It's hard to believe that John Waters' 1972 movie would have anyone still upset, but here we are. The film stars drag queen Divine as a notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure that goes up against a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as "The Filthiest Person Alive."
In a recent interview, Waters told Entertainment Weekly that despite Pink Flamingos achieving cult status now, it lost a bunch of legal cases then, and was deemed "obscene."
Waters went on to tell the story, saying, “I never won [obscenity cases]. Because at midnight, Pink Flamingos is joyous, it’s exciting, the audience loves it. But if you’re sworn in on jury duty in a courthouse, sitting there next to a stranger, watching a singing asshole at 7:30 in the morning, I promise you, it is obscene. It’s all about geography. I would just plead guilty, which was a $1,000 fine, and the lawyers usually cost more than that.”
Waters is so much fun, and his movie is pretty dirty, but it's all done in poor taste to get you to laugh. If you've seen the film, you get what I mean. Still, it's funny to see that after 50 years, it's still banned in places.
He said, “Still, in Hicksville, New York, on Long Island, technically, if they ever show Pink Flamingos, Bob Shaye, the head of New Line, and I can go to prison, because we signed a thing saying, if it ever played there we would go to prison. And I do believe Pink Flamingos may have played in Hicksville. I don’t know if I’m wanted by the police, but I never drive by that town in case.”
This kind of reputation is actually what drove Pink Flamingos to become such a cult classic. When it was released, they handed out barf bags at some theaters. They even released a trailer that had no footage from the movie, just audience reactions, urging them to go check it out. This was viral marketing before we had the internet. It was such a genius way to encourage people to get outside their comfort zones and to create a conversation around a movie.
Everything was done to get people talking and to get them anticipating. Still, all this paid off. Pink Flamingos is part of the National Film Registry and is considered historically important.
Take that, Long Island.