Cult Director John Waters Hosts a Summer Camp for Naughty Adult Campers: Enrollment for the 2018 Edition Opens Today

I hat­ed sports at camp, so at this camp I think we should reward every team that los­es. This would be the camp where the fat peo­ple get picked first in dodge ball. 

- Film­mak­er-cum-Camp Direc­tor John Waters

I can think of many chil­dren who would scram­ble toward the refuge of the com­pas­sion­ate state­ment above, but Camp John Waters is a decid­ed­ly adult activ­i­ty.

The Pope of Trash shares actor Bill Mur­ray’s rel­ish for odd­ball set­tings in which he can meet the pub­lic as some­thing close to a peer. But where­as Mur­ray spe­cial­izes in sur­prise drop-in appear­ances—recit­ing poet­ry to con­struc­tion work­ers, crash­ing parties—Waters favors more immer­sive expe­ri­ences, such as hitch­hik­ing coast to coast.

His lat­est stunt brought him and 300 fel­low trav­el­ers to a rus­tic Con­necti­cut facil­i­ty (from Sept 22–24) that nor­mal­ly hosts cor­po­rate team build­ing events, fam­i­ly camps, and week­end get­aways for play­ful 20-to-30-some­things keen to make new friends while zip lin­ing, play­ing ping­pong, and par­ty­ing in the main lodge.

ART­news pegged the inau­gur­al ses­sion thus­ly:

 The Waters camp com­bines two of the more absurd devel­op­ments in con­tem­po­rary leisure: the celebri­ty-based get­away (see also: the Gronk Cruise) and a cer­tain recre­ation­al aes­thet­ic that seems to advo­cate for a sort of devel­op­men­tal pur­ga­to­ry.

Here,  there were no reluc­tant, home­sick campers, weep­ing into their Slop­py Joes. This was a self-select­ing bunch, eager to break out their wigs and leop­ard print, weave ene­my bracelets at the arts and crafts sta­tion, and bypass any­thing smack­ing of offi­cial out­door recre­ation, save the lake, where inflat­able pink flamin­gos were avail­able for aquat­ic lol­ly­gag­ging.

“Who real­ly wants to go wall climb­ing?” the founder him­self snort­ed in his wel­com­ing speech, adding that he would if Joe Dalle­san­dro, the Warhol super­star who accord­ing to Waters “for­ev­er changed male sex­u­al­i­ty in cin­e­ma,” wait­ed up top.

Naughty ref­er­ences to water sports aside, cer­tain aspects of the camp were down­right whole­some. Pine trees and s’mores. Canoes and cab­ins. Pre­sum­ably there was a camp nurse. (In Waters’ ide­al world, this posi­tion would be filled by Cry Baby’s Traci Lords.)

Waters’ rec­ol­lec­tions of his own stint at Maryland’s Camp Hap­py Hol­low seem pri­mar­i­ly fond. It makes sense. Any­one who tru­ly loathed sum­mer camp would be unlike­ly to recre­ate the expe­ri­ence for them­selves and their fel­low adults.

Camp Waters harkens back to the 1950s trans­gres­sions its direc­tor mer­ri­ly fess­es up to hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in: unfil­tered cig­a­rettes and short sheet­ed beds, cir­cle jerks and panty raids. From here on out the sub­ver­sion will be tak­ing place in the sun­light.

Anoth­er spe­cial camp mem­o­ry for Waters is regal­ing his cab­in mates with an orig­i­nal, seri­al­ized hor­ror sto­ry. He retells it on Celebri­ty Ghost Sto­ries, above:

At the end there was this hideous gory thing and then all the kids had night­mares and their par­ents called the camp and com­plained — and I’m still doing that! It was the begin­ning of my career…. It was a won­der­ful les­son for me as a 10-year-old kid that I think helped me become what­ev­er I am today. It gave me the con­fi­dence to go ahead, to believe in things, to believe in behav­ior I couldn’t under­stand, to be drawn to sub­ject mat­ter I couldn’t under­stand.

Reg­is­tra­tion for Camp John Waters 2018 opens today at noon, so grab the bug spray and get ready to sing along:

There is a camp in a place called Kent

It’s name is Camp John Waters

For here we come to spend the night

For we all love to fuck and fight

Camp John Waters — rah rah rah!

Camp John Waters — sis­boom­bah!

Camp John Waters — rah rah rah!

Three cheers for Camp John Waters!

Could Waters’ own con­tri­bu­tion to such camp clas­sics as Meat­balls, Lit­tle Dar­lings and Wet Hot Amer­i­can Sum­mer be far behind?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Waters’ RISD Grad­u­a­tion Speech: Real Wealth is Nev­er Hav­ing to Spend Time with A‑Holes

John Waters Nar­rates Off­beat Doc­u­men­tary on an Envi­ron­men­tal Cat­a­stro­phe, the Salton Sea

The Phi­los­o­phy of Bill Mur­ray: The Intel­lec­tu­al Foun­da­tions of His Comedic Per­sona

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She attend­ed Gnaw­bone Camp in Gnaw­bone, Indi­ana, recap­tur­ing that hap­py expe­ri­ence three decades lat­er as the Mail Lady of Beam Camp.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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