A paean to the strange suburbs of Baltimore

Waters7John Waters at Lapham's Quarterly:

If you play that game where you pick your porn-star moniker by using the name of the street of your first childhood home as your first name and your real middle name as your last, I’d be Clark Samuels. John S. Waters Jr., 1401 Clark Avenue, Lutherville, Maryland. My first house. My first arena. My launching pad to creative filth.

Does anyone ever forget the first room you were allowed to make your own? As a kid, I was lucky enough to have my own bedroom far enough away from my parents or brother and sisters that spying on me was nearly impossible. All I ever wanted to be was the rock-and-roll king. When I first saw Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957, twitching and moaning “Heartbreak Hotel,” I was almost eleven but immediately knew I was gay. Then the decorator gene kicked in. Down from my walls came the family’s tasteful Audubon prints and up went glossy head shots of the Everly Brothers, Tab Hunter, and the Platters (one of whom sported a pencil mustache). I nagged my mom and dad into buying me a reel-to-reel tape recorder so I could be an early pirate and tape all the hits off the radio without having to wait to buy them. Then I’d play these rockabilly and rhythm-and-blues numbers over and over as I danced around my room lip-synching, gyrating, and talking to myself. Finally I had a think tank.

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