Icons & Influences: John Waters and “Odorama”


Earlier this month I had an opportunity to meet John Waters. He made an appearance at an academic conference in his hometown of Baltimore, and he was as funny as you’d expect and as gracious as you could hope. He spent a while signing books and other memorabilia after he spoke to the audience.


As I was waiting my turn on line to meet Mr. Waters, I suddenly remembered something I hadn’t thought of in years. When I was in sixth grade, one of my classmates brought a scratch-and-sniff “Odorama” card to class and showed it off; like everyone else in the room, I was very envious.


Odorama was the olfactory complement to Waters’s film Polyester (starring Divine and Tab Hunter!). At certain points in the film, a number would flash on the screen, and the audience would be instructed to sniff the corresponding numbered circle on the card.

According to Wikipedia (which has an excellent collective memory), the scents were: “1. Roses, 2. Flatulence, 3. Model Airplane Glue, 4. Pizza, 5. Gasoline, 6. Skunk, 7. Natural Gas, 8. New Car Smell, 9. Dirty Shoes, and 10. Air Freshener.”

You can imagine how much we grade-schoolers enjoying laughing over some of those smells.


While John Waters was autographing my little notebook, I shared this memory with him. (I’m sure he’s heard similar stories many times before, but he was very polite anyway.) I didn’t realize until now that the Odorama card may have had a continuing influence on me. After all, I’m still thinking and writing about scents!

Photos of John Waters by Tinsel Creation.



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