John Waters on parental pangs, a problematic Pope and a pick-up predicament

'I'm hoping to bring back hitchhiking'
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The Independent Culture

'Hairspray' is the only devious movie I ever made I was shocked when it got good ratings, but Middle America didn't notice that the movie did things like encourage white girls to date black guys; it was like a Trojan horse, and it was my most successful film in spreading alternative thinking.

My job is selling surprise When I've shocked people, I've enjoyed the responses people had. But I always try to make people laugh at the same time. All I've ever wanted in life is to duplicate the anarchy I witnessed watching House on Haunted Hill in the 1950s, when I was young. During the movie, each cinema had a skeleton that came out of a box next to the screen and flew down on a wire across the auditorium, and the audience went crazy. I never quite did replicate that, but I've got close.

Nobody wants to watch my movies with their parents I felt bad at my father watching [2004 satirical sex comedy] A Dirty Shame, and him then knowing what felching was. He did say afterwards that, "It's interesting, but I hope I never see it again." The only good thing about my mother dying is that she didn't read my new book Carsick [in which Waters recounts his experiences hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco]. She didn't need to read the explicit fantasy parts, which I wrote before I set off.

I'm hoping to bring back hitchhiking It's green, and it's free. I was so happy every time a car stopped and picked me up: I felt exhilarated. When it got to the point that I had to get out, I felt dread. If you have a sign, it works. Once I was picked up by a Republican elected official who was very young and had never heard of me. We drove for 48 hours, talking about the world, but by the end he still didn't know who I was.

You give up the right to have anonymous bad sex when you're a celebrity I can't go on [dating app] Grindr; what would I put on the profile – me? When you have any kind of celebrity you have to give that up. And when I've been in some club and a person comes up and says "I've seen your film, Flamingo," it puts a real dampener on things.

What happened to cruising? With Grindr , there's no such thing any more, it's unheard of. So now, if you're walking down the street and stop at a shop window to talk to another person and turn to them and say, "Hey, what you doing?" they'd think you were insane.

I was honoured to be called the Pope of trash by William Burroughs. I'm honoured to be called anything by Burroughs: it was like God himself was anointing me!

There are a lot of little things I could kill people for Particularly people who do yoga exercises at the departure gate at the airport. But it also drives me crazy when you invite someone for dinner and they say, "Well I can't have this, or this and I don't like that" – that's three food groups I can't serve!

The current Pope is worse than the previous one I'm going to be unpopular here but I don't think Pope Francis is going to radicalise anyone [in gay rights]. It's like that song by The Undisputed Truth – "Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend… Beware of that pat on the back." Yes, what he's said is better than what the other Pope was saying [about homosexuality], but the best things that have happened to the gay-rights movement have been public figures who made people pissed, like Ronald Reagan, who wouldn't say the word "Aids".

John Waters, 68, is an American writer, performer and film director who rose to notoriety in the 1970s with cult films including 'Pink Flamingos' and 'Multiple Maniacs'. 'Carsick' (Corsair, £16.99) is out now

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