photo: David Magnusson
John Waters, the master of great, sweet, trashy movies such as Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and Serial Mom, took time out during the holiday season to put on a show at the Roxie Cinema on 16th Street to raise money for the venerable old art house.
Waters is a very funny man, but takes the topic of how San Francisco’s great repertory movie theaters have disappeared over the years very seriously.
“I first came to San Francisco in 1970,” said Waters. “We had so many great houses here in those days – the Cento Cedar, the Times in North Beach, the Richelieu, and so on. They are all gone, except for the Roxie. We have to do something about preserving the Roxie.”
Rachel Hart, the operations director at the Roxie, says the Dec. 11 benefit was a great success.
“John stayed for hours after the show at the Roxie,” she said. “He signed everything from all sorts of fans, posters, DVDs, pictures, and all. That included signing someone’s stomach. I’m not sure how much John liked that, though. The best part is, the Roxie is still breathing, and John helped us so much.”
Hart said she has worked at the Roxie for four years but never had witnessed such a sense of celebration as she witnessed on Dec. 11.
“I was thrilled by the way some people in San Francisco are keeping up a sense of good spirit for us.”
The theater has been expanding into other public art projects. “To become more creative and expansive this way is becoming more popular,” said Hart. “This helps to keep art houses alive.”
By the way, if you mention the film Olga’s Hour of Shame, John Waters’s eyes will well with tears. There is no Grade Z movie that he would dismiss. They all are portions of wonderment that feed the John Waters imagination, which is formidable.
He’s not without a biting sensibility. After all, his films are masterpieces of satire. “I got tired of movies that promised everything and delivered nothing,” he said.
I mentioned that as a teenager, I worked at the Bleecker Street Cinema in Greenwich Village. “Oh, I loved that theater,” said Waters. “I had sex during a screening of The Blue Angel. That’s a little scoop that you may have.”
It only goes to show that great movie houses can afford all sorts of opportunities.
The Roxie Cinema is the oldest continually operating theater in San Francisco and has recently received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status; current film schedule and upcoming events at 415-863-1087, www.roxie.com.