Still splashy after all these years: Famed director John Waters appears at USF Thurs., Jan. 27

Just about anyone who digs outsider moviemaking has drunk from the deliriously demented well of Baltimore filmmaker John Waters.Dubbed the Pope of Trash by William S. Burroughs, Waters helped pioneer the midnight movie genre in the '70s with twisted classics like Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living, and spawned the celebrity of lovable drag queen/best friend Divine, a.k.a. Harris Milstead, who starred in most of Waters' early movies, including Polyester (1981) — which also offered the noxiously '50s-cinemahouse-inspired Odorama feature that allowed patrons to smell odors while they occurred in the film.

After his '70s-early-'80s underground reign, Waters began to make commercially successful kitsch-fests like Cry-Baby and Hairspray that have been adapted to Broadway, swerving from major-release comedy to freakazoid territory with hits like Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. Demented and A Dirty Shame.

Waters has endeared fans not only for his delight in deviant humor and sexual mischief — and catchy one liners about "cha-cha heels" and other middle-class perversions — but also because he always manages to come across as a gracious and charming gent with a silver tongue and equally snazzy fashion sense. Not only does he sport that trademark-thin mustache, Waters has an uncanny knack for human understanding — especially for society's misfits and disenfranchised. He consistently rises above his shock value as both an underground icon and bona fide superstar, giving good interview wherever he goes and detailing his observations in books like Director’s Cut (1997), John Waters: Change of Life (2004), Unwatchable (2006), Shock Value (rereleased 2005), Crackpot (rereleased 2003) and most recently Role Models (2010).

The director-author-modern art enthusiast's latest film in the works, Fruitcake, has Johnny Knoxville pegged to star (they worked together in the past in a Jackass film) but the project has been indeterminately delayed. In the meantime, Waters has been filling his down time touring colleges, meeting fans at book signings and speaking engagements via a one-man show called This Filthy World (shot for DVD in 2006 by Curb Your Enthusiasm's Jeff Garlin).

Waters visits USF's Theatre 1 for a free one-man show on Thurs., Jan. 27. Lucky for Creative Loafing, Waters is a fan and reads our paper during his frequent visits to the Tampa Bay area — he said so himself during a recent phone interview.