John Walters tell us the 10 things every role model needs
I LOATHE the phrase ‘role model’. It’s not quite as annoying as ‘holistic’ but it comes close. Footballers have only got to spit out of turn or dry roast a glamour model and they are cast as bad role models. Who amde them good role models? No-one can be certain.
I was once on a Sky News show where the debate was about Kate Moss. Was she a good role model of all young girls. Well, she was a model, still is. Her role was in being a model who posed for magazines and got off her face. As such, I noted, she was very good at it. Young kids who wanted to grew up to take their clothes off for a living, wear someone else’s and get mullered could do a lot worse than take tips from Kate. The one note of warning was that they would not look as good as Kate. She can make the dry heaves, DTs and clammy skin look good.
To help me understand more, the great John Waters once compiled a list of “10 things every role model needs”:
1. History. You can’t have a one-night-stand role model. No one can become a role model in 24 hours. It helps a lot if you knew them when you were young, so they sort of grow or fester with you, like Johnny Mathis was for me.
2 Be extreme: all my role models have to be. They have to be braver than I’ve ever been. Even to survive success is hard, no matter if it’s widespread success like Johnny Mathis had, or Bobby Boris Pickett, who his whole life just had to sing one song [The Monster Mash]. Today too many people are trying hard to be extreme. For the people I admire it was natural, and they turned it into art.
3 Style. You can have bad style, but you have to have some style. That’s why I wrote about Rei Kawakubo, who reinvented fashion to be damaged and to be everything you hoped it was not when you bought an outfit. And she quadrupled the price. That’s a magic trick.
4 Be alarming – I think that’s important. And it’s different from being shocking. Alarming threatens the very core of your existence, it doesn’t just shock you – but you don’t know why it makes you nervous at first. You know, St Catherine of Siena drank pus for God. That was important to me because I thought: I want to be her, I don’t want to be half-assed! If I was going to be a Catholic, it would have been before the Reformation.
5 Humour. It’s very important to be well-read, but I never understand why people are so sure their partners have to be smart. What kind of smart do they mean? I’m not interested in talking about literature in bed! I like people who can make me laugh. Humour gets you laid, humour gets you hired, humour gets you through life. You don’t get beat up if you can make the person that’s going to beat you up laugh first.
6 Be a troublemaker. All art is troublemaking, because why go through all the trouble of making it if you don’t cause a little stir?
7 Bohemianism. Bohemia saved my life. And by bohemia I mean all sexualities mixed together, and people who do what they do not to get rich – freedom from suburbia. People who want to fit in but don’t are losers. Bohemians are people who don’t fit in because they don’t want to.
8 Originality. Someone unique like Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, is an easy role model to have. She could fit into any of these categories – her outfit looked like Comme des Garçons, and anybody who could scare children like that… The problem was, I wanted to be her. And as I turn 65, that has sort of come true.
9 Neuroses. I think it helps to be neurotic. Neurotic people always end up being in the arts. If your kid fits in while in high school they’re going to be a dull adult. I still see a few people I went to high school with, but the other ones, when they come up to me I say: “I’m sorry, I took LSD, I don’t remember you.” It works, because then they aren’t offended personally. It’s really just manners.
10 Be a little bit insane. That’s different from neurotic. You can stay home and be neurotic. You have to go out to be insane. You can be a little bit of both, but both need to be joyous. As long as you can find a moment of joy in even your worst behaviour, it’s something to be thankful for.
You can buy John Waters’ Role Models here.