Fatty Claus Got Run Over By a Reindeer: A John Waters’ Christmas Finds Cheer in the Season’s Kookiest Carols and Whacked-Out Stories

Posted on: Dec 11th, 2013 By:

Forget a War on Christmas! A John Waters’ Christmas, Thursday Dec. 12 at Variety Playhouse, prefers X-Mas and puts a refreshingly raunchy “X” into it with a darkly comic adults-only one-man show of holiday mayhem and mischief. The variety show pays homage to the tradition both of the holiday album and the TV special, but for those who cringe at listening to Christmas carols, Waters digs out the most cringe-worthy of holiday tunes. But he delivers the kitsch with the mastery he’s known for as a twisted storyteller and showman, sharing anecdotes as much as music – offbeat stories drawn from his personal holiday experiences and a voracious appetite for scouring the media. From all accounts, the result is the absolutely perfect  glam/gross-out gift we expect from the director of PINK FLAMINGOS (1972), the odoramic POLYESTER (1981) and the knock-it-out-of-the-closet hit HAIRSPRAY (1988).

In a recent TIME Magazine interview about the tour, Waters laments so many lost opportunities for Christmas albums from Pussy Riot to rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He seems genuinely giddy that Johnny Mathis has a new one out! But that’s Waters’ charm–his absolute enthusiasm and embrace of the tacky, the trashy and the odd–and sometimes even the insanely mainstream. If Pia Zadora ever recorded a holiday tune, you know Waters would be proudly playing it. And since she’s now torch-singing in Vegas, who knows?!

Waters’ Christmas live show takes off from his own 2004 compilation of hellacious and hilarious holiday tunes, from ditties that celebrate Santa’s weight like “Here Comes Fatty Claus” by Rudolph and Gang and the jazzy, jingly “Fat Daddy” by Paul “Fat Daddy” Johnson, Baltimore DJ and the “300-pound King of Soul,” to the twangy, whispery  “First Snowfall” by Chicago lounge-core band The Coctails. There’s also “Little Mary Christmas,” by Roger Christian, who co-wrote Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and several Beach Boys tunes,  head an excruciating sentimental and horrible tale of a crippled orphan named Mary who finds new parents on Christmas Day. Tiny Tim, perhaps the most frightening pop star ever, creepily croons the worst ever warped version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and Waters, never afraid to push our racial comfort boundaries, also includes the chirpy and controversial “Santa Claus is a Black Man, a soulful revision of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” sung by AKIM, the daughter of  Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Teddy Vann with his Teddy Vann Production Company. It wouldn’t be Waters, without indulging his inexplicable love for the ear-shatteringly squeaky with Alvin and the Chipmunks‘ “Sleigh Ride.” Oh, and nothing may be more horrifying than Little Cindy’s “Happy Birthday, Jesus (A Children’s Prayer). Little Cindy apparently also released such singles as “If Santa Was My Daddy” and the B-side “It Must Have Been the Easter Bunny.”

What else can we say about John Waters except that we’d be happy to listen to him read the phone book! Because we know by the 10th name, he’d have an anecdote to unleash which would make us laugh and maybe gag, too. After all, this man is the master of the gross-out from his one-time comment that every filmmaker can afford a barf scene to Divine devouring dog poop. With that in mind, to get you into the Merry Mondo spirit, here are five more things you may or may not know about John and Christmas!

1) His favorite Christmas movie is the B-horror CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). From the TIME interview: “It’s about the guy who is so obsessed with Santa Claus that he gets a job at a toy factory and spies on all the children to see if they are good or bad. And then he gets stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve. It’s really good. It’s hard to beat CHRISTMAS EVIL.”

2) For the past five years or so, he’s tried to make a kids’ Christmas movie called FRUITCAKE which had Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey attached to star.

3) John hates the Easter Bunny. (Source: The Gothamist).

4) Don’t give John a fruit basket for Christmas. “I can buy a pear, you know? It’s not so hard to find a pear. I think gift baskets should be drugs or cigarettes, things you’d never buy for yourself. I don’t take drugs or smoke cigarettes anymore, but I think a gift basket filled with them would terrific.” (Source: Oh, No, They Didn’t)

5) He sends out lots of Christmas cards. Over 1,700 according to TIME!

ATLRetro hopes to see you Thursday at the Variety! For $35 general admission or $100 VIP tickets, click here. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a “nice” sweater!

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Their Day in Sun Records: David Elkins Walks the Line as Johnny Cash with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET

Posted on: Mar 12th, 2013 By:

The National Tour of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Photo by Paul Natkin)

A fateful winter day when four of rock and country’s greatest sang together is recreated in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, the hit musical which plays the Fox Theatre from March 12-17 as part of the Broadway in Atlanta series. The extraordinary recording session on Dec. 4, 1956, included Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and was presided over by legendary Sun Records owner/producer Sam Phillips. Among the rock hits recorded that night were “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Matchbox,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

The family of Johnny Cash, in a twist of fate and coincidence, moved to Memphis in the early 1950s. One day he worked up his gumption to show up at Sun and ask Sam for a recording contract. Sam wasn’t interested in the gospel songs that were Johnny’s first love and was rumored to suggest he “go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell.” Johnny says that anecdote didn’t happen, but he did switch to rockabilly, Sam took him on, and he recorded early hits such as “Hey Porter,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and ‘Walk the Line” at Sun. He actually became Sun’s best selling artist and the first to complete an LP.

To find out more about MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET and Johnny Cash’s Sun years, we caught up with David Elkins, who plays Johnny in the national tour company.

David Elkins as Johnny Cash in The National Tour of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Photo by Paul Natkin)

How did you get the part of Johnny Cash?

I answered an open call audition inNew York City. Yes, I was going in solely for the role of Johnny.  I couldn’t begin to do those other guys justice. But I knew what I sounded like when I sang, and I just thought, “I can do that.” I love Johnny and his story. I respect his life’s journey and what he stood for, so it’s a real honor to try and bring a glimpse of that, one slice of time in his life, and share that with people everyday.

Some people may be less familiar with Johnny Cash’s relationship with Sun Records than with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. What will audiences learn about him in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET that they may not know?

Johnny Cash was there at Sun, but he left for Columbia Records, which is one of the dramatic story points in the show. He wanted to record a gospel album, and Mr. Phillips didn’t want to record it. He didn’t think the kids would buy it, but Columbia said they  would record it. It’s true that when most people think of Johnny, it’s more the “Man in Black” Johnny Cash of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and later AMERICAN RECORDINGS even, with [producer] Rick Rubin. That’s maybe why the Sun Records years don’t stick out as much today to some.

How did you approach playing Johnny Cash?

Instead of tackling the icon and trying to bring all that to the stage in less than two hours, I approached him as a 24-year-old kid from Arkansas who grew up picking cotton. My grandmother grew up 200 miles north of where Johnny was born [in Kingsland], so I heard all sorts of stories about picking cotton, working in the fields, and looking out for rattlesnakes. I thought of those folks who I have met. It made [Johnny’s early life] immediately tangible for me.

What are your favorite songs in the musical?

I really like our Quartet numbers. We do “Down By the Riverside” and “Peace in My Valley.” Those are pretty magical moments when we get to harmonize. And personally I love watching the other guys do their thing. I get to be on stage and watch them. Everybody I work with is so talented. I really love doing “Walk the Line,” too. People really open up to it. The first song I do is “Folsom Prison Blues,” and that song always gets a great reaction. After one show, I talked to a navy midshipman who used to listen to Johnny Cash all the time. He said, while I was singing, he closed his eyes and thought of his friends. I thought that was very genuine and from the heart. Things like that are very special.

I did a show in Durham, NC, and Johnny Cash’s nephew and his family met me after the show. He said that someone had told him he should go see the show. He said he figured that the other guys will be pretty good, but “nobody sounds like my uncle Johnny…but you nailed it.” That was such a blessing to me and a real confirmation of what we are trying to do.

Ben Goddard as Jerry Lee Lewis, James Barry as Carl Perkins, Cody Slaughter as Elvis Presley and David Elkins as Johnny Cash in The National Tour of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Photo by Paul Natkin)

Do you have any ritual for getting in character?

My warm-up consists of singing along to the HYMNS BY JOHNNY CASH album that he recorded shortly after he left Sun. I also watched old videos of his appearances on TV shows such as TOWN HALL PARTY and THE TEX RITTER SHOW and other clips of that era. It is not an impersonation, but I try to channel the feel of those shows. I think about what makes Johnny such a dynamic performer, so earnest and direct with his delivery. He really made each song his own. He was a storyteller. When he covered other people’s songs, he attached an earnestness, just a storyteller’s sensibility to every song. And there’s always that danger, that unpredictability under the surface that I think people are drawn to.

What will audiences be most surprised by?

I think audiences will be surprised by the undeniable impact this one man, Sam Phillips, had on the birth of rock n roll. He really had a gift for pulling new sounds out of young artists, and he recognized the racial barriers in music and helped to knock those down. He’s one of the few people in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that wasn’t a musician. The show really is an ode to Sam Phillips. He really anchors the whole story. The script [by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux] was based on GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT: SUN RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF ROCK N ROLL by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins. You can really feel the respect and love the authors have for Sam. It’s interesting to listen to the music of that time. If you listen to what they would have heard on the radio, then you can better understand why what they did at Sun was so revolutionary.

Vince Nappo as Sam Phillips in The National Tour of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

In MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, you’ve had the pleasure of performing in a lot of vintage theaters before getting to our Fabulous Fox. Any favorites?

A great part of the tour has been seeing beautiful old theaters. One of the cast members, Katie Barton, who is the understudy for Elvis’s girlfriend Dyanne, is from Atlanta and she told me the Fox is beautiful. There was Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, NY, where Duke Ellington performed and KING KONG played. I liked the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia. It wasn’t the most beautiful and the boards were a bit creaky, but it takes you back in time a bit and it felt great to be right in the middle of the city. The [former] Hippodrome [ now the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center] in Baltimore was also very impressive and a lot of fun to play in.

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Taboo La-La! Blast-Off Burlesque Stirs Up Some FEMALE TROUBLE, John Waters Style, At The Plaza This Saturday!

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

By Melanie Magnifique
Contributing Blogger

FEMALE TROUBLE (1974); Dir: John Waters; Writer: John Waters; Starring Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 23; 10 PM; free makeup, meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), costume contest, Filthy Fashion makeovers with prizes from Libertine! Special guests include Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll & Baltimore’s own Elle Devene; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

This Saturday night, Blast-Off Burlesque will serve up a veritable cornucopia of camp while hosting John Waters dark comedy, FEMALE TROUBLE at the Plaza Theatre as part of their sin-sational new cinema series—Taboo La-La! Before viewing the film in its original 35mm format, moviegoers will be able to compete for fantastic prizes in costume and makeover contests, as well as enjoy performances by Blast-Off and their very special guests, Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll and Baltimore’s own Elle Devene.

Released in 1974, FEMALE TROUBLE tells the story of Dawn Davenport (played by infamous drag queen, Divine), a bratty bad-girl who lives a hard-knock life of juvenile delinquency, experiencing sexual assault, subsequent single motherhood, employment in the sex industry, obsession with fame and victimization by sensationalists masquerading as artists. Did I mention that it’s rated NC-17?

Blast-Off’s Co-founder (and ATLRetro Kool Kat), Barb Hays, says the film’s caustic content fits right in with the sprit of Taboo La-La. “You know, the Plaza Theatre used to show adult films, so we decided that we would host a series which paid homage to its roots,” she explains. “They can’t show X-rated stuff anymore, but there’s plenty of great films out there which push the boundaries of societal taboo as decreed by the MPAA.”

Melanie Magnifique. Photo credit: March Turnley

Hays adds that now is a crucial time to support the Plaza Theatre. This week Plaza Owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej announced that they are looking for a buyer forAtlanta’s oldest cinema, adding that they do not wish to close, and are seeking individuals or organizations which might preserve the landmark theater as a historical site. Since purchasing the theater in 2006, the Rejs have focused on event-centered films with live audience-interactive elements, including Splatter Cinema, the Silver Scream Spookshow, Flicks & Giggles, Summer Camp, Art Opening and a Movie and Taboo-La-La! In 2009, the Plaza Theatre received nonprofit status.

Supporting the Plaza Theatre is a rare chance to do something special for this community and gifts of all sizes will make a big difference. The Plaza Theatre Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and all gifts are tax  deductible. All funds generated will be used toward restoration, furnishings, equipment, operations and community initiatives for The Plaza Theatre.

Saturday’s events kick-off at 10 p.m., and the first 50 people in the door will receive free makeup! They can also eat meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), and the most beautiful, glamorous audience member in the costume contest will win a basket of makeup! The winner of the Filthy Fashion makeovers will win prizes from Libertine!

Are you willing to die for Art? As Dawn Davenport says, “Being executed will make you famous, like winning an academy award.” Put on your biggest hair and your cha-cha heels! The bad girls are back in town!

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2020 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress