Lips Together

John Waters says gay people can’t do this one simple thing

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Filmmaker and wit John Waters has elicited some gasps–something he’s made a career out of–with his latest comments. Referencing Oscar Wilde, Waters says that gay people don’t know how to whistle.

Waters made the comment in conversation with director Jim Jarmusch while promoting his latest book of essays, Mr. Know it All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder. Waters observed that in the early 20th century, society actually passed class judgments on people based on their ability to whistle a tune.

“There was a thing in the Oscar Wilde days that people believed that gay people couldn’t whistle,” Waters said. “And it’s true. Gay people can’t whistle. I’ve asked every gay person I know and they can’t.”

Related: John Waters on Kevin Spacey, Provincetown, petty theft, and his own biopic

“When I read it, I thought: I never heard that one before,” he continued. “You know what I mean? That’s how you can always tell. Ask a man whether he can whistle or not…I’m sure there are violations of that rule, but I just found that the most hilarious detail in the book that I really, really loved hearing.”

Over the course of the same conversation, Waters also lamented how culture has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a great shock that the world has suddenly come to a standstill, because it’s hard to imagine people going into a crowded theatre to do anything,” Waters observed. He also noted how the pandemic has affected his sex life.

“When I started, people had sex with different people every single night of the week,” he said. “And now you need 12 lawyers to ask someone for a date.”

Mr. Know it All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder is now available in paperback.