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Werner Herzog Discovers that John Waters is Gay

This short clip is from a wide-ranging conversation in the little-known 2007 documentary, On the Ecstasy of Ski-Flying: Werner Herzog in Conversation with Karen Beckman, shot and edited by Laura Hanna.  After I first met John Waters, it took me a few weeks to ask him what it took Herzog 30+ years: “Is this man gay?”

Werner Herzog is one of the most compelling filmmakers of our time.  To many, he comes off as a rambling crackpot, but I like those kinds of people.  I do my best to see every one of his films, and want to buy them to view over and over.  Maybe one day I’ll understand what he’s talking about.  He can be hilarious, metaphysical, pedantic, quotable, down-to-earth, and disconnected, which are the most endearing traits I can imagine.

I found On the Ecstasy of Ski-Flying buried in Netflix and watched it last night.  I nearly fell off the chair when Herzog began speaking about John Waters as an example of a “real” man.  I first met John in 1973 in the equipment room of the film department of the University of Maryland Baltimore County when he was trying to make a deal to have students work on his film Female Trouble.  Like Herzog describes in the clip, I didn’t see Waters as a gay man.  Determined, yes;  ironic, yes;  compelling, yes;  unique, yes; smart, yes.  Gay?  I didn’t think to ask.

After I started working on Female Trouble, I began to wonder a little about John especially with lines like Edith Massey’s  immemorial, “The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life.”  When naïve little hetero me asked him if he really meant that from experience, or what….  he just laughed and said I should come hang with him in Fells Point bars on Friday nights.  I did, and that began a whole new education.

Clip Courtesy of Slought Foundation.  To buy the film, click on the link to microcinema dvd below.

“On the Ecstasy of Ski-Flying: Werner Herzog in Conversation with Karen Beckman”

Produced and edited by Aaron Levy and Nicola Gentili, with the 2007-2008 RBSL Bergman Curatorial Seminar, University of Pennsylvania Published by Slought Foundation

Read about Robert Maier’s fifteen years working with John Waters in the new book “Low Budget Hell: Making Underground Movies with John Waters.”  Available on and booksellers around the world.



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