John Waters Swears off the word “Hon” and Honfest

From the archives: Associated Press article, 6/13/2008.

photo by Kathy Willens, AP

BALTIMORE (AP) — John Waters is done with “Hon.”

Honfest, an annual celebration of beehive hairdos, cat’s-eye glasses and other kitschy fashions, is getting bigger and bigger. Participants are known as “Hons” in honor of the ubiquitous Baltimore term of endearment.

But Waters and some residents of the city’s quirky Hampden neighborhood, where the festival takes place, say Hon has lost its charm.

“To me, it’s used up,” Waters said of Hon style. “It’s condescending now. The people that celebrate it are not from it. I feel that in some weird way they’re looking slightly down on it. I only celebrate something I can look up to.”

The filmmaker known for raunchy odes to his hometown says he won’t use the word or the image in any of his scripts, and he doesn’t think the city should promote it, either.

Waters has used the image of the Hon in the past — perhaps most memorably in 1988’s “Hairspray,” which was adapted into a Broadway musical and then back into a film starring John Travolta. He thinks “Hairspray” is one reason why Hons became a Baltimore icon.

“I used to say, ‘Come to Baltimore and you would see people with those hairdos,'” Waters told The (Baltimore) Sun. “You no longer see that. They’re dead or in nursing homes.”

The two-day festival, expected to draw 50,000 people, begins Saturday. It began in 1994 in front of Cafe Hon on The Avenue, Hampden’s main drag.

Denise Whiting, the owner of Cafe Hon and the festival’s founder, said she was surprised to hear that Waters had turned against Honfest. But she said anything so big is bound to upset someone.

“Not everybody likes Oprah Winfrey,” she said. “Not everybody’s going to like you, and I accept that.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

This entry was posted in Baltimorons, Dreamlanders, Food, Hampden, John Waters, Neighborhoods and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to John Waters Swears off the word “Hon” and Honfest

  1. i must admit one of my first reactions was to wonder what mr. waters thought about this issue.

  2. That’s from two years ago. Maybe he saw this coming.

  3. Jon Swift says:

    I don’t think they’re all dead/in nursing homes. The 7-11 on Boston St. has (or had) some specimens behind the counter. Or maybe this is like the O. Henry story “Man About Town” where the reporter is looking for a typical Man About Town but can’t find anyone, then gets hit by a car (or horse-drawn cab, maybe) wakes up hospitalized, & reads about the accident in an article in the paper that ends “The victim was described as a typical Man About Town.”

  4. CNC says:

    Come to Little Italy instead of the HonFest next year. Littly Italy’s annual St. Anthony Festival usually falls the very same weekend!

  5. Amy says:

    what’s with Denise Whiting comparing herself to Oprah Winfrey?

  6. Jen says:

    I’d still go to hon fest simply to support the other hampden businesses….haven’t set foot in cafe hon since 2005 when Denise asked my family and I to move to the other dining room during a busy lunch b/c my 9 month old son was “bothering” another table. The tables adjacent to ours were making him laugh, apparently that upset another group of diner patrons. I suggested they move as we’d almost finished (they had just arrived) our meal…she said they’d rather not.

    Having worked in restaurants since I was a teen…and it being a hampden diner during a noisy lunch (not like we were dining at petit Louis…who were always kind and
    accommodating wit our son) was appalled and have never returned. It’s ok, their food sucks and I won’t support her. No thanks hon.

  7. CG says:

    Agreed! St Anthony’s fest is great, good food and people and is very authentic and sincere compared to honfest.

  8. Donna says:

    Amy, speaking of Oprah, I wonder what she might think about all of this. After all she got her start right at WJZ and frequented Hampden often. And I bet, like you said, she’d probably wonder who this psycho thinks she is to put herself up there with Oprah! Maybe I’ll drop Oprah’s staff a line and see if she would comment on it. You know, if it makes Oprah…it get national publicity, and maybe, just maybe, HONS everywhere will protest the trademark!

  9. Gracie says:

    I grew up in Hampden, and have hated Cafe Hon since it opened its doors. As for the Hon Fest, I find it pathetic. Hampden used to have a little fair called the Mayfair. All of the businesses participated. It was the one time of year where the people of the neighborhood got out and spent time together! I may be wrong, but the reason (if my memory serves me right) we stopped was because Cafe Hon petitioned because it took business away for those 2 days. A few years later came the Hon Fest. I refuse to go, and now spend my time at the St Leo Festival in Little Italy. Hampden has become trendy, and I can’t stand it

  10. Ravenmom23 says:

    I also grow up in Hampden and loved going to the Mayfair.. family owned and operated businesses all out and about. Kids had a great time. Even back in those days someone at any business called you “Hon”… Those were the good old days… were it was not about the MONEY!!!

  11. maryann tana says:

    St. Anthony’s has been around since the early 1900’s and Thank God that all it’s profits go to keeping St. Leo’s running. Unlike the self serving Cafe Hon, aka–Denise Whiting!

  12. Momfromtheburbs says:

    Wonder if we can reach Jon Waters to get an updated comment from him about all this….

  13. maryann tana says:

    Can somebody please try?

  14. luckyjordan says:

    Well,finally everyone has seen the real Denise. It has always been about her and not about the neighborhood or helping anyone. She was totally honest with the reporters when she said she is responible for the success of Hampden. A real ego and a legend in her own mind!

  15. joe says:

    But…but….how could someone not like Oprah???

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