In the scheme of all things entertaining, John Waters is a jack-of-most-trades. He’s the campy film director who made Hairspray and Cry-Baby before they became Broadway musicals; a creepy actor (his newest movie is Excision); a conceptual artist and photographer whose works get exhibited in respected galleries and museums; a best-selling author and memoirist whose upcoming Carsick is about his longtime obsession with hitchhiking; and a monologist whose one-man show, A John Waters Christmas, brings him to the Trocadero this week. Longtime Philly residents, though, will always remember Waters as the kink-and-kitsch carnival barker who made his name here when he brought Pink Flamingos and its star, Divine, to the Theatre of Living Arts in 1972.
City Paper: Without getting syrupy, a big part of your film success started in Philadelphia.
John Waters: Certainly did. You guys were the first city outside of Baltimore where my films caught on.
CP: How exactly did you get to Philly in the first place? Did you have pre-1972 experiences here?
JW: I did. Wow. I showed Multiple Maniacs  and, I think, Mondo Trasho  at this tiny movie house. Would I be wrong — Sansom Street Cinema? I got those bookings myself. I used to send things out to the tiniest theaters to see who’d let me in. I would deliver stills to the theaters for advertising, then show up with the print myself and screen it. I’d deliver stills. Isn’t that crazy?
CP: When was the last time you held the masters to [earlier 8mm and 16mm classics] Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup?
JW: Oh my, the master is all there is — I don’t even have a print of them. The last time I handled them was during a museum show where I screened them in a little room. Until we get them on DVD, they will never leave my vaults for fear of being pirated.
CP: I don’t expect that you’d remember every character that you ran across in Philly. But I remember you had parties with Divine at Lickety Split, and that one of its bartenders, Elizabeth Coffey, famously appears in Pink Flamingos as the gal who pulls up her dress and reveals a cock. She appears in the credits as “Chick with a Dick.”
JW: She was from Philly, but actually lived in Baltimore where we cast her. I still see her from time to time, and she’s doing great. She lives outside of Chicago, has the same husband she’s had for years. They are raising his son together and she’s a happy wife and mom. She’s an AIDS activist and a very active outsider comedian; a very brave woman to do what she did in that movie.
Plus, she worked right across from the TLA back then, which was very handy for parties. I remember all of the TLA crew because I think it’s still a lot of the same people and we’re in contact. I remember lots of the people who came for our movies and the parties where Divine would appear.
You know who I really remember? Henri David. He was a sweet man. I still get a Christmas card from Henri every year.
CP: As a conceptual artist, were you a big visitor to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Duchamp room? They just redid it.
JW: Of course. (You guys have great Cy Twombly stuff, too.) Yes, I spent many nights there — wait. I don’t mean that I spent the night there.
CP: That would be something.
JW: Duchamp started everything, before anybody. Every single conceptual-art element — he was there. I doubt I’ll get a chance to get to the museum; usually when I’m on these tours I never get a chance to do anything. I get to town late, do the show, leave the next morning at 7 a.m. It’s horrible. I’ve learned that when I’m at work, I don’t get much of a chance to be a part of the scene. That’s why I have to do all of my Christmas shopping early.
CP: Speaking of Christmas, the last film your name was attached to was a holiday film, Fruitcake, that never got made. Your last finished film was 2004’s A Dirty Shame. Eight years is a long time between drinks. Don’t you have a cinematic itch that needs to be scratched?
JW: No. Between this new show and the books, I’m successful and booked until the end of 2013. Everything else does so much better than any of my movies — besides, it’s not like there’s anything left that I haven’t said already.
Thu., Nov. 29, 8 p.m., $39.50-$42 ($99 VIP meet-and-greet), The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, thetroc.com.