Camping With John Waters and His Band of ‘Filthy Freaks’

The inaugural Camp John Waters took place at Club Getaway, which lets adults relive their sleep-away camping days. When this extra-campy theme weekend was announced in April, tickets sold out in days, with a waiting list 600 deep. (A 2018 edition was just announced.) In came John Waters fanatics from as far away as Australia and Chile, towing beehive wigs and cat-eye glasses. On the bus from New York, we’d been asked to sign a standard Club Getaway waiver forbidding “excessive, inappropriate or disruptive actions.” It seemed like a lost cause. “The Pope of Trash.” “The People’s Pervert.” To his fans, Mr. Waters is a countercultural demigod, a dirty class clown at 71. His gleefully transgressive films, including “Pink Flamingos” and “Serial Mom,” created a topsy-turvy world in which gross is glamorous, housewives are homicidal, and the noblest title one can achieve is Filthiest Person Alive. So it was only fitting that Camp John Waters had an upside-down spirit. “I hated sports at camp, so at this camp I think we should reward every team that loses,” Mr. Waters said, to raucous cheers. “This would be the camp where the fat people get picked first in dodge ball.” More cheers. The campers, who paid up to $599, were a self-selecting group of exhibitionists and oddballs for whom Mr. Waters’s movies were a beacon of belonging. “We’re here to meet a bunch of filthy freaks, and maybe make some new friends,” said Jennifer Sisley, one of the Key West bartenders. “Everybody’s got a common interest.” Alastair McQueen, a 28-year-old filmmaker, grew up in North Carolina and saw “Pink Flamingos” when he was 12. “My whole life was different after that,” he said, sneaking a cigarette behind the buffet tent. “That’s when I understood there were other weirdos like me.”