Arts District

Baltimore Gets Very Own Walk of Fame

Hampden’s newest attraction is a John Waters Star Walk.

Hollywood has a Walk of Fame for movie stars. Nashville has a Walk of Fame for musicians. Louisville has one for baseball sluggers.

Now Baltimore has its own version of a Walk of Fame, complete with gold stars in the sidewalk. John Waters Star Walk is the name of Baltimore’s attraction, which is located in Hampden and was officially inaugurated by the Hampden Village Merchants Association on May 25.

It was created to mark locations where John Waters shot his 1998 movie, Pecker. It comes with a map that can be used to take a self-guided tour of real places that became fictional settings in the movie: The Sub Pit where Pecker flipped burgers, lesbian strip club The Pelt Room, and an alley where two rats have a “love scene.”

The walk was introduced on the same day that Waters appeared at Atomic Books in Hampden to sign copies of his newest book, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder, which includes a chapter about the filming of Pecker. The kickoff came two weeks before one of Hampden’s biggest festivals, Honfest, which will be held on June 8-9.

“I think it’s great,” Waters said at the book signing. “In Japan, they have a map of Baltimore that shows locations where The Wire was filmed and the spot where Divine ate dog shit in Pink Flamingos. That’s the entire map. There hasn’t been anything like this in Baltimore.”

The movie, starring Edward Furlong, tells the story of a young photographer from a poor Baltimore neighborhood whose amateur photos of his eccentric family and friends make him a hit with New York’s arts intelligentsia. In his book, Waters calls Pecker his “nice movie” and says it got made “mainly because Japanese teenage girls loved Edward Furlong and he had agreed to star in the title role.” It was so nice, Waters says, that it was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival for being “not offensive enough like your other usual stuff.”

The Star Walk was created by Nolen Strals, co-founder of design studio Post Typography; Ben Claassen III, creator of the Dirtfarm comic strip; and Samantha Claassen, owner of Golden West Café. In all, eight stars are spray painted on sidewalks (and one alley) around Hampden and include Waters’ signature and icons that represent different scenes in the movie.

The walk takes less than an hour to complete, and the most out-of-the-way star is the one representing the rats’ love nest. Although they were only recently painted, the stars have a faded look, as if they’ve been in place for some time. They’re reminiscent of the guerilla sidewalk art that can be found all over Baltimore. The symbols—which will make sense for those who have seen the movie—include a bra, a beer bottle, two rats, and a tube of Preparation H.

Hampden also has a strong merchants association that understands the value of initiatives such as this. The maps are available for free at Atomic Books, but you can read about the specific locations below:

  • 3853 Falls Road, home of the Puptrait Studio now, site of the Pelt Room in the movie.
  • 3838 Falls Road, home of Service Photo now, site of the Claw Machine, the bar owned by Pecker’s dad, in the movie.
  • 1101 W. 36th Street, home of Philly’s Best sub and pizza shop now, site of The Sub Pit, where Pecker worked, in the movie.
  • 1017 W. 36th Street, site of The Food Market restaurant now, site of the Hampden Food Market, where Pecker and Matt shoplift, in the movie.
  • The alley behind the 3500 block of Hickory Avenue, a residential area now, site of the rats’ love scene in the movie
  • 908 W. 36th Street, site of Holy Frijoles restaurant now, site of The Bargain Hut thrift store, owned by Pecker’s mom, in the movie.
  • 800 W. 36th Street, home of St. Luke’s Church on the Avenue now, site of the voting booth scene with Mink Stole in the movie.
  • 3401 Keswick Road, most recently the home of Padma salon, site of the Spin ‘n’ Grin laundromat in the movie.

Some sites weren’t included, such as Pecker’s family home, which was destroyed in a fire, and the Fudge Palace, a bar for which scenes actually were filmed at what is now The Penthouse (formerly, the Atlantis) on the Fallsway.

In Mr. Know-It-All, Waters writes that critics thought Pecker’s story was autobiographical, but it wasn’t. He said the story actually was inspired by the lives of photographers Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin.

As if Hampden’s Star Walk isn’t enough attention for Pecker, there’s even more news about the movie. For more than a year, a group in New York has been exploring plans to remake the movie as a musical comedy, “updated for the Instagram age.” The idea is to take the film and adapt it for the stage, just as Hairspray and Cry-Baby were.

A group led by producer Chris Fink recently held an industry reading in New York to test the script and music for the possible production. The reading was held at The Theatre Center in New York earlier this month. According to a press release issued about the project, participants included Nicholas Barasch from She Loves Me as Pecker, and Sumi Yu from Call Me Madam and as his laundromat manager girlfriend Shelley, played by Christina Ricci in the film.

Fink declined in an email to discuss how the theater adaptation might vary from the film. Waters, who wrote and directed Pecker and controls the rights to it, said the press announcement about the industry reading went out prematurely and cautioned that many more steps are needed before a musical version of Pecker becomes a reality.

“It’s way too early,” he said. “This was not supposed to be announced yet . . . I should be talking about this in a year, if it’s going to happen.”

For now, the filmmaker doesn’t have to look very far to see his name in lights, as his work is fittingly immortalized on the sidewalks of Hampden.