Armistead Maupin in conversation with Katherine Maxfield

Sunday, April 24, 2016, 3 p.m.

The internationally bestselling author, hailed as having “invented San Francisco,” comes to Montalvo for a fascinating and evocative conversation with Katherine Maxfield about his life and many accomplishments in literature, theater, and music. Books will be available for purchase.

About Tales of the City and Armistead Maupin

“[Tales of the City is] perhaps the most sublime piece of popular literature America has ever produced” Laura Miller,

Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. Launched in 1976 as a groundbreaking serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, his iconic Tales of the City series has since blazed a trail through popular culture—from a sequence of globally best-selling novels, to a Peabody Award-winning television miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney, to an ambitious new musical that had its world premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in 2011. The series now encompasses eight hugely popular novels: Tales of the City, More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, Babycakes, Significant Others, Sure of You, Michael Tolliver Lives, and Mary Ann in Autumn. These works have been translated into ten languages with more than six million copies in print.

Maupin’s other novels include Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener—which became a 2006 feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

Maupin holds a number of awards for his literary and pioneering social work, including the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle of New York; Litquake’s Barbary Coast Award for his literary contribution to San Francisco; and Trevor Project’s Life Award “for his efforts in saving young lives.” He is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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Chorus pays homage to heroes

by David-Elijah Nahmod

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus pays homage to the distinguished gay author Armistead Maupin in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first installment of Maupin’s serialized novel Tales of the City appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle. Maupin’s stories might have been the first to include the entire LGBTQ spectrum as he acknowledged the mecca and safe haven that San Francisco has become. The author captured the imaginations of millions as his Tales became a series of bestselling books and three television miniseries.

Maupin will appear as guest artist when the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performs Tales of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes at Davies Symphony Hall on April 14 and 15. The program will include “Michael’s Letters to Mama.” The piece’s title refers to Tales of the City ‘s Michael Tolliver, one of literature’s great gay characters.

“It’s always a thrill when the Gay Men’s Chorus performs that piece,” Maupin told the Bay Area Reporter . “That letter was my coming out to my parents. It’s a lovely thing to hear it set to music.”

Maupin said that he initially had no idea that Tales of the City would become a full-time career. “Not in my wildest dreams,” he said. “At first I hoped I would have a popular newspaper column. I’m very grateful, it’s been nothing but a joyride.”

One of the recurring themes in the Tales stories is the creation of LGBT families among people who’ve been rejected by their birth families because of who they are. “The family you create for yourself as opposed to your biological family,” Maupin said. “It’s not enough to merely be tolerated, it creates a real gulf between you and the people you love.”

Dr. Tim Seelig, conductor and artistic director of SFGMC, spoke of the significance of Maupin’s work. “The series of Tales books gave the entire world a window into life in San Francisco,” Seelig said. “More than just giving people a peek into the colorful lives of Barbary Lane, it allowed the world to follow the journey of the entire LGBT community through the triumphs and tragedies, joys and sorrows.”

The concert, Seelig promises, is going to be a huge and emotional spectacle. “Actually, our largest yet,” he said. “We will have 300 singers on stage, along with the 60-piece Bay Area Rainbow Symphony. I would describe it as monumental.”

In addition to Maupin’s iconic creation, the evening will pay tribute to SFGMC members who lived through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, and to the late Harvey Milk (1930-78). When Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a year before he was assassinated at City Hall, he became the first out gay man in US history to hold elective office.

“The addition of parts of James Lippa’s I Am Harvey Milk were obvious in that we are celebrating the first article that was written in 1976 just as Harvey Milk was campaigning for city supervisor,” Seelig said. “Honoring heroes such as Harvey and Armistead just felt so right.” He noted that the Chorus would be taking I Am Harvey Milk on the road. “We are also performing I Am Harvey Milk this July at the Gay and Lesbian Choruses Festival in Denver with 1,000 singers from all over the US,” Seelig added. “Yes, that was 1,000 singers.”

The tragic horrors of the AIDS years are recalled in NakedMan. This was the first piece that was inspired by the lives of actual Chorus members, initially performed in 1996. “The tales of our lives could not be represented better than with the 20th Anniversary of NakedMan,” Seelig said. “It was literally our lives, our stories set to music. The music is just glorious and covers the wide array of emotions and experiences still poignant and relevant today.”

The concert will open with a new piece from Dr. James Eakin, Composer-in-Residence for SFGMC. “Dr. Eakin and I have collaborated for over 15 years,” Seelig said. “This new piece, ‘Open the Gate,’ is at first glance a reference to our city and the Golden Gate. But it is so much more. It is a reminder to live our lives with open hearts, and a reminder that, regardless of how tempting it might be to close those gates and/or borders, it is only in remaining open as a society that we will ultimately fulfill our destiny.”

Though the concert’s underlying themes are quite serious, Seelig promises that the evening will include humor, and even a little choreography. The concert will serve as a reminder of how much San Francisco means to LGBT people.

“I was raised as a conservative and a segregationist,” recalls Maupin. “This is about climbing out of that pit and into the light. I did it with the help of San Francisco.” Maupin also shared part of a letter that he wrote to his parents many years ago: “If you, Papa, are responsible for the way I am, then I thank you with all my heart.”

Tales of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes, Thurs. & Fri., April 14 & 15, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., SF. Tickets ($25-$75):

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The Arts of Fiction and Onstage Conversation

By Leah Garchik
April 3, 2016

Last Tuesday, Armistead Maupin was presented with the 2016 Mayor’s Art Award at an event hosted by ArtCare: Friends of the San Francisco Arts Commission. Mayor Ed Lee praises Maupin for his “Tales of the City” novels, which “helped introduce LGBTQ culture to the mainstream and contributed to San Francisco’s image as a compassionate city that celebrates diversity.”

In addition to those ceremonies, the Arts Commission will host a public conversation between Maupin and poet/playwright/gay rights advocate Jewelle Gomez, at Herbst Theatre on Tuesday, April 5, at 5 p.m. (free, but tickets necessary; contact Eventbrite).

Maupin, who was “really quite honored” at the award -he’s the first writer to receive it – can’t help but marvel about the long-lasting success of “Tales,” which did debut to some early negative reaction. Since then, however, the story has become iconic as has the author. Maupin is a veteran of many onstage literary conversations. For instance, one with Nora Ephron.

Background first: Maupin had met Ephron in the 1970s, when she and Carl Bernstein “introduced me to New York. I didn’t take to her right away. I asked, ‘Doesn’t anybody smoke dope around here?’ There were all those liberals standing around with white wine in plastic glasses.”

Maupin was in New York for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall when his agent and friend Amanda “Binky” Urban, “‘Nora’s closest friend,” sat him and Ephron next to each other at a dinner party. Ephron said to him, “My son would just be thrilled to death to be sitting here with you tonight.’ Jacob was 16 years old, had read ‘Tales’ and had just come out to her. We talked about that young man. I was very moved,” said Maupin. He and Ephron became pals. And young Jacob Bernstein, whose documentary about his mother, “Everything Is Copy,” is showing on HBO, “has gone on to be almost as sharp as his mother.”

In 2006, when Ephron was publicizing her book “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” Maupin was in conversation with her at the Herbst, and when she complained about her neck, “I told her I could make a vagina out of my neck. And I proceeded to do it. And Nora said, ‘It’s kind of hard to know where to go from here.'”

That conversation fragment was cut from the national radio broadcast … and that’s why you should always try to hear the conversation live.

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I Remember Herb Caen (2016)

Once the most influential person in the city of San Francisco, Herb Caen is largely forgotten in the San Francisco of 2016, living on predominantly in the hearts and memory of the people he personally knew and worked with. From the swanky supper clubs of the Barbary Coast to the cramped alleyways of Chinatown this documentary film goes in search of Herb Caen and finds his spirit lingering in the bars, nightclubs and streets he roamed in search of ‘items’ for his daily column. Exploration of Caen’s progressive take on numerous historical moments in San Francisco history as well his open minded attitudes to social movements such as The Beatniks are discussed in the film. In his time Caen was a staunch opponent to ‘modernisation’ and used his column to help protect San Francisco’s legacy architecture while encouraging San Franciscans to cherish their city’s history. Herb Caen’s one of a kind mixture of ‘bon vivant’ and ‘conscious of the city’ attitudes helped San Francisco define itself and to become known as a maverick yet tolerant city, a city admired the world over for its revolutionary mind set and breath taking beauty. Notable interviewees include: Mayor Willie Brown Jr., Novelist Armistead Maupin, Clothier Wilkes Bashford, Politician Angela Alioto, Caen’s son Christopher Caen, Caen’s wife Ann Moller Caen, journalists Carl Nolte, David Perlman and John King, historian Kevin Starr, Authors Gary Kamiya, Barnaby Conrad III, Randy Shaw and Ernie Beyl – among many others. All of this material has been brought together to commemorate Herb Caen’s centenary on April 3, 2016.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Hearts and Flowers

Happy Valentine’s Day

Excerpt from “More Tales of the City”

The valentine was a handmade pastiche of Victorian cherubs, pressed flowers and red glitter. Mary Ann Singleton took one look at it and squealed delightedly.

“Mouse! It’s magnificent. Where in the world did you find those precious little…?”

“Open it.” He grinned.

She turned to the inside of the magazine-size card, revealing a message in Art Nouveau script: MY VALENTINE’S RESOLUTIONS. Underneath were ten numbered spaces.

“See,” said Michael, “you’re supposed to fill it in yourself.”

Mary Ann leaned over and pecked him on the cheek. “I’m that screwed up, huh?”

“You bet. I don’t waste time with well-adjusted people. Wanna see my list?”

“Aren’t you mixing this up with New Year’s?”

“Nah. That’s nickle-dime stuff. Smoking-eating-drinking resolutions. These are the–you know–the hardcore, maybe-this-time, kiss-today-goodbye, some-enchanted-evening resolutions.”

He reached into the pocket of his Pendleton and handed her a sheet of paper:

  1. I will not call anyone nellie or butch, unless that is his name.
  2. I will not assume that women who like me are fag hags.
  3. I will stop expecting to meet Jan-Michael Vincent at the tubs.
  4. I will inhale poppers only through the mouth.
  5. I will not spend more than half an hour in the shower at the Y.
  6. I will stop trying to figure out what color my handkerchief would be if I wore one.
  7. I will buy a drink for a Fifties Queen sometime.
  8. I will not persist in hoping that attractive men will turn out to be brainless and boring.
  9. I will sign my real name at The Glory Holes.
  10. I will ease back into religion by attending concerts at Grace Cathedral.
  11. I will not cruise at Grace Cathedral.
  12. I will not vote for anyone for Empress.
  13. I will make friends with a straight man.
  14. I will not make fun of the way he walks.
  15. I will not tell him about Alexander the Great, Walt Whitman or Leonardo da Vinci.
  16. I will not vote for for politicians who use the term “Gay Community.”
  17. I will not cry when Mary Tyler Moore goes off the air.
  18. I will not measure it, no matter who asks.
  19. I will not hide the A-200.
  20. I will not buy a Lacoste shirt, a Marimekko pillow, a secondhand letterman’s jacket, an All-American Boy T-shirt, a razor blade necklace or a denim accessory of any kind.
  21. I will learn to eat alone and like it.
  22. I will not fantasize about firemen.
  23. I will not tell anyone at home that I just haven’t found the right girl yet.
  24. I will wear a suit on Castro Street and feel comfortable about it.
  25. I will not do impressions of Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Mae West or Paul Lynde.
  26. I will not eat more than one It’s-It in a single evening.
  27. I will find myself acceptable.
  28. I will meet somebody nice, away from a bar or the tubs or a roller-skating rink, and I will fall hopelessly but conventionally in love.
  29. But I won’t say I love you before he does.
  30. The hell I won’t.

Mary Ann put down the paper and looked at Michael. “You’ve got thirty resolutions. How come you only gave me ten?”

He grinned. “Things aren’t so tough for you.”

“Is that right, Mr. Gay Chauvinist Pig!”

She attacked the valentine with a Flair, filling in the first four blanks.

“Try that for starters!”

  1. I will meet Mr. Right this year.
  2. He won’t be married.
  3. He won’t be gay.
  4. He won’t be a child pornographer.

“I see,” said Michael, smiling slyly. “Moving back to Cleveland, huh?”

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Letters Live: Watch Sir Ian McKellen read a brave and powerful coming-out letter

‘These aren’t radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus.’

Christopher Hooton @christophhooton
Friday 5 February 2016

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News Briefs: Maupin receives Mayor’s Art Award

awardBestselling author Armistead Maupin has been named by Mayor Ed Lee as the recipient of the 2016 Mayor’s Art Award.

Maupin, a gay man, rose to fame with his nine-volume Tales of the City series, as well as the novels Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener .

“It is my great honor to recognize author Armistead Maupin with the 2016 Mayor’s Art Award,” Lee said in a news release. “His groundbreaking series Tales of the City helped introduce LGBTQ culture to the mainstream and contributed to San Francisco’s image as a compassionate city that celebrates diversity and where all are welcome. He is truly a San Francisco icon, and we are immensely grateful for his innumerable contributions to the city’s cultural history.”

Maupin, 71, was born in Washington, D.C. in 1944 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam. He worked for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976 he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle .

Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner. Over the years, Maupin has been involved with advocating for gay rights and has actively supported a number of organizations that work to advance the lives of LGBTQ youth and adults.

“Armistead Maupin is a hero to many in the LGBTQ community,” said Tom DeCaigny, a gay man who is director of cultural affairs for the city. “Throughout his life, he has given back to his adopted city and community whether it be championing gay rights through his art or supporting LGBTQ youth. He is most deserving of the Mayor’s Art Award.”

Maupin adds this award to other accolades including Lambda’s Pioneer Award (2012); Litquake Barbary Coast Award (2007); and an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Maupin will receive the Mayor’s Art Award on Tuesday, March 29 at a fundraising reception hosted by ArtCare: Friends of the San Francisco Arts Commission.

This is the fifth Mayor’s Art Award to be bestowed on a San Francisco artist. Previous awardees are Ruth Asawa (visual art); Alonzo King (dance); Carlos Santana (music); and Rhodessa Jones (theater). Maupin is the first writer being honored.

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