On this episode of Biblibations…
Imaginary Friends, a Filthy Sympathizer, and a Cold Beverage
by Anne E. Johnson
Those few people in the world who truly know me well are never surprised when I adopt a new hero. Since pre-adolescence, my creativity has been fueled by an ever-growing series of individuals. These special people usually have some degree of celebrity, but that’s a secondary trait. Primarily, each is a genius in his or her respective field.
Over the years I’ve adopted musicians, actors, dancers, choreographers, novelists, composers, filmmakers, puppeteers, painters, and playwrights. Sorry, dear reader, but I don’t know you well enough to post a list of my objets d’obsession here. Suffice it to say that “idol” is the wrong word for these iconoclasts. An idol is perceived as perfect and worshipped blindly. My heroes become part of my family, insofar as I get to know everything I can about them, acknowledge their (often egregious) faults, and then love them anyway.
Each in turn becomes my inspiration, my energy, and my best-loved waster of time and money. Many a seller on eBay has flourished thanks to my insatiable need for memorabilia of one type or another. And once I’ve adopted someone as my imaginary friend, it’s for life (mine, that is, since many of them are already dead).
Like any hobbyist (fetishist?), I’m comforted to know I’m not alone in my deviance. Imagine my delight at discovering Role Models, a collection of essays by shock-cinema filmmaker John Waters that is, in effect, a memoir perceived through the kaleidoscopic lens of the heroes he’s adopted throughout his life.
Granted, most of Waters’s role models are not those I’d choose (with the exception of pianist/philosopher/recluse Glenn Gould, whom he mentions reverently in passing). After all, Waters is the man who created Pink Flamingos and put Divine on the map. It’s no surprise to find him paying homage to one of Charles Manson’s murderous minions or the insane barmaids of Baltimore’s most unspeakable dive bars. Nevertheless, the process of acquiring heroes as mental companions is the same one I practice.
And what to drink while reading prose by the renowned Prince of Filth? Something cleansing, of course. I opt for home-brewed iced tea, half English Breakfast and half Peach, unsweetened and poured neat so as not to dilute its tannic bite or piquant freshness. John Waters leaves a hell of a residue.
One of these days Waters and I will adopt the same hero simultaneously. It’s bound to happen. We’ll hunch like vultures, beak to beak, over some item on eBay, an arcane bit of history that neither of us can live without and still go on as a creative artist. He’s a lot richer than I, so he’ll win the auction. At that point I’ll have no choice: I’ll brew a pot of extra-strong iced tea and adopt John Waters as a role model. Surely he won’t bid on his own stuff.