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Comment: Quentin Crisp was no gay rights hero

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  1. Robert, ex pat Brit 28 Dec 2009, 2:52pm

    Peter is right on! I’ve seen the film several weeks ago here in New York. Crisp was a detriment to the LGBT movement, an embarrassment who typified the classic, effeminate gay stereotype that the haters love to denigrate and use as an example of what they think gay people are about. The film was an utter waste of time about negativity.

  2. Peter is right. I once met Quentin Crisp at a Christmas Party. He sat in a separate room and held court among those who found his waspish sub-Wildean witticisms amusing. He was not interested in what anyone had to say unless it was a cue for him.

  3. “Crisp hated the fact that he was no longer unique – no longer the only visible queer on the block.”

    One equally sees the truth in the ‘Little Britain’ gay character as ‘The only gay in the village’ – I don’t see Crisp as unique in this matter – many gay men are the same, they bitch constantly that they are never treated as equals with straight people, yet simultaneously feel obliged to constantly point out how ‘special’ and ‘unique’ they are, and try and stay under the spotlight.

    Quentin Crisp was an exhibitionist. He didn’t parade around for anyone else but himself. Once others did they same, he felt they had stolen his thunder, and resented every other gay person on the planet. He was one of the first, and has to be recognised as such, but as Peter says, he was certainly no gay rights hero.

  4. Quentin Crisp is the stereotypical bitchy queen the media like to show gay people as being. Heterosexuals are so insecure they need to reassure themselves we are all flawed unstable people. They may of removed homosexuality from the DSM but they still treat us as being mentally ill in their portrayal of us.

  5. He really was the only gay in the village, clearly self obsessed and only out for himself
    with the influence and attention he had any comments he had would have spread like wildfire, its just a shame he used his limelight to spread fear and slam homosexuality as an illness

  6. He’s an icon, if not a gay rights hero. Peter needs to allow some leeway for a person born over 100 years ago, who was over 30 when WW2 started, and in his 60’s when his book & tv film came out. He was born and grew up into a different world to most of us, and personally, I expect my stately homos and aged queens to hold somewhat outrageous and outdated views.

    1. I agree, and might I add that it was probably drummed into him from a very early age that being homosexual was “wrong, an illness, an illness, and was better off not existing”…and along the way he really began to feel that way about himself, and evidently never stopped….that, of course, is only speculation on my part, but it seems plausible.

  7. He is just like the 4 poofs and a Piano leaning on there piano!

  8. Patrick James 28 Dec 2009, 5:08pm

    I think Quentin Crisp’s heroism lay in his courage of being himself, but he was not interested in LGBT rights etc. I don’t think he had any respect for political activity. Like Salvador Dali, another ultra-individual, Quentin Crisp liked inequality.

  9. “Heterosexuals are so insecure they need to reassure themselves…”

    Exactly, Abi, that’s why Jonathan Ross uses his “4 poofs”

  10. Brian Burton 28 Dec 2009, 5:43pm

    Quentin Crisp, whatever the critics say was a very extraordinary Gay man who lived and died surrounded by people who came to admire him for what he was.

  11. What Tatchell dislikes is the fact that Crisp was not a revolutionary political sexual subversive bent on deception like him. This accounts for Crisp’s consuming narcissism.

  12. Paul Halsall 28 Dec 2009, 6:43pm

    I don’t agree with this approach.

    Of course QC was homophobic by out standards, but so are many modern gay people who + say there is no need to come out. Quentin was perfomatively Queer even as his own words contradicted what he himself said.

    I usually agree with Peter, but not on this issue.

  13. BrazilBoysBlog 28 Dec 2009, 7:09pm

    I agree with Peter. If we are looking for heroes of the lesbian and gay movement, Quentin Crisp is certainly not one of them! A gay person in a different time and period? Yes, maybe, but the basic qualities of care, compassion and respect for others is (or should be) timeless. Crisp never had them.

  14. Peter Tatchell 28 Dec 2009, 7:34pm

    I did pay tribute to Quentin’s courage in the 1930s and 40s. But still feel that he failed himself and us from the 1970s onwards.

    My language criticising Quentin was temperate – unlike the bitchy barbed attacks he made on courageous LGBT activists in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. No one forced him to be so disparaging and dismissive about the battle for LGBT freedom. He chose to react in that way.

    Many gay men of his generation or a bit younger did not adopt his hostile, self-hating attitude. Even many straight people were more enlightened than him.

    Why should Quentin be elevated as a gay icon when hardly any LGBT people know about Edward Carpenter who was far braver and more pioneering – and half a century earlier than Crisp. Carpenter has passed entirely unhonoured by the LGBT community. Even Magnus Hirschfeld is little known.

    They were even older than Quentin but never responded in the reactionary way that he did.

    And what about British gay rights pioneers like Allan Horsfall and Antony Grey? Their personal sacrifices were far greater and they did far more for LGBT people. They never succumbed to attacks on other LGBT people, like Quentin did (not even now when they are in their 80s and heading for 90).

    As I wrote: Crisp is also a pale shadow of US gay rights trailblazers like Harry Hay, Frank Kameny, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

    I wish Quentin no harm but I think we need to recognise that he was a flawed and disappointing person in the latter part of his life.

    I hope this clarifies.

    Best wishes, Peter

  15. It’s true that Quentin Crisp did not support LGBT liberation and rights, and made that stupid comment about AIDS.

    On the other hand, a friend of a friend called him up when he was in New York, and Quentin Crisp invited him round for tea, and they spent about an hour chatting; I think my friend’s friend found him charming.

    He had clearly internalised the homophobia of those around him.

    But yes, let’s celebrate Harry Hay, Del Martin et al (of whom the straights have probably never heard). Though even Harry Hay had some quite strange views, his subject-SUBJECT consciousness theory deserves to be better known.

  16. Thanks to Peter Tatchell for keeping it real — and keeping US real!

  17. In response to Peter’s comment above mine, which he was evidently writing at the same time): Yes and Edward Carpenter too! I think one of the reasons he gets marginalised was because he was a Pagan. He was also a vegetarian, pacifist and socialist (what’s not to like?) He was the catalyst for E M Forster to write Maurice, apparently.

    Also, I’d like to put in a word for Radclyffe Hall, the lesbian novelist, while we’re at it (even if her theory of lesbianism was not very convincing).

  18. Well, Peter’s article has decided it for me: I’m going to watch Day of the Triffids instead.

  19. Jean-Paul Bentham 28 Dec 2009, 8:14pm

    Well, if you’re going to bring out historical characters, why not add the Earl of Rochester, William Beckford, Catalina de Erauso, Sarah Churchill and James VanDerZee??

    I can easily see adding the name of Quentin Crisp to the list of these unique individuals, but frankly Peter, I would never, not ever, use the name of Quentin Crisp in the same sentence as that of the founder of the Mattachine Society.

    Harry Hay was, is, and will always be a pioneer of gay rights and gay liberation.

    Your critique of this movie came as a surprise to me, but it is common knowledge that QC was nowhere to be seen during the Stonewall Riots, yet he was living right there in NYC!

  20. I think I’ve found a retirement package for Peter, that’s if the Lords decide to reform themselves:

    We could certainly do with someone like Peter in the Lords?

  21. While Crisp no doubt showed courage in standing up for himself, I agree with PT that there’s no particular reason that he should be seen as a Gay Icon today.

    Unfortunately, attitudes like Tania’s above (“I expect my stately homos and aged queens to hold somewhat outrageous and outdated views”) just perpetuate cosy and stale preconceptions – and underline just how powerless “outrageous” queeny views always were. A tabby with claws is still just a pussy, as people [don’t] say.

  22. Just watched the first hour of the drama, and thought it was excellent. It raised quite a few pertinent questions that the “gay community” (whatever that is) avoids, shuns or just manages to shout down (by claiming that it’s “homophobic” to ask them). ITV managed to give us a warts and all portrait of a lonely man who knew his own limitations.

    It also showed that the “gay scene / community” can be just as shallow, hedonistic, artificial, hedonistic, angry, self-righteous, dysfunctional, sad, lonely, and unforgiving as the gay Crisp was.

  23. Crisp could have matured and left his self deception, but deliberately did not. He took advantage of what gay liberation accomplished, but never attempted to advance human rights. Witty yes, but absolutely not a hero except to himself. He seems such a sad and uninformed figure in Gay History.

  24. Peter G. Brown 28 Dec 2009, 11:47pm

    It is easy now to look back and condemn Quentin for his stereotyping. He did, however, bring the existence of gay people into the spotlight – which in Newcastle, Australia in the 1970’s was very important. I grew up believing that there were almost no gay people and those that were gay, I was told, were paedophiles. I was blown away seeing the Naked Civil Servant for the first time and although he stereotyped the effeminate queen, it gave me and many others the courage to come OUT.

  25. Brian Burton 28 Dec 2009, 11:50pm

    I have just watched the one hour and a half TV Movie called ‘An Englishman in Yew York.’ It was fab, I enjoyed every minute of it.

  26. I suppose what grabs me about the crisp phenomena having just seen the `second part` is how his power of observation changed from one focal point to another . initially it was about quantifying and managing his own survival in an alien heterosexual world. In new york he was using the same tools but in relation to the gay world. what a unique individual he was.

  27. theotherone 29 Dec 2009, 12:06am

    oh god not Radclyffe Hall! Have you read The Well Of Loneliness? She paints the Paris scene as full of self loathing miserable freaks who only come out at night and not the centre of Paris life as it actually was.

    I also despise the usual tirade against Effeminacy from allot of posters here. If they sent Queers to the work camps again you lot would be strutting around in your nice uniforms just to show how Straight Acting you are.

    Oh and QC is a fvck1ng embarrassment to the community but his albums on Cherry Red where quite funny.

  28. I agree with Peter Tatchell about the lack of recognition for our home-grown heroes while often Stonewall gets the all the attention. America is very good at promoting itself and its history around the world and this is made worse by our media which loves to write about New York or San Francisco rather than Manchester in the 1960’s etc.

    The fact is, male homosexuality was legalised in Britain two years before Stonewall. Let’s give the people who contributed to that the recognition they deserve.

  29. theotherone 29 Dec 2009, 12:42am

    alas Gary we have allowed ourselves to become a people without History.

    Every LGBT [i’m growing to hate that phrase] History Month talks of Pride, of Stonewall not what we did here, not what actually mattered in the lives of British Queers.

    But then everyone knows Stonewall was a sham anyway, that both Britain and America had shown that National Queer Rights movements could exist.

  30. theotherone 29 Dec 2009, 12:43am

    oops: that should have read: could and indeed did exist before Stonewall.

  31. Splitting hairs somewhat: Crisp is not an icon, but he is surely an historical figure to us, and we can learn from him.

    As Yewtree writes above, “he had clearly internalized the homophobia of those around him.” That is a hazard all of us face.

    I’m in the U.S., and such persons as Larry Craig, Ted Haggard and so many others come to mind when I read of Crisp’s toxic speech and behavior. It seems to me that they are all of a kind, each having swallowed–hook, line and sinker–the poison offered them, each unable to see himself apart from it.

    Crisp at least came out of the closet (for reasons I don’t know), but seems not to have had the imagination (or intelligence?) to know what useful things he might do with that act. He had, like Craig and Haggard had, decades to learn about himself, to free himself of internalized homophobia, and he didn’t even try.

    The truth will make you free, but only if you meet it half way.

  32. One thing that Peter Tatchell has been awfully quiet on as far as I can see is the cynical commercialisation of our gay community and Prides, which has led to exclusion for a majority of LGBT adults (as most are aged over 40). Several years ago when I wrote to him to ask for his support in investigating the smoke and mirrors act that was going on with Manchester Pride and the charity fundraising he merely wrote back and advised me to contact the Pink Paper. Of course the gay media are part of the problem (though Pink News is a breath of fresh air)!

    When can we expect Peter to speak out about a Pride event that started out solely to raise money for charity but now spends 88% on costs out of an income of around £1m? But I guess if he did there might be no more buy-a-ticket talks and stage appearances by him at the aforementioned Manchester Pride?

    Basically, whether Quention Crisp or Peter Tatchell, everyone has an agenda these days. And, by the way, both seem rather similar in the self-publicity department!

  33. I will be ever grateful to Quentin Crisp who put my mind at rest, when I read his quote in relation to dusting, that “After four years it doesnt get any worse”

  34. Question. WAS Crisp living in New York at the time of Stonewall as Jean Paul stated in post 19? I got the impression from the film, which is my only source on the subject, that he arrived there much later.

    Going on the film, which is possibly not the best way of knowing the truth about anyone, since it is a ‘fictionalised’ version of the facts, he seemed to be struggling with a changing world just like most men and women of his age who find that everything is much faster and noisier than it used to be. An old man like him must have felt scared witless by the New York gay scene as portrayed in the film. I would think those comments he made that Tatchell drew attention to are more about a clash of generations and a cultural void between him and the people around him than anything else.

    Or maybe I’m talking nonsense. Feel free to say so. I’m just going on what I saw in a film a couple of hours ago.

  35. Rose like you this is the first I’ve heard of Quentin Crisp living in NYC in the 1960’s. I think it’s incorrect. The film-maker Denis Mitchell made the famous film of Crisp in his flat in Soho (London) in 1968:

    The Stonewall riots were the following year. As far as I know he didn’t move to the US until about 1981.

    He was 59 when the law on male homosexuality was changed in Britain and 61 at the time of the Stonewall riots. He was from another era and I think its a bit meanspirited to slate him for not embracing gay liberation. I wasn’t happy about the hounding of John Inman and Larry Grayson for not being out and proud and this seems to be another example of that.

    A lot of our gay culture has been destroyed over the past 25 years because this or that was deemed old-fashioned or politically incorrect and we are the poorer for it.

  36. This is way over the top its just a story about the poor fella.
    i think peter tatchell is gone a bit over the top here

  37. Jean-Paul Bentham 29 Dec 2009, 4:23am

    Peter Tatchell didn’t say it was a bad film. In fact he said:

    “This is a good film, with another stunning performance by John Hurt, but it sanitizes Crisp’s ignorant, pompous homophobia. Quentin disparaged homosexuality as an illness, affliction, burden, curse and abnormality. He regarded himself as ‘disfigured’ by his gayness. He never spoke out for gay rights or supported any gay equality cause.”

    Peter also said that Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) was no icon of gay rights. I agree with that 100%.

    Soren’s comment (31) is most enlightening, and removes all doubt about QC’s heroism. An icon, yes; a hero, no.

    Rose (34) and Gary (35), you are both on the ball. QC was not in NYC in June 1969; he was still in London.

    I stand humbly corrected; thank you.

    Quentin Crisp moved to NYC in 1981 at the age of 73 saying:

    “I came to America because my fare was paid. That’s the story of my life. I go where my fare is paid.”

    He remained a dignified outsider, just as he was in London where he is known to have said:

    “I was, of course, born an alien”.

    He was not a political animal:

    “With the passing of time, I have come to think that both sex and politics are a mistake, and that any attempt to establish a connection between the two is the greatest error of all”.

    Nor did he like contemporary ‘real’ gay men, ‘gargoyles of masculinity, scorning or regarding with pitying contempt those of us who cannot rise to such manliness’.

    According to Keith Howes (“Who’s Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History” Routledge, London and New York, 2001-02, p.97), QC “was, indeed, whatever one desired him to be: guru, saint, eccentric, right-wing conservative, faggot, pansy, silly old queen…”.

    So Quentin Crisp does deserve a place in Gay History, of course he does, and he has it: no doubt about it.

    But and but, he was no Harry Hay, no Christopher Isherwood, no Magnus Hirshfield, Sommerset Maugham, W.H. Auden, and certainly no Edward Carpenter or Michel Foucault.

    And frankly, I’ve always liked him. Then, as now, he is a controversial character. Nobody’s perfect!

  38. Brian Burton 29 Dec 2009, 8:09am

    Good analogy JP. Quentin Crisp did not have to be all thing to all (Gay) people. He was his own person and was true to the person he was, and would not bow to pressure from any quarter to change his opinion on the question of ‘HIV/AIDS.’ He kept up the ‘I’ll be what you want me to be’ persona but he was always in charge but still gave the immpression that you were in charge. A truly remarkable man and I will always admire Quentin Crisp.

  39. God forbid should any gay person have their own individual voice and opinions. Sure he wasn’t a ‘hero’ and maybe a ‘ol queen but he just spoke as he found. He never claimed to be acting for ‘gay rights’ he just had a difference of opinion. Of course in ‘the gay world’ that’s always wrong.

    Kinda find this piece a bit pathetic and maybe a little attention seeking from P. Tatchell on dragging up comments that were already known.

  40. @ Squidgy (39): Your comment comes after 38 other posts on this gay website. In what way is ‘the gay world’ not letting ‘any gay person have their own individual voice and opinions’?

    All Peter Tatchell is saying is that Crisp is celebrated at the expense of other, possibly more deserving figures in gay history. I don’t understand why you find this so ‘pathetic’. Or is it simply because someone holds an opinion that differs from your own?

  41. Quentin Crisp was just a device used by the production company to portray gay men Gay men as one dimensional, emotionally needy and riddled with STD’s. I doubt they missed a single gay stereotype in this film.

    All gay men on TV shows fall into one of the stereotypes. They always seem like a cartoon compared to a hetro counterpart a bit like a 1970’s depiction of a black person on TV.

  42. I do like Quentin’s policy on housework, though!

  43. Brenda Lana Smith R af D 29 Dec 2009, 1:15pm

    As gender-variant expression was culturally perceived a homosexual trait in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century… this 76-year-old M2F twenty-five years’ postoperative transsexual woman thinks that the historical flamboyant effeminate figure and actions of Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) should more rightfully be regarded as being (in today’s vernacular) gender-variant rather than gay… such a relegation on today’s gay community pecking-order would account his seeming right to be pilloried here by too many probably deep-down transphobic gays…

  44. I think Crisp was more gender expression was more queer than gender variant Brenda, the two are very different things.


    I think Crisp’s gender expression was more queer than gender variant Brenda, the two are very different things.

  46. Whether you think he is a gay icon or hero or not, the first drama The Naked Civil Servant (1975) is one of the most famous in UK TV history (people in other countries may not appreciate to what extent). Quote from Wikipedia: ‘in 2000 it was placed fourth in a poll by industry professionals to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century’.

    It brought various issues to the attention of a big ITV audience at a time when there were just three channels. In those days a TV drama could have a massive impact. I was 13 at the time and remember everyone talking about it the next day.

    If there had been no Quentin Crisp, if he had never written his book, there would have been no TV drama.

    As mentioned above, if you’re an individual and express views that go against what you’re currently ‘supposed’ to think as a member of the LGBT community you can find yourself on the receiving end of a lot of bile. It verges on being quite sinister sometimes. Which is why people talk about the ‘gay mafia’.

    The issue of cruising is a modern-day example (as discussed here on Pink News recently). The small gay elite (who claim to speak for all of us just as they did 30 years ago) has decided that it isn’t necessary anymore and so they team up with the police and other authorities to stamp it out. If you happen to be someone who relies on cruising as your one and only way of meeting other gay men, then you may not be too impressed with the people who initiate that.

    As an older person maybe I can sympathise with Crisp. To have been out there all those years and then find yourself criticised as a bad example and ostracised must have been rather annoying to say the least. In the 1980’s when I protested, I assumed that when I got to 40’s and older I would still feel welcome on Manchester’s gay scene and at Pride, because in those days all ages could be seen in the bars and were welcomed (of course there was ageism). But no, it hasn’t worked out that way in the orgy of commercial pink pound greed that has happened. Despite most LGBT adults being aged over 40 it is as if we are invisible.

  47. Sister Mary Clarence 29 Dec 2009, 2:14pm

    “I wish Quentin no harm but I think we need to recognise that he was a flawed and disappointing person in the latter part of his life”

    I think the point is that he was human and he was fallible like the rest of us. As a little boy he didn’t sit down and say to himself I will be gay and I will become an icon for generations of gays to come. He led a life that was later considered to be noteworthy enough for someone to make a film about it.

    We most of us do things in our lives that at some point others look to and thing were good or bad but none of us lives our life thinking that our everyday interactions will be dissected by others many years after our deaths. He lived his life as best he could to benefit himself, which in reality is what most people do.

    Condemnation has been rampant on here this Christmas (more so than normal) and people should maybe consider what future generations would make of the life they have led before slinging mud at others who have no right of reply.

    Quentin Crisp did not lead a perfect life, and nor have I. My suspicion is that most other people having a go haven’t either.

  48. Sister Mary Clarence 29 Dec 2009, 2:15pm

    Excellent posting Gary!!

  49. Peter Tatchell is correct in his main criticisms of Quentin Crisp, but it is unfair to attack the dead man about an agenda that was unthinkable for most of QC’s lifetime until he was a feeble frail creature.
    Nobody who is/was sane expected Quentin Crisp to be a hero, let alone a gay hero, or a supporter of gay politics.
    We expected him to entertain and observe.
    Who cares about all QC’s faults (sometimes self acknowleged), when the main point is that the movie
    is very rewarding and satisfying. Well done to ITV for making it happen.

  50. Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau 29 Dec 2009, 2:48pm

    Quentin Crisp “the naked civil servant” was just entertainment.

    He never went to prison. Others did.
    He never got beat up. Others did.
    It was not his fault that people are trying to make him into some think he wasn’t.
    No formal education. He talked and talked and never really said anything.

    He did very well friends of.

    “I love me who do you love”.

    69 Quotations by Quentin Crisp excuse me if I fall asleep listening to quotations from bore.

    Quentin Crisp
    A gentleman doesn’t pounce he glides. If a woman sits on a piece of furniture which permits your sitting beside her, you are free to regard this as an invitation, though not an unequivocal one.

    Quentin Crisp
    A pinch of notoriety will do.

    Quentin Crisp
    An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last instalment missing.

    Quentin Crisp
    Euphemisms are not, as many young people think, useless verbiage for that which can and should be said bluntly; they are like secret agents on a delicate mission, they must airily pass by a stinking mess with barely so much as a nod of the head.

    Quentin Crisp
    Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne.

    Quentin Crisp
    For an introvert his environment is himself and can never be subject to startling or unforeseen change.

    I’m sorry I cannot do any more it’s boring me senseless you can find a link here:

    Quentin Crisp was born Denis Pratt on Christmas Day 1908 to, as he called them, “middle-class, middle-brow, middling” parents in Sutton, Surrey. He was sent to boarding school in Derbyshire. It was, he said, ‘a cross between a monastery and a prison.’

    The British media love him he is what real Gay people are.
    Everybody else is faking it

  51. Thanks Sister Mary Clarence I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Things change all the time, one year a word or point of view is banned and the next it is fine and then it all changes again, some activity that was defended is suddenly frowned on and so on. As you get older you see how silly that is and you can’t be bothered with it. So even in Crisp’s comment about AIDS being a ‘fad’, which many found offensive, you can kind of see his thinking behind that, albeit in a twisted way! Also what year did he say that? In the 1980’s I had an elderly friend a bit like Quentin and he had similar dismissive views and for years refused believe AIDS existed. In the early 1980’s, at least one major broadsheet UK newspaper was going against the flow and questioning whether AIDS existed.

    Sometimes people stick with views and get it wrong. But do we admire the person who sticks by what they believe regardless of who says what and whatever changes around them? Or do we prefer someone like a certain gay politician in Manchester, who seemed to be hard left in the 1980’s but now miraculously (because it is the current popular agenda) is a defender of profit-making, our exclusionary scene and recently (and quite wrongly) declared in the gay press that cruising is illegal?

  52. Yes, Sister Mary Clarence, an excellent post.

  53. Q C was a product of his time.Ridiculed as a child, condemned by his peers and laughed at and physically beaten by members of the “hetrosexual community” (I wish!), he reacted as many gay men did then and became a bitchy, screaming queen, negative in his attitude to other gay men and unable to form a lasting relationship because he did not have a capacity to give – he was self-obsessed and incapable of love, as indeed were many at that time.
    Let’s hope we learn from people such as this – if there are any left!

  54. Brenda Lana Smith R af D 29 Dec 2009, 4:45pm


    Whether publicly or privately… we gender-variant folk all seem to hold that our own particular manifestation of dissociative gender identification is unique… often deep-down believing that we individually hold the proprietary format on all matters gender-variant… and… divided by semantics idealistically bicker between ourselves to that end… Ergo… gender-variant (non conformity with dominant gender norms of Western culture) expression was culturally perceived a homosexual trait in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century… and… as this 76-year-old M2F twenty-five years’ postoperative transsexual woman was there… I can vouch that had my obsessive closeted post-pubescent transvestic behaviour been ‘outed’ in 1940/50s… my gender-variant proclivity would have had heterosexual me branded homosexual, queer or pooftah—as gays were disdainfully labelled then… meanwhile… I’ll leave you with the thought that whatever label is or we might cared have hung on the historical flamboyant effeminate figure and actions of Quentin Crisp will probably have an entirely different connotation to readers just a generation or two apart… over and out…

  55. JDA_Glasgow 29 Dec 2009, 5:50pm

    Oh dear, Tatchell’s at it again. I thought he was ‘retiring’ from public life and I, for one, wish he would.

  56. Freidrich Wilhelm Murnau (50):

    QC also said:

    “For flavor, instant sex will never supersede the stuff you have to peel and cook.”

    If you had listen to QC, you would not have died so young… but boys will be boys.

    What should I do with your funeral mask?

  57. Jean-Paul Bentham 29 Dec 2009, 9:01pm

    December 25,1908 – QUENTIN CRISP, English author bon vivant, raconteur, born (d. 1999); born Denis Charles Pratt, Crisp was an English writer, artist’s model, actor and raconteur known for his memorable and insightful witticisms. He became a gay icon in the 1970s after publication of his memoir, “The Naked Civil Servant”, brought to the attention of the general public his defiant exhibitionism and longstanding refusal to conceal his sexuality.

    The successful screening of “The Naked Civil Servant” launched Crisp in another new direction: that of performer and lecturer. He devised a one-man show and began touring the country with it. The first half of the show was an entertaining monologue loosely based on his memoirs, the second half was a question and answer session with Crisp picking the audience’s written questions out at random and answering them in an amusing manner. In 1978 Crisp sold out the Duke of York’s Theater in London, then took the show to New York, where he eventually decided to move. His first stay there, in the Hotel Chelsea, coincided with a fire, a robbery, and the death of Nancy Spungen. He set about making arrangements to move to New York permanently and in 1981 he arrived with few possessions and found a small apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

    He continued to perform his one-man show, published ground-breaking books on the importance of contemporary manners as a means of social inclusiveness as opposed to etiquette, which socially excludes, and supported himself by accepting social invitations and writing movie reviews and columns for U.S. and U.K. magazines and newspapers. He said that provided one could exist on peanuts and champagne, one could quite easily live by going to every cocktail party, premiere and first night to which one was invited. As he had done in London, Crisp allowed his phone number to remain listed in the Manhattan telephone directory and saw it as his duty to converse with anyone who called him. For the first twenty or so years of owning his own telephone he habitually answered calls with the phrase “Yes, God?” (“Just in case,” he once said.) Later on he changed it to “Oh yes?” in a querulous tone of voice.

    In addition to his listed phone number, he accepted dinner invitations from almost anyone. While it was expected that the invitee would pay for dinner, Quentin Crisp did his best to “sing for his supper” by regaling his hosts with wonderful stories and yarns much as he did in his theater performances. Dinner with him was said to be one of the best shows in New York.

  58. I guess that’s why New York loved Quentin Crisp, as he was just another street hustler doing his show. :)

  59. I too met him once. As I was very young and in in Gay Lib he hated me and it was mutual.He had to be the only queen in town and he hated us young queens for rocking the boat much more successfully than he ever had.I found him vain cold and repugnant.

  60. And many gay popular folks such as Rupert Everett another homophobic queen.

  61. Just something else to ponder… Where did this story come from in the first place? A press release from Tatchell himself by any chance? Remarkably similar ‘news’ stories have appeared in the Telegraph, Independent and elsewhere.

    So is it actually a rather cynical attempt to hijack this film and grab some of the limelight. Maybe even settle old scores to an extent?

  62. Marcus Waterworth 31 Dec 2009, 1:23am

    Well Gary I believe Quentin once said Don’t try to keep up with Jonses Drag them down to your level its less effort I do get the feeling that is happening here to some extent. Has anyone here read any of his books or are they just reacting to a film? I do believe Quentin was a very brave man in his time. He did stand up to beatings and abuse and yet still remained himself without appology or hiding and he should be respected for that

  63. Richard Farnos 31 Dec 2009, 1:31am

    I think Gary may well be right. Peter’s attack says mor about him than it does about Quentin Crisp.

  64. Just two words to a common phrase for P. Tatchell:- Pot, kettle…

  65. squidgy I agree. tatchell did the smm campaign he put me in danger and made my life hell. he said if. a few gay people die it’s a price worth paying he gets a death threat and stops the campaign. he put my ne k on the line without my permission he is a spineless piece a siht.

  66. The problem with Thatchell’s article is it supposes to know why Crisp said the negative things he did and assumes the argument that he was fundamentally bitter which is a very shallow way to go on the subject.

    Crisp made a career out of autobiography that utilised literature, performance and film. He was never a politico-phile and never terribly bright when speaking about anything except being an exhibitionist. To this degree i think there is a tyranny in Thatchell’s appraisal of Crisp that is as unimaginative as Crisp’s own publically stated views about homosexuality.

    Crisp was an unwitting pioneer who inadvertently found himself standing against the law as a defender of freedom. What makes him tollerable is that he was so unlikely a candidate for this role.

    Of course his anti gay/ aids comments late in life were total hogwash and if the film suggested anything, it was that he did not get away with what he said. But Crisp was an artist first and loyal to his art before all else. His art was being himself and by and large he suceeded at this practice for some 70 years. This is to be commended and applying a stright forward political blanket condemnation of his perspective toally misses the point about what he was. In the 1900s-30s many artists in Paris also made their politcal views very contradictory and confusing to understand precisely as a way of agitiating and being creative. Crisp stood alone when he did this and did not have the support of the group or a label like ‘dada’. But his behaviour is much the same.

    Thatchell needs to step back abit.

  67. Mr T's own frog 31 Dec 2009, 3:44pm

    How amusing that almost every other commentator has been using bitchy, disparaging words to qualify Mr Quentin Crisp, even when praising him. He was a brave man. With a difference. He suffered from it. Not his fault obviously. Some of us feel uncomfortable being gay. Some straight ones also feel uncomfortable. So what? Mr Quentin Crisp was not an activist. Is an homosexual mean under any obligation of waving a flag? Is a non-homosexual man under any such obligation? No. I do not like flags very much. He was himself. He was free. Probably more than many flag-wavers. He was probably very selfish. He did not pretend he was not. And his witty remarks can only bore those whose language never rose above the level of the sitcom. Bless them.

  68. Everything Peter says is true but Quentin never said he was a spokesperson for anyone but himself. And I think you have to take into account the period he grew up in. To be a self-loathing homosexual in the 30’s and 40’s was quite commonplace. Can we expect gay men to shake off these feelings later on in life? I don’t think we can. Have we completely shaken off ours from our upbringing? For me Quentin was a stopped clock. But no less interesting because of that. He was part of our history.

    Re the film, I do think The Naked Civil Servant was unique in that, probably for the first time, a television progarmme was portraying an ‘out’ gay man in a sympathetic light. And I think that this, inadvertently, helped pave the way (along with countless others) to the more accepting society that we have today.

  69. Brian Burton 2 Jan 2010, 2:35pm

    Well said Clayton, on the Button my friend. Quentin Crisp is a big part of our Gay heritage and all the rumblings about wheather he was 100% behind Gay Lib etcetera is immaterial.
    (This is the only thing I disagree with of Peter Tatchell!)

  70. I think it a shame, and indeed rather shameful that a sad lonely old mad should be treated with scorn for the bitterness and self hate he so clearly felt rather than treated with compassion and tolerance. Something that Peter and his ilk love to preach but too often fail to practice.

    Yes Crisp said some dreadful things and yes he was certainly no gay rights campaigner. So what? Why can we not revere him for his astonishing courage for being an out gay man in the 30s and 40s and feel a sense of pity and compassion for the fact that that experience finally lead him to loneliness, depression, and bitter self hate. His claims that gay men can not find love seem to me the words of a mad who himself could not find love and blamed his sexuality for it. If you blame your sexuality for your unhappiness of course you would not wish others to be born to it either. This is of course neither right nor healthy but is a little compassion and understanding to much to ask for? It is my experience that too often those gays of whatever age or background who are for some reason unhappy with their sexuality are treated with contempt or disdain by those like Peter rather than the hand of friendship and solidarity that they deserve. We should know better.

    Crisp is treated as an icon because of the considerable social impact that The Naked Civil servant had in the mid 70s. Something Peter completely fails to even acknowledge. I know it made my parents rethink how they had always thought of gay people. That at least i am grateful for…

    It is a shame that Peter feels the need to get the boot in on the eve of this mans last great public exposure. He claims that his piece is temperate, perhaps calling a sad old man a misogynist, homophobe and reactionary counts as temperate in his view. Not mine im afraid.

    All rather pompous no doubt. Soz bout that. I tend to be so when expressing on something that animates me as this does.


    happy new year.


  71. Mrs Patrick Campbell 5 Jan 2010, 8:57pm

    Miss Crisp was INDEED a model for all decent women! She stood for the old school style of sissy, before drugs and $$$ making propoganda campaigns for imaginary illnesses. Back in the good old days then sisters got a lot of leche and very few drugs, whereas today it is exactly reversed!

  72. In The Times (3 Jan), A.A.Gill writes: ‘I’ve just had an email from the blessed Peter Tatchell, reminding me that Crisp was not a hero, but a bitter, self-obsessed homophobe.’ So it does look as if Tatchell has been busy mass mailing his views to reviewers and ‘opinion formers’.

  73. I believe he liked to make people think deeply, he was very profound and intelligent. He often said homosexuality was an illness that shouldn’t be acceptable, some people may have taken that as a statement he was homophobic, which for an effeminate gay man seems contradictory and odd. I believe he meant something else by that remark, saying something so obtuse for an intelligent wit leads the observer to question their own prejudices about homosexuality, it’s a very clever ploy if you ask me. You think to yourself, why put yourself down like that Quentin, you are OK, you are logical and talk sense. It makes you look at the person and warm to them, rather than judge them harshly for looking eccentric or being different, you empathise. Using the word Queer as a normal word in everyday language diffuses the hateful connotation it has had in the past. Quentin disagreed with assimilation also, what do you want to be liberated from he said to the gay pride organisations, again some may take this as homophobic, when really he’s saying, look I enjoy not being accepted by the mainstream, I want to be different, there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure he’d have been against gay marriage too. He really was a legend and a one off, maybe he had aspergers syndrome which would account for his problems and bizzare opinions

  74. ChristoRay 2 Feb 2010, 2:06pm

    With reference to Crisp’s ‘Gargoyles of masculinity’ quip, I’m again reminded of this particular fear and loathing of masculinity among many gay men. Answer me this: why is it that when a gay man is naturally effeminate, he is praised and lauded for ‘being himself’ (and I say this as an admirer of Crisp)but when he is naturally masculine (by which I mean strong, silent, laconic, understated and gentlemanly, as opposed to being built like a brick sh*thouse with a stupid Ceasar crop) he is derided as being ‘straight acting’? Maybe – just maybe – it’s his natural default setting?

  75. Mbosaramba 16 Feb 2010, 8:50pm

    I admire Quentin Crisp. He is intelligent and correct in many respects. He is not homophobic – he is just critical of some unintelligent gays. That’s what such shallow-thinking guy as Mr. Tatchell doesn’t understand. I feel sorry for his (Tatchell’s) unintelligence.

    World doesn’t need “gay rights” and neocommunists like Mr. P. Tatchell. World need better education and gradual comprehension of human rights, without fights, revolutions and other violent strategies of gays like Mr. P. Tatchell.

    Revolutions causing mass murder, therefore any humanist rejects any revolution. That’s what Mr. Tatchell doesn’t understand – yet…

    Let me remind you that at the beginning of his life Karl Marx was a humanist and he talking in his realy works about HUMANISTIC values in the world. But at the end of his life he became antihumanstic because he wanted instignate the world revolution and world-wide mass murder. The history of communism clearly illustrated how terrible such movement was and is.

    Mr. Tatchell never understood this, and I am very sorry that he void of proper understanding of history of Mankind.

  76. Mbosaramba 16 Feb 2010, 9:19pm

    World doesn’t need gay heroes, world need decent human beings.

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