Michael Ehrhardt interviews John Waters on gay marriage, gay wit, and the beauty of Ptown:
It’s really amazing how Provincetown somehow stays the same. ... When I first arrived here, I had a girlfriend at the time. That’s how long ago it was! We shared an apartment for a couple of weeks in a building on Bradford Street in 1964, and the landlord tried to fuck us both! I loved the people here. I found an apartment and got a job at the East End Bookshop, owned by Molly Malone Cook and Mary Oliver. Then in 1967, I came back and was offered a full-time job at the Provincetown Bookshop.
I even lived in this wonderful tree fort, with a rope ladder and small apartments. Some crazy person constructed it; it had no roof, so if it rained you got soaked to the bone. It was owned by Prescott Townsend, who must have been in his late seventies and was probably from a very wealthy Boston family; he was an early gay liberationist who would ride around on a small motorcycle on the beaches and hand out gay liberation material to people. Mink Stole was going to marry him. Prescott would let you live in his tree fort if he liked you, and you got free hot dogs. Certainly there were fewer lesbians here back then. Everyone’s become compartmentalized today, and I’m against all separation. That’s the big difference now. I’m a big butch-lesbian hag. I love the ones with chips on their shoulders and heavy attitude. They’re my real favorites.
If I ever had to point to the true spirit of Ptown, I'd point - among so many rivals - to John. Watching him sail past on his bicycle means all is right in the world. But Ryan Landry (pictured above in a photo by Aaron), the grand ring-master of Showgirls and Space Pussy, is right up there. There is no social hierarchy - just a huge amount of love, far too many muscles and stacks and stacks of wigs. My favorite bar is the Vault, a totally seedy leather place where I like to smoke cigars and drink Jager shots, or the best named gay bar night in the stinking, foul basement of the Governor Bradford. It's called FagBash. I also have as a summer townie a lovely anonymity - fame of any kind is treated with the contempt it deserves.
Michael Cunningham's little book on the place, Land's End: A Walk In Provincetown, is an exquisite homage to the place and its culture. I'm back in DC now. And it still feels like a mirage, even after sixteen consecutive full summers there.
(Photo: Ryan Landry backstage at the weekly performance contest, "Showgirls", by Aaron Tone.)