Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vice Is Its Own Reward

"The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to plant their whole life in the hands of some other person. I would describe this method of searching for happiness as immature. Development of character consists solely in moving toward self-sufficiency"

There are a number of people that i would loved to have met and spent some time with: Joan of Arc, Leigh Bowery, Janis Joplin et al. Quentin Crisp is on my top ten list. He was born in England in 1908 and spent most of his life there before moving to New York in 1981. Crisp was distinctive for his
outlandish appearance, his sharp wit, observations and story telling. One of the things i admire most about him was his lifelong refusal to hide his orientation or lifestyle in an era where homosexuality was illegal. His carefully applied make up, dyed and coiffed hair, painted finger nails and flowing scarfs coupled with his unapologetic expression of self often meant homophobic attacks and violence.

Throughout his life he tried many roles: nude model, illustrator, book designer, prostitute, performer and actor but it was his writing that garnered widespread attention. His coming of age memoirs 'The Naked Civil Servant' was published in 1968. The book sold a modest 3,500 copies and in 1975 was adapted into a film of the same name starring John Hurt. It was this film that brought him to the attention of the public and press He published many books which covered his opinions on style, etiquette, culture and movies. Quentin Crisp died on the eve of touring his one-man show in England in November 1999. He was a fascinating intelligent man who I've barely done justice to with my brief post.

The interview below was shot in 1968, it was before he was widely known and 13 years before he moved to New York. He discusses homophobia, tolerance and misogyny with a frankness that was unusual for the time.

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