Kat Hudson

Kat Hudson
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Birthday
May 16
Bio
Kathryn Hudson has been a writer for most of her life. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she currently calls Baltimore, Md., her home. As an award-winning journalist, Ms. Hudson spent several years as a newspaper reporter. She is currently raising a beautiful daughter on her own as a single mother along with two obnoxious cats (they are probably both French-Canadian). In her free time she writes. In her regular life, she juggles a cute infant along with a job in sales, blogs, and short films about everything. She welcomes new friends and correspondence, especially from befuddled new parents like herself.

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JUNE 7, 2010 5:43AM

John Waters, you are my 'Role Model'

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Cover of John Waters' newest book,
 

You should have a passion for whatever interests you and try to make it your life's work — not dabble!” –John Waters on his new book, “Role Models.”

Last Saturday, I met film director, John Waters, for about the tenth time since I’ve lived in Baltimore. He was signing his new book, “Role Models” at the local independent bookstore, Atomic Books (disclaimer, I am friends with owners Rachel Whang and Benn Ray both of whom have my profuse adoration and respect). He was a little more wrinkled than the last time I’d seen him so close up, but the twinkle in his eye was still there.

“Hi, how have you been?” He said with the sweetly sinister grin.

I tried to make a joke or two as he signed the two books I’d purchased—one for me and one for a friend who couldn’t make the signing. He misspelled my name, but then again, I didn’t tell him that I spell it with a “K” and not a “C.” And I didn’t have the heart to correct him. I was just happy to see him. For as long as I’ve known of his work, John Waters has been one of my role models.

We may seem like very different people, but I suspect that in our hearts, we kind of match.

Maybe it’s because the first film I’d ever seen of his was “Hairspray.” Set in 1950s Baltimore, the lead actress was not just a bubbly fat girl (the way I’ve often been described), but she was smart, funny and got the very cute guy in the end. All my life, I’d never seen a movie that made girls like me such winners. Even with its few gross-out moments, the core of the film was so cheerful and heartfelt; it made me feel like I was finally somebody.  As a fat girl, you’re often the biggest person in the room, but also the most invisible. Tracy Turnblad (as portrayed by Ricki Lake) was the kind of girl who threw her weight around for change instead of allowing it to insulate her from the cruelty of life.

Growing up in Utah, I wasn’t the fattest girl in my class. That distinction belonged to another girl I’ll call “Tess.” Tess was built a little bit like a bowling ball with legs. She was so round and large with pale skin and freckles, she was hard to dismiss. Yet everyone did. Except for me. I felt like I was right behind her. Each year as I passed through puberty, I grew larger. Even though I tried many diets and exercise plans, nothing seemed to want to work. I learned of a thyroid problem in my 20s that has come and gone since then. Today, I’m bigger than poor Tess ever was.

I moved to the east coast shortly after graduating from high school. I moved for many reasons. One was to escape the crazy Jehovah’s Witness religion my parents had joined when I was 10. As they got deeper and deeper into their faith, I started to learn just how limited my options would be after becoming an adult. Had I stayed in their faith, I would have been expected to become a full-time evangelist, also known as a “Pioneer.” A pioneer commits most of her time (men can be pioneers, but most happen to be women thanks to the fact that only men can be ministers) to going door-to-door marketing herself for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  I could also get married and have babies with another Jehovah’s Witness, but given that most JW men were pretty picky about whom they married, being a fat girl sort of lowered my chances of finding “Brother Right.”

The second reason I left Utah was simply to enjoy doing what I loved best: writing. Where I’d had dreams of moving to New York City and living in a shoebox-sized apartment with one cat and a typewriter, I settled for a live-in nanny gig in New Jersey. It gave me a larger place to live, a regular paycheck and lots of writing time when my charges were in school.

The last reason I escaped Utah was for the chance to finally be myself. Aside from being raised as a JW in a state run by Mormons, I didn’t feel like I ever fit in anywhere there. At least a few times a month, I remember being called “weird.” When you’re a kid, words like that sting. As I got older, however, it made me realize that being different had its advantages. I had the coolest friends who were probably the most creative bunch in the school. Being weird was our normal.

Sometime after moving to New Jersey, I made a new set of friends. I also got involved in community theater and that is where I met Reynolds, a dreamy older boy who played “Prince Charming” in the musical production of “Cinderella.” I landed a bit part in but also served as ballroom dance choreographer (thank you fifth and sixth grade ballroom dance classes!). He was tall, dark and requisitely handsome. I suspect he was also gay, but that didn’t matter. He made me feel pretty and funny. He also introduced me to John Waters.

It was at the all-night cinemas of Perth Amboy where we decided to see a movie at 2 a.m. I’d never seen a movie so late in all my life. The last time I’d seen a movie after midnight was when I was eight. My father’s friend, who owned a movie theater in Salt Lake City, invited us to the very first showing of “Star Wars” with his family. He was legally allowed to show the film only after midnight on the day of its release, so he invited our family to see it with his and be the first in the city to see it. When Reynolds suggested “Hairspray” and said I’d probably like it, I agreed to go. I emerged from that theater at 4 a.m. feeling like a brand-new person. A few months later, I moved to Baltimore. It seemed the perfect place for a weirdo like me.

A year after coming to Charm City (one of our quirky nicknames for this town), I heard that John Waters was auditioning actors for his next film, “Cry Baby.” I figured I had nothing to lose by auditioning. So I dressed up in my best retro garb and found myself in the Station North Arts District along with about 1,500 other hopefuls waiting to audition for this film. I didn’t get the part, but I met two boys who would go onto major fame in Hollywood. One got a part in “Cry Baby;” the other I dated briefly before he moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in television and film.

Sometime after my audition, I started learning more about the man behind the movie that had changed my life.

John Waters, Baltimore born and raised, was an original “guerilla” filmmaker. He didn’t get permission from the city or anyone to make his films. He and his friends would invade a street in Baltimore, shoot their scene and run. He turned one of his best friends, the incomparable Glenn Milstead, into “Divine,” a drag queen who ate dog feces on screen and managed to look glamorous doing it. Every shock-comedy film since his first film, “Mondo Trasho” (released in 1969—the year I was born) owes Waters a debt of gratitude.  So do I.

The first lengthy conversation I had with Waters was back in the mid-nineties when he was promoting his book, “Shock Value.” My ex-husband and I attended a reception for him at the University of Baltimore where I was so thrilled to meet him, I blurted out “I’m from Utah!” His eyes lit up and he clasped his hands together.

“Tell me about the Mormons,” he grinned. I obliged and spent almost half an hour chatting with him about my former hometown until he was dragged away by some handler.

The weird fat girl from Utah who once traded fake newspapers with gossipy stories about people from my church with my best friend, Ruthie, learned just how acceptable it is to be exactly who I am and embrace it, not try to change it. I am grateful for movies like “Hairspray” and even “Mondo Trasho.” I learned that to be weird (and even fat) can be beautiful.

All I can say is: Thank you, John Waters. 

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A wonderfully absurd choice of role model
I can't tell you how much I love this post. There is so much here to love.
"The weird fat girl from Utah who once traded fake newspapers with gossipy stories about people from my church with my best friend, Ruthie, learned just how acceptable it is to be exactly who I am and embrace it, not try to change it." Well said, well done._r
Great post, Kat. I too am a long time Waters fan(atic) and have all of his films and books. He was a major influence on many in my social circles over the years and I've loved his warped humour and singular vision, mixed with his tenacity to get out there and do what he has done.

I'm looking forward to reading "Role Models" but they were out of copies at the book store when I went in the other day. Will have to look elsewhere this week.
You sound like a person with a pulse of adventure, and I can identify with that, meeting people, who introduce you to people and each person bringing something to you that you turn into something meaningful and useful to you....a connector. Great writing.R
Thanks for sharing yourself with us Kat. You are typically quite brave in your writing, but admitting to Waters as a role model . . . wow. ;-)
Kat, refreshing and honest from the gut writing.
Kat, what a wonderful story. You have a gift for telling. Thanks for sharing. r
This is a great story. I can understand how you would finally feel like someone 'got' you after seeing Hairspray because that was an incredible role. Why wouldn't someone so original, so creative be your role model? He is amazing! Sounds as though you are too.
Great piece, Sister Kat. What Joan said.
Wonderful story, beautifully told. So glad you escaped your JW prison, and grew up to be a John Waters fan.
So glad you got out and found your place in the world!
Sorry that you've suffered so much.
I've been back to your blog twice now.
i'm so jealous! i love john waters but sadly, only from afar.

i think his mind is brilliant and he has 'sees' things for what they really are... and of course his sense of the absurd is fantastic.
Wow, what a great journey. I am glad you escaped religious prison and found yourself. R
John Waters (or at least his art) is definitely a role model - but don't forget that you are, too.

Anytime a writer expresses himself/herself as eloquently as this, you communicate the humanity of the different. We're all weirdos at one time or another, but those of us who deal with weight suffer the unique problem of having our weakness be visible 24/7.

Just as "Hairspray" was an inspiration for you, your writing (and hopefully mine, as I'm working on a novel with a fat heroine) will inspire someone else who feels marginalized.

Nice work!
Beautiful post. And I love what he does.
I, too, Love Waters. And love his refusal to judge. In fact, to judge the judgers!
Kat you are such a brilliant writing light! Even John Waters shines like neon now, and I loved him Before reading this! Wonderful post and absolutely stunning heart-funded clarity! Amazed by you again!
Weird is a badge of honor, even if it can be tiring.

My best friend as a small child was JW. His parents didn't like us associating, but we not only went to the same school, we lived in a run down duplex together, and there was a hole in the wall between our bedrooms. I vividly remember him crying and begging me to become JW, so I could be saved and we could be friends in the afterlife.

He convinced me, so I asked my mother if I could become JW, and she wisely said, "If you still want to when you grow up, you can." Having an intimate view of my friend's life pretty much took care of that.
Rated.
I've often wondered if the Saints and the JWs ever fight over the suckers that let them spiel. Brother Right. A masterfully woven tale!
Thanks for all the kind words, everybody.

I love John Waters. He moves around the country quite a bit, but his hometown is and will always be Baltimore. My friends at Atomic Books actually get his fan mail there and he picks it regularly. Also, if you're looking for cool stuff you can't find anywhere else, Atomic is the way to go. They are selling autographed copies of his book which can be purchased online.

I do run into John from time to time. We enjoy many of the same haunts--I often find myself at places and there he'll be holding court with kids who are barely 21 and completely taken with him. He is remarkably droll and has this charming impishness to his manner. He is so easy to worship and adore.

I hope he gets to make a few more movies in his lifetime. I reluctantly introduced my mother to his films before she died. She fell in love with them, especially "Serial Mom."

Right after the signing, he went to a nearby bar where I often find myself doing karaoke. It's in a semi-scary bar, but I know the bartender, the DJ and a lot of the local patrons, so I'm glad most people stay away. The DJ said he wasn't sure if he was joking or not, but John said he was there to audition karaoke singers. I sure hope he pops up one night when I'm there. I'd gladly take any role he'd offer.
Love John Waters, love Hairspray, love his appearances on TV. One day, I'll work up the nerve to see Pink Flamingos.
I rogered on to this for my own reasons. The way you grew up is understood.

Now I wanna go study up on Waters. Been hearin of his work for an awfully long time, jus hadn't gotten to it. Will let ya know when I do. Thnx for this.
Great post, Kat! Now I don't feel so bad for refusing to answer the door when the Jehovah's witnesses stood there clutching my mail, which had been placed in their box by mistake. :) R
"As a fat girl, you’re often the biggest person in the room, but also the most invisible." So true.

Wonderful post. I adore John Waters, and "Hairspray" is one of my favorite films, too, and for many of the same reasons. And how wonderful you got to meet Waters himself! He just seems like he would be the most amazing person to have a conversation with.

Something I heard somewhere, Waters hoped the Broadway musical of "Hairspray" would be a big hit, because then high schools would perform it and finally the fat girl and the drag queen would be the big stars.

Favorite quote from the film: "Would you keep that racket down? I'm trying to iron here!" (Divine)
Very authentic writing..... your journey is providing you great stuff.. rated~~~
Thank you for reminding me that John Waters was an original “guerilla” filmmaker who didn't get permission from the city or anyone to make his films.

Here in Shreveport our film scene is hopping. I went to a meeting of independent filmmakers the other night. A nice chunk of time was spent talking about "getting those permits!" And, dang it, for some reason it just made my skin crawl. I'll just stick to my own guerilla/John Water ways. Thank you again for the reminder and groovy read.
I actually read the book and found it quite interessting. I remember that a friend gave it to me wo worked in a Möbel Shop - he said that he has many clients who come in his Designer Möbel Shop in order to tell him about the newest books they have read. For me the book was quite entertaining - I love John Waters Humor and think that he has a good talent for writing books and novels.
I also recently read that he is currently planning a new book - look forward to read it as well. Not sure if it will be the role model topic again but I look forward to reading it.
John is a standup guy, I've read most of his stuff, in fact I've got around all of his ebooks on my blue laptop and it provides some nice entertainment for me.