Quentin Crisp makes a mighty peculiar poster boy for the gay movement. He would emasculate it, blending in to gain acceptance, rather than demanding every American's inalienable right to pursue happiness-which should have little to do with acceptance-witness the life and fame of Quentin Crisp!
The sold-out, mixed, adoring audience was thoroughly won over by the physically frail but mentally indomitable 89-year old raconteur. He memorized his own prose almost perfectly and spoke it with clarity, strength, poetry, charm, wit, and assorted other winning ways.
Like Oscar Wilde (whom Crisp believes was a horrid, dirty old man, who wrote only one good play), Crisp professed self-creationism through style. Then "You know who you are and where you are going."
"You don't need money, talent, or virtue to express style." He illustrated the point with the tale of a murderer of choirboys in the days of Jeanne d'Arc who not only defended himself with style, but confessed with even more style-quite unlike President Clinton, whom Crisp believes would do better to "neither confirm nor deny."
"Make your house your dressing room, and the world your stage," he advised. "And if all else fails, go on television. If your lips keep moving, they'll have you back!"
Convinced "there's no life after marriage," he tells his correspondents (mostly young and middle aged women) to "avoid superfluous people, including spouses and children-they're untidy."
For the second half of the evening Crisp fielded written and spoken questions from the audience, answering every one as artfully as in the better prepared first act, even the inane ones: "Would you like a nectarine?" or "Did you ever try Viagra?" Answers: "No."
Q. How to stay young?
A. Never go to work!
Q. How would you like to die?
Q. What did you think of Princess Di?
A. She was trash who got what she deserved!
Even though some would find Crisp's more controversial comments on the money, he might do better to keep them to himself. His comments about Islam, for example, could shuffle him off to Rushdieland with a price on his head-in place of the stylish leather hat he wears.
The set by Rob Wolin was less stylish than the subject, but it tried hard with real roses and muslin-like swags. Scott Davis did the lighting most dramatically during intermission, when some shadows made a prettier picture.
Mr. Crisp sat at a desk in the lobby as the audience left, prepared to sign autographs and shake hands. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Sort of like a bearded lady on a stool.
"I'm not famous," he said. "I'm notorious." "If I, who am nothing, can get to the Grove Street Theatre, then anyone can achieve anything!"
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Copyright 1998 Marshall Yaeger