Wearing a black suit with light blue seersucker sleeves and pockets, a white shirt buttoned tightly around his neck, black-and-white stripped socks, grey camouflage slip-on sneakers, and his signature pencil thin mustache, John Waters sits next to a vase of red roses adorned with a bow as he signs copies of his new book, Role Models, at Atomic Books in Hampden.
Greeting more than 300 hometown fans, the 64-year-old “Pope of Trash” is in his element, signing everything from a National Bohemian beer can and sex toys to X-rays of a man’s broken legs (the guy literally crawled into the store from his wheelchair) — even a baseball, though Waters quips, “I hate sports.”
The faces of those shuffling into the small independent bookstore on this muggy night range from young to old, bedraggled to refined, all united in reverence for a living, breathing Baltimore treasure. Two elderly women waiting in line were Waters’s neighbors of nearly 17 years when he lived near Druid Hill Park. A young family that now lives in Waters’s childhood home in Lutherville is here, too.
When the signing wraps up, Waters looks satisfied. New York is the next stop on his book tour, but he says Baltimore has given him the best turnout thus far. Is he ever surprised by who comes out to meet him? “Yes,” Waters says, but not because of the obscene or outrageous. “The older I get, the younger my audience seems to get,” he says. “And that’s wealth, I think. Not anything to do with money but the crossover, the fact that my work has lasted. That’s wealth.”