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 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.

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