From Publishers Weekly
The director of the gross-out epic Pink Flamingos and other cinematic provocations salutes the people he finds inspiring—himself foremost among them—in these self-regarding essays. Waters's role models range from icons like Johnny Mathis and Tennessee Williams to a gay reality-porn auteur, a lesbian stripper called Lady Zorro, and ex-Charles Manson groupie and murderer Leslie Van Houten. When he pays attention to them, Waters produces vivid portraits of his subjects, especially those with really lurid backstories, but he's happier when the spotlight is on him and his studied outrageousness. He discusses celebrity (I've... gone out drinking with Clint Eastwood, and spent several New Year's Eve parties in Valentino's chalet in Gstaad, but what I like best is staying home and reading) and the graphic pornography on his walls, and regales readers with scatological scandals, disdaining religious beliefs while graciously tolerating people who hold them. In the end, Waters's war against the tyranny of good taste feels tired, his taboo-breaking rote, his kitsch-mongering snobbish (taken on a tour of the Vatican, he refuses to leave the gift shop and its hideously pious cards). (June)
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As familiar as Waters' obsessions have become over the years, writes the Onion AV Club, "he remains an affable, enthusiastic tour guide to the sort of beauty found only at the edges of good taste." Such beauty includes the profane, the violent, and the shocking, but it's par for the course for this once transgressive filmmaker and his insightful, obnoxious, and entertaining essays. Only the essay "Leslie," about Waters's friendship with Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, serving a life sentence for murder, raised debate. A few reviewers found the essay reflective, while others condemned Waters for dodging "the murky moral issues of her story" (Los Angeles Times). Role Models isn't for everyone--but even "dilettantes at liberty to skip around will find a lot to charm them" (New York Times Book Review).
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