CEDAR RAPIDS — Filmmaker John Waters, one of the top acts at the financially doomed “newbo evolve” festival, criticized Cedar Rapids’ mayor for attempting to expose confidential details of his contract — which he said were wrong anyway — and for making “amazingly entitled comments” about the value of money in a TV interview last week.
“I see the mayor continues to get wrong information from his own city,” said Waters, a visual artist, screenwriter and standup comedian. “The amount he hears that is owed to me is incorrect. He can’t even get that right. Only a clueless politician could think $15,000 was a small amount of money. I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t be mad if somebody beat him for that amount personally.”
The 72-year-old Waters, one of several celebrity speakers at the festival, performed a one-man spoken word lecture Aug. 4 entitled “This Filthy World” at Theatre Cedar Rapids.
He is among an untold number of vendors owed $800,000 after GO Cedar Rapids, which produced the August event, folded without a path to settle its debt. The tourism bureau lost $2.3 million on the event and could not recover. Its former president and director of community events were fired afterward. No criminal charges have been filed.
Waters took issue with comments Mayor Brad Hart had made Friday on KCRG-TV.
“My understanding was he was paid $30,000 and he received half of that up front,” Hart said in the interview. “I hope if I am ever in his position — I never will be — that I would not try to drag an entire city down over $15,000.”
The exchange came after Waters’ final payment for performing at the festival bounced. In an interview with The Gazette last week, Waters said he’d been ripped off and would never return to the city.
Waters previously had made complimentary comments about Cedar Rapids, Hart said Monday, declining to comment further.
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“It’s too bad he has chosen to try to discredit an entire city due to the actions of one person or one organization,” Hart said on KCRG.
Waters, who spoke Monday to The Gazette, said Hart should have never tried to reveal details that were supposed to be confidential per his contract. Waters noted people in his office who arranged the booking “were also ripped off” because they would have gotten a percentage.
“He must be a very wealthy man if he thinks $15,000 is nothing,” Waters said. “Someone thinking this is not enough money to care is astounding to me. It’s an amazingly entitled comment.”
GO Cedar Rapids had been appropriated $1 million a year by the city to be market tourism, but city officials have insisted they are two separate entities and the city is not responsible for the festival’s management.
“It reflects poorly on our city but it was not our city that did this,” Hart said during the television interview.
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