John Waters Wonders... Can Gay People Whistle?

Thursday August 6, 2020

John Waters
John Waters  (Source:Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Anyone can whistle, Stephen Sondheim once wrote. Except, perhaps, gay people.

That was a theory in Victorian England that John Waters came across while reading Julian Barnes' latest book, "The Man in the Red Coat," a biography about surgeon and sex addict Samuel Jean Pozzi about life in England and France during the Belle Epoque. Waters was surprised to read that people back then supposedly judged others based on whether they could whistle, the website LGBTQNation writes.

"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."

Ian Fleming wrote in his James Bond novel "The Man with a Golden Gun" that a man who can't whistle had homosexual tendencies. All of this was news to Waters.

"When I read it, I thought: I never heard that one before," he said. "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."

Waters is currently on a virtual book tour to promote his latest book of essays, "Mr. Know it All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder," sponsored by different booksellers around the country, with readers signing on via Zoom. The paperback was set to be published last May, but was delayed by the pandemic. The first talk was an online conversation this week with director Jim Jarmusch, organized by Community Bookstore and the Murmrr Theatre in Brooklyn, New York.

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