PGMC – Michael’s Letter to Mama

The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus is joined by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus for “Continental Divide” in Spring 2014, featuring this performance of “Michael’s Letter to Mama”, composed and arranged by Seattle’s David Maddux the lyrics are taken from Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco Chronicle serial “More Tales of the City”.

With soloist Jimmy Wilcox of the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus and conductor Joseph J. Buches, Artistic Director for the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus.

Artistic Director: Bob Mensel
Conductor: Joseph J. Buches
Production Manager: David Peterson
Lighting Designer: Zach Adam Reed
Soloist: Jimmy Wilcox


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Olympia Dukakis to Receive 2014 Elliot Norton Lifetime Achievement Award

BWW News Desk

The Boston Theater Critics Association (BTCA) has announced Academy Award-winner and international star of stage, television and film OLYMPIA DUKAKIS will receive the 2014 Elliot Norton Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday, May 19 at The Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 The Riverway, Boston. The ceremony highlights will feature nominated musical performances, The Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, and other surprises. Tickets are $30 for ceremony and party, and available through the WFT box office, 617-879-3200, or online at or OvationTix. (Use “Norton2014″ code to receive $10 off through April 30, 2014).

Reflecting the theater community’s commitment to diversity and accessibility, and Wheelock Family Theatre leadership in inclusive theatre, interpreters Christopher Robinson and Sho Ndukwe will provide live ASL interpretation of the ceremony for the first time.

According to Joyce Kulhawik, President of the BTCA, “I’ve been in love with Olympia Dukakis since MOONSTRUCK-her range and repertoire from film, and television is remarkable, and her commitment and passion for the stage remains as vibrant as ever-I cannot wait to have this local “Olympian” actress receive her Nortie to put on the shelf next to her Oscar, Obie and Golden Globe!”

A Lowell, Massachusetts native and graduate of Boston University’s Sargent College, Dukakis gained widespread acclaim for her Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning performance as Rose Casterini, the astute and sharp-tongued mother to Cher’s Loretta Casterini, in the beloved and timeless movie MOONSTRUCK, winning the Golden Globe that year for the same role. Her theater, film, and television work has received numerous acclaims and award nominations, as well as earning Dukakis an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award.

She has appeared in signature roles in more than 60 feature and short films, including Cloudburst, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Steel Magnolias, Dad, Look Who’s Talking I, II & III, Mighty Aphrodite, Jeffrey, and Away From Her. Her more than 40 television credits include Bored to Death (most recent), Last of the Blond Bombshells (Judi Dench), Sinatra (Golden Globe Nominee), Joan of Arc (Emmy Nominee), Tales of the City, More Tales of the City (Emmy Nominee), and Further Tales of the City. Her New York theatre credits include Who’s Who in Hell, Social Security, Rose (Drama Desk Award Nominee) and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, and Dukakis has performed in more than 130 productions Off-Broadway and regionally at theaters including A.C.T., Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare & Co., and Williamstown Summer Theatre Festival, where she also served as Associate Director. She was most recently seen at Shakespeare & Co. last year in the title role of Mother Courage and Her Children, and will appear at New Repertory Theatre in Spring 2015 in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.

A daughter of Greek immigrants, and a cousin of former Gov. Michael Dukakis, Dukakis says she gained a love of theater from her father, who performed theater in Lowell, and her mother, who played the piano. In addition to acting, she was a founding member and Producing Artistic Director of the Whole Theatre in Montclair, NJ for 19 years. Locally, she was a founding member of both the Actor’s Company and Boston’s Charles Playhouse. She taught acting at NYU (graduate school) for fourteen years and teaches master classes for colleges and universities across the country. She has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Greek America Foundation and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor and received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her autobiography, Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress, was published in 2003.

The Elliot Norton Awards are named in honor of the distinguished Boston theater critic Elliot Norton, who for many years served on the selection committee and who remained an engaged supporter of the drama, both locally and nationally, until his death in 2003 at the age of 100. For 48 years Mr. Norton was a drama critic for Boston newspapers; concurrently, from 1958 until his retirement in 1982, he was moderator of “Elliot Norton Reviews” on WGBH television.

The Boston Theater Critics Association, presenters of the Elliot Norton Awards, includes Don Aucoin, Jared Bowen, Terry Byrne, Carolyn Clay, Nick Dussault, Iris Fanger, Joyce Kulhawik, Robert Nesti, Kilian Melloy, and Ed Siegel. Together with the thriving local theater community, they strive to carry on Mr. Norton’s proud legacy.

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“Blue Jasmine” and “Tales of the City” the Musical

I finally had a chance to watch “Blue Jasmine” last night, as I’m a huge fan of Cate Blanchett and takes place in our much beloved San Francisco.  Much to my surprise, I noticed the poster for “Tales of the City” the Musical in a scene with Cate and Michael Stuhlbarg midway through the film.

What a nice surprise, I nearly jumped off of my sofa!

Blue Jasmine Tales poster

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‘Tales of the City’, from a column to a canon

Author Armistead Maupin’s frank vision of San Francisco has won millions of fans

Arminta Wallace
March 10, 2014

It began as a column in a local newspaper and ended up with more than six million readers. In his Tales of the City series of novels, Armistead Maupin’s freewheeling vision of San Francisco seduced the world with its combination of sunny amiability, frank sexuality and sly humour. It also created a soap-opera cast of recurring characters: Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, Mary Ann Singleton, Brian Hawkins, and their pot-smoking transgender landlady, Anna Madrigal. Now aged 92, Anna takes centre stage as the gang reunites for the latest – and final – volume, The Days of Anna Madrigal .

Maupin happily admits that, when he began, the pressure of creating instalments on a daily basis was considerable. Did he map plots and characters out in advance, to make it easier?

“No, in a word,” he says. “I knew that I wanted a landlady. I knew the characters had to be distinctive, so that readers could remember who everybody was. Beyond that I didn’t have a real game plan.

“It just kind of grew organically, as people explored the city and took on lovers and needed a friend down the hall. I was just grabbing everything out of the air: things that had happened to me the night before, stories that I’d been told, and a general instinct about how I wanted it to feel.”

At 70, Maupin is white-haired, avuncular, relaxed. But the past 40 years have been as much of a journey for him as for his characters. In the second book, 1980’s More Tales of the City , Michael “Mouse” Tolliver writes a letter to his parents declaring he is gay. It was Maupin’s way of getting the message to his own parents. Unorthodox, but it worked. They accepted his public declaration and have supported him. Maupin, for his part, has accepted his role as a highly visible gay activist.

“When I started writing Tales of the City I was one year away from being a mental illness,” he says. “It wasn’t until 1975 that the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off the list of mental illnesses – and in many states, including the state of North Carolina, where I grew up, homosexuality was a crime. An arrestable crime. It still is, in many parts of the world.

“On the road I encounter enormous emotion from readers,” he adds. “Some of them are LGBT people who, when they read the books, found that life can be beautiful and there’s nothing you need to change. You just need to be honest about who you are.”

The dark side
The books have had their share of darkness. During the 1980s they confronted the Aids crisis. More recent storylines have touched on cancer, divorce and ecological disaster. But the central theme of Tales of the City has always been that the biggest disaster of all is our penchant for demonising those who are different. Despite the homophobic right-wing rants that make headlines in the US on a regular basis, Maupin says daily life for the gay community in America has improved dramatically.

“Individual states are deciding to accept marriage equality. Ten years ago, all the talk was about activist judges who might declare it okay, and thus undermine civilisation. Now it’s just growing in states where people have realised there’s nothing particularly horrifying about Uncle Andy marrying his friend Joe.

“I think social networking has a lot to do with it. When you see a gay couple on Facebook, they’re living their life. They’re proud of their dog, proud of their children, cooking meals every night. The demonisation stops.”

In The Days of Anna Madrigal we learn that the boarding-house at 28 Barbary Lane has been sold to dotcom millionaires. Like so much that happens in the books, the plot point mirrors a development in Maupin’s real-world story. Ironically, the man who brought San Francisco to the world has left the overpriced, techie-dominated city: Maupin and his husband of six years, Christopher, have moved to the desert in Santa Fe.

“Property prices are much better and there’s a great deal of charm and natural beauty,” says Maupin with a fond smile. “We’re at the end of a dirt road in an adobe house. There are rolling hills all around us and coyotes howling in the backyard. We have the bluest sky you can imagine most of the year. In the wintertime it snows, but not in any seriously debilitating way. And it’s 15 minutes from the wholefood stores.”

The Days of Anna Madrigal brings the Barbary Lane gang on a mildly bumpy road trip to the Burning Man festival in the salt flats of Nevada, where Anna flies, literally and metaphorically, into the sunset. Well, she is 92. Even a pot-smoking, transgender landlady can’t go on forever. All the same, wouldn’t Maupin consider doing just one more follow-up volume?

“I would be teased forever if I did,” he says. “I’ve already been accused of being on Cher’s farewell tour.”

But he may – perhaps – write a memoir and turn it into a one-man show so that he can still get around and meet his loyal readers. And so the story continues.

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Armistead Maupin Remembers “Tales Of The City” and Ponders The Future

by Jim Halterman | March 21, 2014

Mention Tales Of The City to pretty much any gay man of a certain age and a smile will creep across his face. He might also offer how the books helped him to come out.

The beloved series which began in 1976 might have wrapped up earlier this year with the publication of the ninth book, The Days Of Anna Madrigal, but the classic series continues to attract fans, not only for the novels, but also for the groundbreaking Tales of the City film adaptations.

Adapted from the first three books in the series the movies featured an impressive cast, including Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton and Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal. Those films will be celebrated this Saturday night with a screening by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Maupin was on the road when he talked with us earlier this week about seeing the film again, whether he’d like more films to be made and what’s next now that he’s laid to rest the Tales of the City characters once and for all.

TheBacklot: When was the last time you watched the Tales Of The City movies?

Armistead Maupin: I’ve never seen it on a big screen and this night is going to be particularly exciting because Alan Poul, our producer, has sent off to the UK for a clean print, or maybe I should say a ‘dirty print.’ It’s uncensored and also high resolution so it will be a brand new experience. What they said is sort of preposterous but it’s more distracting to see those pixelations on the end of Chloe Webb’s breasts than to actually see Chloe Webb’s breasts!

How involved were you with the making of the film back in the 1990s?

AM: I stayed away for the first 2 weeks at the request of the director and I thought that was a reasonable request. I felt that I should be respectful to him in that way and then afterwards I could restrain myself and I had to be down there simply to be a tourist more than anything else. I stayed out of the process. He was a brilliant man, Alastair Reed, who had nothing but confidence in what he was doing.

And I’ll always remember the Tales of the City movies being the first place I fell in love with Laura Linney. Did you know her before the movie started?

AM: I did not know her. She read for another role and the producers had some other actress in mind, someone who has subsequently faded from view, and when that actress was not available they began to consider Laura. They sent me a tape of her reading from the role and it was clear to me instantly that she was the very incarnation for Mary Ann. I was already in awe of her on the first day she arrived on set and I think a lot of people there felt the same way. You know it when you’re in the presence of that kind of talent.

And you two are still very close friends, right?

AM: Oh, yes! She just had a baby and the baby’s middle name is Armistead! We’re very, very close and it’s one of the great treats of Tales of the City that I got to meet Laura and become her friend.

Is it safe to say when you first started writing these stories, did you envision a movie or TV series?

AM: I did! It was so long ago we were fantasizing Cary Grant in the role of Edgar Halcyon! [laughs] I have a best friend who is a movie buff and we’d sit around and make up fantasy casts. And Warner Brothers optioned Tales of the City in 1979 as a feature film. It never came about, but I had already begun to fantasize at that point. I went out and had a t-shirt made, very naively, that said ‘Soon to be a major motion picture.’ It was only a few years later that I started referring to Hollywood as a town where you can die of encouragement.

Would you like to see the later books made into movies? I know we might have to change up the cast since some time has passed.

AM: I would love to see that happen but so far nothing substantive has happened along those lines. But I have hopes that it might happen in the future.

The decision to wrap up the book series, was it a tough decision to make or did it just feel right?

AM: It just felt right. I didn’t want to dishonor the characters by dragging them on as a continuing commercial venture. I knew I’d pretty much said what I wanted to say about them and i didn’t want to walk into the sunset with them. There are other things that I’d like to do with my career so I felt like it was time to put it to bed. Nine novels felt about right, that’s three trilogies and Anna had reached the age of 92 and it seemed completing it with her was the way to go since it began with her in the first place.

 Usually in the press when I read interviews, I see the word beloved attached to your name. Do you feel beloved with your fans?

AM: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I just did a book tour that covered four countries and fifteen cities and people displayed the most remarkable affection and sport at book signings. It’s really moving, really, and I have to struggle to feel fully worthy of it and appreciative of it at every moment.

Do you get that same reaction in areas you wouldn’t expect like small towns or countries that might not be as progressive?

AM: It’s fairly consistent no matter where I go so what it tells me is it reaches people roughly in the same way in all the other places. And a lot of that is about empowering LGBT people with the stories. When they first came out in 1976, there was virtually nothing that told you you could have a happy queer life. In a number of these places, the feeling is more intense where they might have felt trapped in a homophobic family or bullied by their church or their government.

I read the books when I was coming out and that’s what they gave to me. It showed me you could have a happy life and be gay.

AM: Our big fear as young queers is that we’ll lose our families and I think Tales of the City showed you that there were other families out there that would be supportive if not more so.

When you were coming out personally, what did you lean on since your books didn’t exist because you hadn’t written them yet!

AM: I think Cabaret was the first time I felt joyful about the wonderful privilege of being gay. I think that was the first big mainstream cultural event that touched me in that way and I subsequently got to know Christopher Isherwood, who was the creator of the source material, The Berlin Stories, and he became a mentor both as a literary figure and sort of as a gay Grandfather. So a lot of the confidence I had in the 70s grew from my connection to him.

It was pretty rough going back when I knew I was queer but not out and not acting on it back in the 50s and 60s. It was the Vito Russo, Celluloid Closet model that the queer always died in the end. A pretty dark picture was painted by American culture.

And you’ve seen so much change in your time. Did you always think that you’d see this time where we can get married?

AM: I did believe I would get to it and hoped we’d get to it a lot sooner but that doesn’t mean that I’m not amazed and delighted that we’re here. There are times when it feels like that phrase ‘Two steps forward, one step back’ and lately it feels like we’ve just been making steps forward and that’s utterly thrilling. You can tell by watching the Right Wing, who are just going nuts at the moment because they’re finally losing their ridiculous battle. They have to shut up the same way that segregationists did back in the 1960s. It’s the same people, of course. You’d think they would’ve learned from the last time around but the stinginess of the conservative heart will apply itself to anything if it can.

I know from following your Facebook page that you and your husband moved away from San Francisco last year. How has it been being away from there?

AM: As it happens, we’re driving to San Francisco to check out a new pied-a-terre. We both loved Santa Fe and the amazing new nature experience it’s giving us but we miss our city and the friends we made there over many years. Chris Turner, my husband, lived there for 20 years and I lived there for 40 years and San Francisco will never stop being in my DNA so we figured we might as well confront that fact and find ourselves a place.

Did it take time getting used to use the term “husband?” I know it took time for me…

AM: I was using it to make a political point in the earlydays. I felt a responsibility to use it to get other people used to it but now it just trips off my tongue and I don’t hesitate to use it anywhere. No one in Santa Fe flinches in the slightest when you refer to your husband and I’m finding that to be more and more everywhere we go and I think it’s our responsibility for those of us who have enjoyed this rare, new privilege of using the term, we need to keep it out there and not chicken out and say ‘partner’ if you think you might have a homophobe on your hands.

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38th Anniversary of the “Tales of the City” Walking Tour

Larry Rhodes, of is conducting a “Tales of the City” guided tour in May.  I highly recommend signing up if you are in the Bay Area.  Larry has a wealth of knowledge and interesting tidbits to share, and it’s a great day to share with other Barbaryphiles alike!  Check out his website to sign up and for more information.

Date: Saturday, 24 May 2014
(Memorial Day Weekend)

Starting time/place: 9:00 am at the Aquatic Park

Approximate ending time/place: 4:30 pm at Union Square

We will visit locales at:
Russian Hill
North Beach
Telegraph Hill
Nob Hill
Union Square

Although the Tour ends at about 4:30 pm at Union Square, for those interested, there will be a special “Post Script” tour of the Castro.

The Castro

We’ll stop for a lunch break in North Beach

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Tales of the City Series Author to Visit The College of Wooster April 1

UPublish story by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Novelist Armistead Maupin will speak about his life as an author and share excerpts from his works on Tuesday, April 1, at The College of Wooster. The event, which is free and open to the pubic, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Room 009 of Severance Hall (944 College Mall).

The author of eight novels, including Maybe the Moon, which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly in 1992, and The Night Listener, which became the basis for a feature film starring Robin Williams, Maupin is best known for his iconic Tales of the City series, which debuted in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976. The series led to a Peabody Award-winning television mini-series starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney and an ambitious musical that premiered at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in 2011. The series also produced eight 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. His most recent work, The Days of Anna Madrigal, was released in January.

Maupin’s honors include the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle of New York. He also received the Trevor Project’s Life Award “for his efforts in saving young lives,” and was the first recipient of Litquake’s Barbary Coast Award for his literary contribution to San Francisco. In addition, he was chosen for Lambda’s Pioneer Award, which is bestowed upon individuals who have broken new ground in the field of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual) literature and publishing.

Maupin’s visit is sponsored by the English Department’s Donaldson Fund. Additional information about his talk is available by phone (330-263-2575) or e-mail (

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