That sounds like every bar in the Hamden neighborhood of Baltimore. If you have seen John Waters' Hairspray or Cry Baby you know the area...
I respect his post-70s stuff a lot, but it just wasn't my thing. Until "Get Behind the Mule" came out and I loved the shit out of that one. But since then, I think he's his own worst enemy. He's become an "artist" instead of a musician. He knows that in order to be successful, you need to be an entertainer in addition to being a musician. But he's swapped being an entertainer for being an "artist" who has become very hard to listen to at times. I love the guy and I do not blame the Yoko factor, but if he wants me to buy something and not regret it, than he needs to stop being such an "artist" and get back to making music that non-artists may actually enjoy.
In the old time sideshow world there was a differentiation among the freaks. There were natural freaks and then there were made freaks. A made freak was someone who purposely did something to their body to earn their way into the show. Covered in tattoos, swallowing things normal people don't swallow, that kind of thing - an act. The natural freaks were born different, and held positions of higher esteem in the sideshow world. Lobster Boy, Dog-Faced Man, those kinds of people. People who couldn't help being different and certainly didn't choose to be different, but took a certain amount of pride in their difference.Like Bukowski and Crumb, Tom Waits likes to be different, he likes to be an outsider.
He comes from the time when almost everyone adopted a "character," since reality didn't cut it in the entertainment biz. I suppose he lucked out in picking an enduring one that he didn't have to abandon or change. Elton John, Bowie, Zamfir, they had to morph into different characters when the glitter stopped shining. Unlike those guys though, I never felt any humor from Waits. Maybe that's what didn't click with me. There was humor, but it seemed obvious and heavy-handed to me, like "Weird Al" Yankovic or Jay Leno.Waits puts on characters much like Bowie did.