Those who know auras say purple and white
suggest conversations with God.
This may be why at the thought of the sight
of his hair I say "lovely" not "odd."

Guy Kettelhack

A Memory by Ellen

My first glimpse of Quentin Crisp was, of course, unforgettable. It was during World War ll. I was a young art student at Willesden College in London. He was our life-model one morning and seeing him posed, seated nonchalantly on the raised platform surrounded by easels, was an amazing experience. The flaming red hair, the blue eye shadow, and the long, painted fingernails were totally overwhelming. I had never met anyone like that before. And his quiet calmness and stillness were remarkable.

Since this was during the war and air raids were frequent, when the sirens sounded the drill was for all of us students to file down to the air-raid shelters outside the college building. The shelter was a long, narrow damp and dark underground Quonset hut. And we'd sit there facing each other, nervous and scared, on two rows of wooden benches, listening to the whistles and howls of the falling bombs. AND THEN! Along came Quentin Crisp in a flowery silk kimono, casually strutting between the two rows of terrified students. He held a foot-long cigarette holder and walked so calmly back and forth in the shelter. His presence calmed our fears and literally tranquilized us.

When I met him again years later in New York, during his first tour of his one-man show in the U.S., we reminisced about the war years—and he vividly remembered the air raids and the bombings. We met several times in Manhattan. Once I took him to a family luncheon, where he made an indelible impression and took off his shoes after asking permission to do so. He explained that in his younger, less sensible years, he would force his feet into shoes that were several sizes too small—thus crippling himself for the rest of his life.

My last memory of him was a performance in Greenwich Village, when the building we were in caught fire and filled with smoke. Before anyone had a chance to panic, he turned to the audience and asked, "Shall we stagger on?" Again, he possessed that quiet calm which he had shown years ago in England during German bombardment.

We stayed in touch by mail—one of his favorite ways of signing off at the end of the letter was to write, "Let's meet soon, and leap up and down together!" While I certainly can't claim his friendship, being his "acquaintance" was a colorful highpoint of my life. He was a dear, sweet, intelligent and very strong man—with a passionate conviction to be exactly what he was.

Jane MacRoss

Quentin was our art school model. We loved him. He told us stories. He was a hero. He held amazing poses and was the very best.

One day he lay down on a bench and to our young amazement and some horror watched as all his hair, blue and carefully brushed across and over his head, slowly fell back and revealed his baldness!

Later I was engaged to a man who had a flat in Chelsea. On my first visit to this flat, he said, "You must come and meet my neighbor." He knocked on a door and there appeared Quentin in a dressing gown.

"Oh!" he said. "Do come in. I was just playing chess with myself."

The room was amazingly dusty, you could say it was thick and contained the dirtiest wash basin I had ever seen.

He was one of my favorite people. I always hoped I'd see him again before he shuffled off this mortal coil.

David Collins

I first met Quentin Crisp in 1976 when he still lived in London, and we became penpals really, although I occasionally saw him in the flesh. Then he ran away to America where he had always wanted to live and we communicated by letter.

He was the most amazing person I ever met. Just sitting in a mutual friend's sitting room and playing Scrabble with him was an event as he had an enormous vocabulary. On that occasion he eventually nodded off on the sofa and I was amazed to see that he was mortal as the rest of us.

I recall him horrifying my landlord, a dour Czech gentleman, when Quentin came to tea at my little bedsit in London. My landlord happened to be leaving the house as Quentin arrived and he fell back against the wall as this vision swept past him saying, "How clever of you to open the door at the right moment."

He was a lovely, clever, brave and witty man and, although I am glad he finally got to live in what he called the Islands of the Blessed, I am sorry I didn't see more of him. Our letters were occasional but fairly regular and I will always treasure them. I have a few snaps of him when he visited my bedsitter, a quarter of a century ago.

He was a true original.

Wendy Gapp

My daughter Josie, who is nine, has been asked to write about someone who was about in the 1940s. Josie, who has been studying the war, found the subject most distressing. I think she and her classmates were expected to write about Hitler or someone in that field.

I thought, "No, let's give them someone different and worthy of our thoughts, one of my heroes: Quentin Crisp."

My Josie fell in love with him and thoroughly enjoyed learning about Mr. Crisp. Even though I did tone things down, as Josie is only nine, she insisted that we write as honestly as possible, otherwise it would not represent the real Quentin. This was important to her, as my Josie has been bullied at school.

So when I told her of Quentin and his life, Josie instantly related to him saying, "He was bullied because no one understood him." And when she learned more about him, she seemed to get a little inner strength—all because he rose above those who bullied him, and she saw how "people" could be "horrible" (Josie's words). She isn't the only child in school who gets a taste of spite from other people!

My Josie starts her project by saying, "Quentin Crisp was a very nice man." I wonder what the school will say? If anyone dares to say this is not appropriate, I will reply, "And you think telling nine-year-old children about gas chambers is?"

I have sent you this as I thought you might like to know of perhaps one of Quentin's youngest fans and, even though he may not be with us anymore, there are those like myself and now Josie who often think of him.

Click My First Encounter With Quentin Crisp to read what his niece,
Frances Ramsay, wrote about meeting Quentin Crisp for the first time.

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