While visiting New York in June of 1989, I took advantage of the opportunity to record interviews with two fascinating, brilliant and funny performers, though technically, neither qualified as a "comedian." (The other was Brother Theodore.) Quentin Crisp was a flamboyant effeminate homosexual in Britain at a time when it simply wasn't done. However, there was no closet large enough for him.
He worked as an artist's model, and wrote a memoir of his early years called The Naked Civil Servant which was very successful, and was made into a television movie starring John Hurt. The movie made stars of both of them. Crisp wrote many books on many topics, and they're all witty, elegant, and charming, just as he was. His one-man show was charming and delightful, and an excerpt from one of them is included in this program. I
met him at his apartment in Chelsea on one of the hottest New York nights I've ever experienced. His apartment was cramped, filthy, and stuffy. The one window looked out into the window of another apartment, and that person was running a fan. Closing that one window was inconceivable, so there's a very audible hum throughout the interview portions of this show. Still, if I could put up with it, so can you.
Before we commenced the interview, we went out for a light supper. Quentin was all dolled up in his slight drag, with a little bit of eye makeup, a frilly scarf, and as I recall, a velvet jacket. Most of the conversation centered on old movies, a topic on which he spoke (and wrote) with great insight and wit.
As the hot sweaty evening wore on, the makeup disappeared, revealing a very dear sweet old man. He had a small black and white television set which only received one channel. He claimed to like this, as it relieved him of the responsibility of deciding what program to watch. However, I arranged for him to get a more functional little color set that my brother no longer needed.
He was that sort of person... you just wanted to take care of him and do things for him. I'm so glad I had the chance to spend some time with him, and I think you'll enjoy the time you spent listening to this as well. Quentin Crisp passed away 10 years later, in 1999 at the age of 90.
A Visit with Quentin Crisp originally aired September 3, 1989.
Photograph copyright © by Jean Harvey. All rights reserved. Used by permisison.
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