Quentin Crisp fought for human rights decades before it became politically correct. With his red-hennaed hair and blatant use of makeup, he was flamboyantly gay and gender-variant in a time and place when homosexuality was condemned and criminalized - and he was violently persecuted for it. Despite the almost daily onslaughts of anti-gay violence and intolerance, he held onto his true identity.
Eventually, he became “notorious” worldwide for his caustic wit and unique observations of the world around him: “Never keep up with the Joneses – drag them down to your level.” he’d exclaim. “It’s cheaper!” Ten years after his death, Kathleen Egan in the New York Times fittingly dubbed him, “an anarchist armed with a compact!”
He first acquired fame in 1968 with his ground-breaking autobiography, “The Naked Civil Servant” - one of the first accounts of an openly gay life. When the book was made into a 1975 movie starring John Hurt, Quentin Crisp became an international celebrity and soon after emigrated to the US, choosing to live in NYC – his real true love. “When I saw Manhattan, I wanted it,” he said. His 1996 follow-up memoir, “Resident Alien: The New York Diaries,” became the 2009 TV film, “An Englishman in New York” with Mr. Hurt reprising his role as Quentin Crisp, and Sting writing and performing the signature song.
Crisp had begun his successful, long-running, one-man, stage performance, “An Evening with Quentin Crisp” back in 1976 at the age of 68, and won a
special Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. Then, on the final
tour of this acclaimed one-man show, he died of a heart attack in Manchester,
England on November 21, 1999, shortly before his 91st birthday.
In his lifetime, Quentin Crisp authored 15 books and appeared in over 50 films. His hobby was people; his gift to the world was himself. You can almost hear the elegant gentleman, as he emphatically states, “I am NOT famous, I am NOTORIOUS. And if I am rich, it is because I have taken my wages in people.”