like Rolling Stone and Film Comment, he still sneaks in interesting tidbits about his life and films, see “Going to Jail” and especially “Whatever Happened to Showmanship,” where he parallels his career with that of the king of gimmicks, William Castle.


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