John Waters and Patricia Hearst on Covid, the Met Gala, and 30 Years of Friendship


That was John Waters on the phone with Patricia Hearst, his longtime friend, muse, and comrade in troublemaking. They met 30 years ago at the Cannes Film Festival and immediately struck a friendship, going on to collaborate on five movies, including Serial Mom, in which Hearst, as Juror No. 8, is infamously killed by Kathleen Turner’s title character for wearing white after Labor Day.

A tireless provocateur, Waters maintains that it’s the only tradition, sartorial or otherwise, he’s willing to tolerate. As a matter of fact, the auteur known as the Pope of Trash has strong opinions on the subject of fashion. He is both a client and a perennial source of inspiration, and this year, suddenly, he finds himself not just on mood boards but in front of the camera, the subject of ad campaigns by Nike and, most recently, Saint Laurent, where he appears snarling at the lens, clad in black (he also designed the poster for this year’s New York Film Festival).

Hearst, an author who was herself once a model for Thierry Mugler, finds her old pal in constant motion, dashing from San Francisco to Provincetown to Baltimore, or “holding cell to holding cell,” as he puts it, an incorrigible éminence grise at 74, undaunted by yet another pandemic and with a lot left to say.