Unusual Items from Here and There
memorial to author Thomas Wolfe at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill was the brainchild of Armistead Maupin when he was senior
class vice-president in 1966. The stylized bronze angel is inscribed
with a quotation from Wolfe’s most famous novel, Look Homeward Angel: “O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost come back again.”
Armistead’s friend Tammy DeTreaux, the inspiration for Maybe the Moon, was one three performers who played E.T. in the movie of the same name.
The anagram that reveals Mrs. Madrigal’s secret in More Tales of the City was completely unintentional on Armistead’s part. One of the readers of his newspaper serial pointed it out to him.
Armistead wrote the original dialogue for “Beach Blanket Babylon,” the longest-running musical revue in theatrical history.
Armistead’s chief “spy” for the women’s music festival portion of Significant Others (1987) was his friend Kate Clinton, the legendary lesbian comic.
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real-life chance encounter with Olin L. Cobb, a former merchant seaman
who lived in a hidden lean-to above the old seawall at the base of
Telegraph Hill, was the initial inspiration for “Luke” in Further Tales of the City (1982). Cobb was forced to leave in the early eighties when condo developers objected to his makeshift home.
1971, when Armistead was a young conservative Vietnam veteran, he was
invited to the Oval Office by President Nixon in an effort to
counteract the anti-war efforts of future Presidential candidate John
Kerry. Over three decades later, Kerry’s biographer, Douglas Brinkley,
found the White House tapes of Armistead’s chat with Nixon and remarked
that Armistead’s memory of the meeting had been surprisingly accurate.
In Sure of You
(1989) landlady Anna Madrigal travels to the Greek island of Lesbos
where she visits the family seat of Presidential candidate, Michael
Dukakis. Four years later, Michael’s first cousin, Olympia, was hired
to play Anna Madrigal in the television miniseries.
The last book Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ever read may have been Armistead Maupin’s Maybe the Moon.
The novel was given to her in the hospital in 1994 by actress Daryl
Hannah, who had optioned it for a film, with an eye to the role of
Renee, and wanted Jackie’s opinion in the matter. The actress was
dating Jackie’s son, John Jr., at the time.
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legend Jim Courier, then ranked number two in the world, scandalized
sports writers by reading a book during changeovers at the World
Championships in Frankfurt in 1993. The book? Armistead Maupin’s Maybe the Moon.
Almost a dozen years later Courier told a British reporter: “So many
people ask me about that book that maybe I should have it bronzed, at
the very least.”
Robert Jones, Armistead’s editor for The Night Listener
at HarperCollins, died of cancer in 2001, so Armistead flew to New York
for the memorial service. He was offered two possible return flights to
San Francisco the following day – September 11 -- and chose the later
one, since he didn’t want to get up early. The flight he declined was
United 93, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania. Armistead, rising late
at the Soho Grand Hotel, had an unobstructed view of the other two
planes as they hit the twin towers.
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