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Quentin Crisp

“The worst part of being gay in the twentieth century is all that damn disco music to which one has to listen”

Quentin Crisp is the author of the classic — and flamboyantly eccentric — coming-of-age memoir The Naked Civil Servant. The award-winning film version of The Naked Civil Servant, starring John Hurt, made him an instant international celebrity. Crisp also wrote numerous books and articles about his life and his opinions on style, fashion, and the movies. Often hailed as the 20th-century Oscar Wilde, Quentin Crisp was famous for his aphoristic witticisms. He performed his one-man show, An Evening with Quentin Crisp, to acclaim in theaters around the world, all the while spreading his unique philosophy: “Never keep up with the Joneses; drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.” During the second part of his one-man show, Crisp answered questions from the audience and gave advice to audience members about how to find their individual style and live a happy life. He was always in the “profession of being.”

Quentin Crisp was Oscar Wilde’s perfect descendant. With his calculated caustic words, open homosexuality and wittily provocative attitude toward any kind of conventionality, Crisp caused a bit of a stir in conservative England during the 1950s and 1960s, and even on through the 1970s. In 1981, Quentin Crisp moved to New York City, bringing along his familiar and witty remarks and his eccentricity. Quentin Crisp charmed everyone and became “the face of a modern rebel.”

Throughout his near twenty-year tenure on Manhattan, Mr. Crisp wrote a variety of books, reviews, appeared in several movies (most notably playing Elizabeth I in Sally Ann Potter’s Orlando) and otherwise delighted us publicly and privately with his inimitable grace, wit and genius. Quentin Crisp died on the eve of touring his one-man show in Manchester, England, on 21 November 1999.


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