Nothing says, Welcome to my house, like an electric chair in the entryway.
Some homeowners might not think it’s an appropriate furnishing for guests to see upon arrival, but for the King of Bad Taste, director John Waters, it’s the perfect decoration for his Baltimore house.
‘KINGS & QUEENS IN THEIR CASTLES’
Waters is among the 160 LGBTQ people, including 60 celebrities, featured in Tom Atwood’s coffee table book “Kings & Queens in Their Castles,” which gives an intimate look via environmental portraits into the lives of everyday LGBTQ people and famed figures.
“Many of the book’s subjects are kings or queens of their professions, and many of the interiors are visually rich,” Atwood says.
15 YEARS, 30 STATES
Atwood spent 15 years and visited 30 states for “Kings & Queens in Their Castle.” He started working on the book in 2002 while living in West Hollywood for eight years and carried it with him when he moved to New York. Both cities gave Atwood the accessibility of meeting and shooting a mix of interesting individuals and homes.
WHO’S IN THE BOOK
Actress Meredith Baxter, Olympian Greg Louganis, author Christopher Rice, actor George Takei, fashion designer Marc Ware, CNN anchor Don Lemon, actor Alan Cumming, Bruce Vilanch, and former Congressman Barney Frank are featured in the book.
More photos can be and books can be purchased at Atwood’s website.
In an interview with Q Voice News, Atwood shares his inspiration for the book, finding everyday people, John Waters, and drag icon Mother Flawless Sabrina.
Here are some excerpts.
The inspiration for “Kings & Queens in Their Castle”
“When I started, most photography that was gay or lesbian, had scantily clothed, young subjects romping through the forest or lounging on the beach,” Atwood says. “I wanted to offer a more robust photo series of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community that highlighted us — who we are as people, in terms of our personality and our lifestyles.
Visiting 30 states
“Being from Vermont, I grew up in a pretty rural place,” Atwood says. “I wanted to shoot small-town and rural people as well, so that’s why I traveled to 30 different states and shot people in all sorts of small places, from farmers to ranchers to factory workers.”
“Early on, it was much harder because nobody knew who I was,” Atwood says. “It was really thousands of hours of networking, writing letters, and phone calls and emails. It’s often very hard to reach these people. As I got more celebrities, it became easier once they saw the list of who was going to be in the book.”
Finding everyday people
“There really was a lot of research, especially for the trips across the country,” Atwood says. “I didn’t know anyone in many of these places — West Virginia, Utah — and I would look at the websites of gay and lesbian nonprofits in some of these areas and contact (them) to get referrals.”
Using social media
“I also looked on Facebook at LGBTQ groups that were in these towns and either post things on the public message board or go through some of the profiles and look for people that looked interesting,” Atwood says. “It really was months and months, spread over many years, of hard work.”
John Waters’ house
“John Waters is a crazy personality, and his (Baltimore) home really reflected that,” Atwood says. “On the outside, his home was a colonial house in a colonial neighborhood. You open the door, and it was just crazy. There was an electric chair in the entryway. There were Polaroids on the wall pinned up. He takes pictures of everyone that walks in the door, so he took my picture.”
John Waters’ attic
“In his attic, he had an art installation as if a terrorist was manufacturing anthrax,” Atwood says. “He had a terrorist desk with little bags of white powder. It was really fun to see his space.”
Mother Flawless Sabrina
“One person that was really fascinating was Mother Flawless Sabrina, a female impersonator who lives in New York,” Atwood says. “She represents a breed of 1960s’ bohemians that’s kind of slowly disappearing either due to old age or the AIDS epidemic. She’s 77, maybe 78 by now, and she’s a real pioneer in the transgender and gay community and one of the first widely known drag queens in the U.S.”
National drag pageant
“In the 60s’, Sabrina ran a national drag pageant enterprise that crisscrossed the nation with over 40 shows a year, culminating in a big competition in New York City,” Atwood says. “She was arrested hundreds of times for cross-dressing.”