Quentin Crisp: The Profession of Being


When I think about how many people have helped me with this book I realize just how much of a collaborative effort it has been. Without them all it would be so much less and I know how much I owe to them.

So here they are –

Performance artist Penny Arcade knew Quentin for the last eighteen years of his life and was a constant support to him, especially during the last years. In 1992 he named her his “Anima figure”. Penny created The Last Will and Testament of Quentin Crisp which they performed together for many years until his death. They also appeared together in An Evening with Quentin Crisp and Penny Arcade. Penny is a significant figure in the new biographical film about Quentin An Englishman in New York. You can find out more about Penny at www.pennyarcade.tv

Guy Kettelhack was a friend of Quentin’s throughout his time in America. Guy’s book The Wit and Wisdom of Quentin Crisp is a wonderful compendium of all things Crispian and he became known as a “Crisp expert”. Guy was an influential figure during Quentin’s years in America both professionally and as a friend. He was also Quentin’s executor for many years. I also owe him a huge thank-you for his wonderful Foreword.

Phillip Ward knew Quentin during the last fourteen years of his life and particularly during the last years was a constant practical and emotional support. I also owe him a big thank-you for allowing me to use extracts from Quentin’s last as yet unpublished book  The Dusty Answers and material from the Quentin Crisp Archives and for giving me his permission to use the many quotes from Quentin which appear throughout the book. Phillip is Quentin’s executor and runs the Quentin Crisp Archives which you can read about at www.crisperanto.org.

Tom Steele first met Quentin shortly after his move to America and the two remained close friends until Quentin’s death. Tom was associate publisher and editor of Theatre Week, Christopher Street (for which Quentin wrote film reviews), Opera Monthly, and the New York Native (for which Quentin wrote a weekly diary). Tom was also one of Quentin’s most frequent cinema companions during his years in America. Tom is a major figure in the new film An Englishman In New York in which for dramatic reasons his character is amalgamated with Phillip Ward (Quentin’s executor). Tom gave me some invaluable advice about publishing. He is also a keen and enthusiastic cook and has written books on cooking. He has a website www.hugeflavors.com.

Richard Gollner knew Quentin for thirty years, from the late 1960s until his death. Richard was Quentin’s agent and later manager and accompanied Quentin on his first visits to the United States and elsewhere. Richard worked with Quentin on creating his one-man-show An Evening with Quentin Crisp in 1975, which he produced and directed. Richard still works as a literary agent in London.

David Leddick, whom during an amazing life, has not only been a Naval Officer but a dancer at the New York Metropolitan Opera, Worldwide Creative Director for Revlon and International Creative Director for L’Oreal, a novelist and biographer, actor and cabaret entertainer. He knew Quentin for the last twenty years of Quentin’s life and has created Quentin & I: a Mini-Musical as a tribute to his late friend. You can catch up with David at http://davidleddick.net.

Louis Colaianni knew Quentin for many years and he ran a web site called the Quentin Crisp Museum. He is a prominent voice and text coach in the professional theatre. He is an adjunct associate professor at Vassar College; teaches at The Actors Studio; and was associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has published several books including The Joy of Phonetics and Accents and How to Speak Shakespeare. You can find out more about Louis at www.louiscolaianni.com.

A special posthumous thank-you to film producer June Lang. June was one of the first of Quentin’s friends to make contact with me after I launched the site. She was so supportive and encouraging. We remained in regular contact after that talking about Quentin and her latest projects. She produced the short film My Lunch with Quentin Crisp as her tribute to her friend. Quentin also featured in her documentary Farewell to the Deuce. Sadly she passed away in August 2008 from cancer. I am sorry that she did not get to see the book in print she would have been so pleased.

John W Mills first met Quentin in 1947 and formed a friendship with him which would last for decades. I think you will find some of his memories very interesting! You can find out more about John at www.johnwmills.com.

My thanks to Quentin’s nieces, Denise Pratt-Renner, Elaine Pratt-Goycoolea and Francis Ramsay, his great niece Michèle Elaine Goycoolea Crawford and his great nephew film-maker Adrian Goycoolea for helping me fill out their family tree. Thanks also to Adrian for giving me a copy of his film about Quentin Uncle Denis, more on this at the end of the book. Adrian is currently lecturing at Sussex University in England. You can learn more about Adrian’s films at www.sussex.ac.uk or at the International Movie Database www.imdb.com.

Writer, actor and producer David Alex Nahmod produced the film Red Ribbons which starred Quentin and wrote and starred in the short film Aunt Fannie, in which Quentin played the titled character.

Writer and director Neil Ira Needleman produced the films Aunt Fannie, Red Ribbons and wrote and directed the film Famous Again in which Quentin also appeared.

Georgina Spelvin starred with Quentin in the films Red Ribbons and Famous Again. Georgina has written the first volume of her autobiography The Devil Made me do It, and is currently working on volume two. You can find out for about Georgina at the website www.georginaspelvin.com.

Sara Moore wrote and directed Homo Heights in which Quentin gave his last feature-length acting performance.

David Hartnell has had a highly successful career as a makeup artist and has worked with many legends of the film world from Mae West to Joan Collins. In 1978 he was in New Zealand and did Quentin’s makeup for his tour there as well as helping out during the stage performances. David has written seven books on makeup. He is now a Hollywood gossip columnist with a paper column, radio and TV slot and internet site and has also just written his second book on Hollywood David Hartnell’s Hollywood Trivia. I owe David a big thank-you for doing some advance publicity for my book. David has written his autobiography David Hartnell a memoir of a gossip columnist published in April 2011 by Penguin. You can read more about Quentin’s time in New Zealand here.

Film actor and stage performer Stephen Sorrentino who co-starred with Quentin in the film Homo aka Happy Heights for giving me permission to retell his story of how Quentin got his name. You can find out more about Stephen at www.stephensorrentino.com

Morgan Fisher for telling me about his experiences interviewing Quentin in London in 1980. Morgan is a composer who began his career in 1968 playing with the bands The Love Affair which had a no1 hit with Everlasting Love and in the 1970s played with the band Mott the Hoople. In 1982 he played keyboards on Queen’s tour of Europe. He now lives in Japan and has continued composing and recording.

Michael Andersen-Andrade (Connie Clausen’s son) for allowing me to use the photos of his mother.

Character actor Richard Louis James for allowing me to use a photo from his own one-man show Tea ‘N’ Crisp in which he brings Quentin back to life in the format of An Evening with Quentin Crisp, updated for the twenty-first century.  You can find out more about Richard at www.quentincrisp.info/teancrisp/. My thanks also to the photographer John D Kysela. Look up www.johnkysela.net.

Screen and stage actor Leon Acord for allowing me to use the photo of him as Quentin in Jeffrey Hartgraves’s play Carved In Stone. Leon reprised his role in Los Angeles in the spring of 2009. You can catch up with Leon at www.leonacord.com. My thanks also to the photographer Peter Solari for giving me permission to use it. You can view more of his photographs at http://www.pbase.com/petersolariphoto.

Tim Fountain, author of the play Resident Alien: Quentin Crisp Explains it All. Tim is also the author of the biographical book Quentin Crisp and made the television documentary The Significant Death of Quentin Crisp.

Actor John Watson for allowing me to use the photo of him as Quentin in the New Zealand production of Resident Alien. I would also like to thank John for putting me in touch with David Hartnell. Also my thanks to the photographer Maxwell John Osborne.

Photographer David Whitworth for sharing with me his experience of meeting Quentin in New York on New Years day 1997 and for allowing me to use his photographs. You can see more of his photographs at www.ywps.co.uk/gallery.

Designer Miguel Adrover for talking to me about knowing Quentin in New York, his Quentin Crisp mattress overcoat creation (it will all make sense when you’ve read the book). I also owe a thank-you to Miguel’s assistant Lluis Corujo

I also owe a thank-yous to Richard Laxton (director of An Englishman in New York), to James Burstall, who is CEO of Leopard Films and to actor John Hurt for giving me their permission to use a photograph from the film. Thanks to Joanna Nicholas, James Burstall’s Personal Assistant and to Jessica Sykes and Jennie Miller – assistants to Mr Laxton.

Maurice Heerdink for allowing me to use his beautiful portrait of Quentin on the front cover of this book. Maurice is a dedicated admirer of Quentin and has amassed a wealth of knowledge and material about him which he has shared with me. You can see more of this gifted artists’ work at www.mauriceheerdink.com.

To L. Brandon Krall, my thanks for sharing with me her experiences of meeting and filming Quentin during his 90th birthday run of An Evening With Quentin Crisp at the Intar Theatre.

My thanks to Raymond Luczak for letting me use his photograph of Quentin Crisp and Tom Steele doing their rat-face. Find out more about Raymond at www.raymondluczak.com.

My thanks to Victory Van Dyke Chase for all her time and effort getting me material for the book.

I would also like to say that so many people were throughout totally and wonderfully supportive and encouraging. They took time out of their busy schedules to respond to my contacts, answer my questions and supply me with so much stuff. Penny, Guy, Phillip and Tom all proof-read my manuscript.  Phillip once said to me “I want your book to be the best it can be.” I suspect that there were times when I became a nuisance but they never once complained or refused a request. I do not now remember which of them it was who told me years ago that they would have done anything for Quentin while he was alive and still would. When I finally told them that I had found a publisher they were so delighted. Louis Colaianni said “If Quentin is watching, he is smiling.” It is a testament not just to each of them, but also I think to the person Quentin was, that they so wholeheartedly participated in the creation of this book. It has been a privilege to have made contact with them and in a small way got to know them.

My sincerest thanks and admiration to you all!

And some special thank-yous to the following.

My sister Heather Kelly who proofread my manuscript so many times, corrected my spelling, grammar and spotted those split-infinitives. Heather quoted Quentin in her master’s dissertation and was a valuable sounding board for bouncing ideas off and was a wonderful help in many other ways.

My wife Karen Curlett Kelly, who as always has been totally supportive, encouraging and understanding throughout and without whom nothing would be possible. She drew up the family tree at the end of the book, helped with images and so much more.  Karen is a Graphic-Artist, you can view her work at www.karencurlettkelly.com.

I would also like to thank painter Tommy Barr for putting the idea of writing a book in my mind, though neither he nor I realised it at the time. He was also my first “public” reader. You can catch up with Tommy and see his work at www.tbarr.com.

Lastly but by no means least there is of course Quentin Crisp himself. So many times I found myself floundering not knowing how to proceed, how to phrase something. At these times I would remind myself of Quentin’s advice about writing “All you have to ask yourself is have you said what you meant to say.” It always got me moving again.

Thanks Quentin.