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.

Posted in Appearance, Armistead Maupin, awards | Comments

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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To Hell and Back: A NUVO Series

Theresa Rosado, a reporter with Nuvo: Indy’s Alternative Newspaper, has written a four-part series on the people behind the inspiration of Armistead Maupin’s “The Night Listener”.  Here is an excerpt:

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, children of New Horizons met with a man they called Doctor Z. They described Doctor Z — whose legal name was Marc Zackheim — as if he were a horrid monster from a fairy tale: a large man with drooping jaws, long arms, a pointy nose and beady eyes that walked with a stoop. “Everyone was deathly afraid to talk to him as they would say he was very, very creepy,” says a former Escuela Caribe student. Other students describe being touched by Doctor Z. “He would always stand behind me and rub my shoulders and he always asked me about masturbation, how often I did it. When, where and how.” Boys at Zackheim’s group home in Plymouth, Indiana made jokes about him when he visited, feeling uncomfortable with how he touched them. With the absence of testimonies from New Horizons and other facilities where Zackheim counseled, he fought molestation charges and won an acquittal in 2006, based on a story given as a testimony. However Zackheim’s stories caught up with him — tales unwoven by documents and contradicting statements created by him and his wife Vicki.

Vicki Johnson Zackheim concocted one of those tales. She was best known as the adoptive mother of Anthony Godby Johnson. Anthony Godby Johnson is the pen name of the 1993 bestselling book A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy’s Triumphant Story. The book was originally sold as an autobiographical memoir, but questions about the story’s authenticity and Tony’s existence began to surface.

Screenwriter and producer Armistead Maupin accepted galleys from Anthony and formed a lengthy friendship with him over the phone. Maupin and other celebrities wrote blurbs for Tony’s book, deeply inspired by his story. As the years passed Maupin grew to feel very close to Tony but was prevented from seeing him. Maupin grew doubtful of Tony’s existence. Maupin published the novel Night Listener in the year 2000, considering the book a semi-autobiographical account of his experience with Tony. In 2006 Night Listener became a movie starring Robin Williams.

Here are links to the 4 part article.

Th Hell and Back: Part 1

To Hell and Back: Part 2

To Hell and Back: Part 3

To Hell and Back: Part 4

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“Tales Of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes” – Exclusive Presale!

JANUARY 21, 20165:59 PM


Want the best seats in the house to our April show, “Tales Of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes” at Davies Symphony Hall?

We’re running an exclusive presale with Goldstar to offer our patrons these excellent seats for a concert you absolutely do NOT want to miss. Buy your tickets here!

About “Tales Of Our City

It was 40 years ago when author Armistead Maupin penned the very first article that became the international phenomenon of “Tales Of The City,” bringing the colorful life and times of San Francisco to the entire world. Maupin joins SFGMC for an evening full of stories and music about our home and its heroes, while revisiting this magical work of literature.

Act I includes excerpts from “NakedMan” the groundbreaking multi-movement piece originally commissioned and performed by the Chorus in 1996, which chronicled the lives and loves of the men of SFGMC against the backdrop of the AIDS pandemic. Act II includes excerpts from the wildly popular commissioned work “I Am Harvey Milk” by composer Andrew Lippa, which SFGMC premiered in 2013.

“Tales Of Our City: Our Lives, Our Heroes” also presents a world premiere by Mari Esabel Valverde, one of the world’s up-and-coming transgender women composers, as well as a brand-new piece by SFGMC Composer-In-Residence James Eakin. Accompanying the Chorus for the entire evening will be the 60-piece Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

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Broadway Star Brian Bedford Dead at 80

JANUARY 13 2016 10:58 PM EST

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 9.56.40 AMAcclaimed stage actor Brian Bedford, who won a Tony Award on his first of seven nominations, has died at age 80.

Bedford died today of cancer in Santa Barbara, Calif., one of his agents, Richard Schmenner, told The New York Times.

Bedford performed in 18 plays on Broadway, making his last appearance, in drag, as Lady Bracknell in a 2011 production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which he also directed. His partner, actor Tim MacDonald, appeared in Earnest as well, playing a servant named Merriman.

Bedford and MacDonald, who survives him, were together for 30 years and married in 2013, the Times reports.

Bedford received his final Tony nomination for Earnest, losing to Jerusalem star Mark Rylance in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play. He won on his first nomination, in 1971, for Moliére’s The School for Wives. His character, Arnolphe, was a “desperately jealous and insecure spouse-seeker,” the Times notes. Bedford’s competition that year included John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. The actor also won several Drama Desk Awards and was elected to the Theatre Hall of Fame.

In a 2011 profile, Times critic Ben Brantley called Bedford “perhaps the finest English-language interpreter of classical comedy of his generation” and an “actor of uncommon emotional transparency and hair-trigger timing, particularly in plays by Shakespeare and Molière.”

Bedford grew up in a working-class family in the small town of Morley, England. It was not a happy situation, he noted in interviews; two of his brothers died of tuberculosis, and his father, a postal worker, committed suicide.

The young actor escaped his home by winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and he began his theater career in that city. He made his first Broadway appearance in 1959, in Five Finger Exercise, and after doing more plays in New York in the 1960s, he decided to move there.

“I found England dreary,” he once said, according to the Times obit. “I suppose it’s understandable if your childhood was as mean as mine.”

Bedford made a few film appearances, notably as Clyde Tolson, J. Edgar Hoover’s reputed lover, in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, released in 1995, and as the voice of Robin Hood in Disney’s animated 1973 version of the story. He had guest roles on several TV series, including Cheers, The Equalizer, and Murder, She Wrote, and acted in miniseries, among them Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City.

He was also noted for performing solo shows, often about writers such as Shakespeare and Wilde, and he had been a fixture of the Stratford Festival in Canada, both as an actor and director, since the 1970s.

“Onstage he was luminous,” Stratford artistic director Antoni Cimolino told the Times Wednesday. “You could feel he was a theater animal — he had such a sense of ease. He was like a fish in water on that stage.”

Brian Bedford played Henry Callaway Kent (one of the A-Gays) in More Tales of the City.

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Filmed in Pacific Heights


The Bay Area has been host to so many films that it has been known at times as Hollywood North. More than 600 movies — from blockbuster features to lesser-known indies — have been filmed here since 1927, when talkies made their debut.

And frequently, Pacific Heights is the neighborhood of choice — even though the 20th Century Fox movie Pacific Heights (1990) was filmed on Potrero Hill, with its sweeping vistas of the city.

Perhaps the most memorable local movie site is the Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) house at 2640 Steiner Street. While the interiors were actually shot in a Richmond warehouse, exterior scenes were shot at Steiner and Broadway. The house was in the news again last year when two fires were set — ironic, given the memorable kitchen fire scene with Robin Williams starring as Mrs. Doubtfire.

Another favorite film with local roots is the classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Pivotal scenes take place on their terrace, with a spectacular view of the bay, but those scenes were filmed before a backdrop on a soundstage in Hollywood. There is a location shot, however, of the intersection of Broadway and Normandie Terrace.

THE MOST FREQUENTLY FILMED LOCATION in the neighborhood is Alta Plaza Park, with its graphically stepped south-facing pyramid form. Although an Edwardian creation, film studios did not discover the plaza until 1972 when What’s Up Doc? with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal played out on the concrete steps and cars came careening down the grand staircase toward Clay Street, leaving damage that remains today. Future Mayor Dianne Feinstein was reportedly furious about the incident, as the city was not informed this dangerous event was to take place. The film commission now monitors the actions of all shoots.

Other movies with scenes filmed at Alta Plaza include Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), Copycat (1995), Flash (1981), Thief of Hearts (1984), Little City (1997) and Nine Months (1995), directed by neighborhood resident Christopher Columbus, who then lived on the park.

The neighborhood also hosts many sacred places of different faiths, some of which have been seen in movies. In the opening sequence of That Brennan Girl (1946), Calvary Presbyterian Church at 2515 Fillmore Street is shown with other local houses of worship. A brief scene in Die Laughing (1980) shows Congregation Sherith Israel at California and Webster. Another shows young women from the post-high school Vietnam War era scrambling across the roof of the brick neo-Gothic Macedonia Baptist Church at 2135 Sutter Street. They are sneaking into a Fillmore-esque psychedelic scene in More American Graffiti (1979); the original top of the tower at St. Dominic’s Church, removed after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, can be seen in the distance.

A fortunate unintended benefit of the cinema is that it has recorded vanished times and places. In some cases, these are the only preserved images and give a three-dimensional view. It’s no accident that some buildings that play a part in movies were demolished soon after they were filmed. Filmmakers gravitate to vacant buildings as blank canvasses that allow them to fill in whatever the script requires without interference from occupants.

One example is the 42-room mansion from the high Victorian era, once the residence of newspaper titan Michael de Young, at 1919 California Street. The comedy mystery movie filmed there, After the Thin Man (1936), starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. Today the only remnant of that property is a stanchion, much altered and part of the Tobin residence, which de Young built for his daughter Constance and her husband, Joseph Tobin.

A 12-story apartment building dating from 1961 now stands on the northeast corner of the intersection of Washington and Laguna Streets. Earlier, the Dr. William G. Irwin mansion stood on that spot, and was seen in Fog Over Frisco (1934). The residence was built in 1899, and after Irwin’s death in 1914 housed the country’s first blood repository, becoming the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank in 1941. The original building was demolished in 1960.

Both Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949) and later Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) show the towering Victorian William Martin residence on the southwest corner of the intersection of Franklin and Jackson Streets. That gem, which had a tower with a belvedere, was replaced in 1955 with a stucco-clad multi-family building — another example of a doomed, vacant building used in the movies.

The 10-story apartment building constructed in 1960 at 1800 Pacific Avenue was used as the home of the alcoholic couple played by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses (1962). But don’t go looking for the building you see in the movie; its facade was updated a few years ago.

THE LAST OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S 49 films, Family Plot (1976), primarily focuses on the residential building on the northeast corner of the intersection of Sacramento and Buchanan Streets, where a treasure hides in plain sight.

Steve McQueen roars all over the city in Bullitt (1968), including a scene on Fillmore between Broadway and Vallejo Street. Foul Play (1978) takes place throughout the city, although a non-resident would not know, given the way the film was put together. Cop Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) commandeers a cab with Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn), continuing their quest to get to the San Francisco Opera House to prevent the pope (played by San Franciscan Cyril Magnin) from being assassinated. They pass the southwest corner of Laguna and Sutter Streets, where the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center sits today, offering a glimpse of a service station that once stood on that corner. After going through Japantown, the car speeds alongside Lafayette Park on Laguna Street.

The imposing 2700 Vallejo Street residence, at the intersection of Divisadero, was built in 1915 for Captain F. Olsen to the design of architect C. O. Clausen and currently is the residence of the consulate general of Japan. The mansion appeared in Where Love Has Gone (1964), Bullitt (1968) and The Towering Inferno (1974). The rear facade has no space for the romantic garden shown in The Pleasure of His Company (1961), so a set was modeled on the property two blocks away at the Lyon Street steps.

Alma de Bretteville Spreckels’ grand classical mansion at 2080 Washington Street was first seen in The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), where the scheming Jane Wyatt and Lee J. Cobb are sitting across the street in Lafayette Park with the mansion and bay in the background. The building appeared again in The Sniper (1952), the scene of a prominent socialite’s murder. But probably the most memorable appearance of the grand dame of San Francisco mansions was in the musical Pal Joey (1957) with Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak, with the house masquerading as the nightclub Chez Joey. The next year, the Cary Grant film In Love and War (1958) used the property, followed by Susan Slade (1961). The year after Alma Spreckels died, the mansion appeared in Eye of the Cat (1969), a feline phobic thriller.

A clever director or art director can squeeze something out of little using a tight focus. Most recently, the HBO period movie Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012) used architect A. Page Brown and Joseph Worcester’s Swedenborgian Church at 2107 Lyon Street convincingly as one of many Bay Area locations used to represent World War II

FILLMORE STREET’S PICTURESQUE STREETSCAPE has not often been used in movies, perhaps because it is too busy, but it has appeared in a couple of films. The stark taxi-centric story of Rob Nilsson’s Signal 7 (1983) features cameo appearances of the exterior and marquee of the Clay Theatre at 2261 Fillmore Street. The Indian-produced Asperger’s Syndrome-based story My Name is Kahn (2010) includes scenes next door of the interior and exterior of the de Pietro Todd Salon at 2239 Fillmore Street.

A few blocks away at 2413-17 Franklin Street is a Mannerist-Baroque take on a French-inspired Victorian designed by self-taught architect James F. Dunn, who designed a couple of other similar buildings in the city. It was seen in An Eye for an Eye (1981) with Chuck Norris and Christopher Lee, and used as the site of a high-end house of prostitution.

Femme fatale Lana Turner’s residence in Portrait in Black (1960) at 2898 Broadway is a neo-Georgian gambrel-roofed brick edifice, turned on end to show off the gable’s roof profile. The storyline echoed some real parts of Turner’s life, including when her daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Turner’s lover Johnny Stompanato to death in 1958. One pivotal hair-raising scene at the end of the movie has the daughter escaping the villain via the roof. More recently, Woody Allen shot scenes there for Blue Jasmine (2013).

The Victorian headquarters of the nonprofit San Francisco Heritage, the Haas Lilienthal House at 2007 Franklin Street, was seen in Dying Young (1991). Filming of the movie also took place on the Lyon Street steps, as did the British production of Tales of the City (1993-94).

In The Lineup (1958), the head of the San Francisco Opera (played by native San Franciscan Raymond Bailey, better known to TV audiences as Milburn Drysdale in The Beverly Hillbillies), who has just returned from a trip abroad, resides in the red sandstone Whittier mansion at 2090 Jackson Street. Its wood-paneled interior is the scene of a scam to import heroin in hollow flatware handles, unbeknownst to the just-returned traveler.

Sudden Fear (1952), the black-and-white noir thriller with Joan Crawford as heiress Myra Hudson and Jack Palance at his creepiest best, features 2800 Scott Street on the northeast corner of the intersection with Green Street.

Mr. Ricco (1975), with rat packer Dean Martin, shows 2229 Divisadero Street on the south slope of Pacific Heights. The two Victorian houses are the former residence of architect Julia Morgan, who lived in the Italianate building with her mother.


• The Bachelor (1999) 2500 Filbert Street

• Basic Instinct (1992) 2102 Broadway and 2930 Vallejo Street

• Brainwaves (1983) 1940 Webster Street

• Cardiac Arrest (1980) 2390 Sutter Street

• Case of the Curious Bride (1935) Laguna and Washington Streets

• Class Action (1991) 2700 Scott Street

• Guinevere (1999) 2636 Vallejo Street

• Hammett (1982) 2930 Vallejo Street

• Heart and Souls (1993) 2810 Pacific Avenue

• The Invisible Circus (1999) 3837 Clay Street

• Jade (1995) 2896 Broadway

• Jagged Edge (1985) 2898 Broadway

• Magnum Force (1973) 2190 Washington Street and 2200 Sacramento Street

• The Men’s Club (1986) 2800 Vallejo Street

• One Is a Lonely Number (1972) at the intersection of Fillmore and Vallejo Streets

• The Princess Diaries (2001) 2601 Lyon Street and Hamlin School at 2120 Broadway

• A Smile Like Yours (1997) San Francisco Towers, 1661 Pine Street

• The Towering Inferno (1974) 2898 Vallejo Street

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Armistead Maupin Reads from His Last Tale of the City, ‘The Days of Anna Madrigal’ – LISTEN

by Towleroad
November 27, 2015

Days of Anna Madrigal Artwork 1Today’s TowleREAD pick comes from author Armistead Maupin and his most recent book, The Days of Anna Madrigal. Published in 2014, Anna Madrigal is the ninth and final installment in his magnum opus, The Tales of the City series. What began as a San Francisco newspaper serial in 1978 expanded into one of the most beloved LGBT book series whose installments have spanned four decades.

The Days of Anna Madrigal focuses on the central figure of The Tales of the City (adapted into a TV series in 1993), the loving and beloved transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane, whose name you probably guessed is Anna Madrigal. Now 92, Anna remembers her youth at the Blue Moon Ranch (a whorehouse n Nevada run by her mother) where she was raised as a boy named Andy. She ultimately returns to the Blue Moon to confront some unfinished business from her past before going on with a member of her bohemian San Francisco tribe to Burning Man.

Maupin spoke with San Francisco Weekly about why he decided to focus this last chapter on Mrs. Madrigal:

It just felt right to me. Anna has always been the heart and soul of Tales of the City and as she reaches the point where she wants to “leave like a lady”, as she puts it, I felt that the series should conclude at the same time. To be truthful with you, I have a bit of trepidation trying to drum up new youthful characters and make them realistic. My work has always been about what I know to be true and I can write about these older characters because they are in their 60s as well as the much older character, Anna, But I didn’t want to have that inauthenticity come into my work. I’m ready to try something different.

Maupin added that ending with Mrs. Madrigal seemed to complete the arc of the Tales of the City series:

There is a story arc here and it is finally completed on the last page of The Days of Anna Madrigal with the final sentence: “There was a city waiting for her.” It’s an echo of Mary Ann first arriving into town and it’s the essence for all of us who move to San Francisco with some dream in our hearts.

If you’re new to Tales of the City, however, Maupin advises you start from the beginning:

It’s a journey and I think you should start at the beginning if you’re going to read them. You will know things that you don’t want to know if you read Anna Madrigal, On the other hand it might be interesting to go back to see how certain people start. Either way, there’s always something to take away from Mrs. Madrigal and the residents of 28 Barbary Lane.

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Maupin’s work was when it was first serialized in 1978 and later printed in book form. Maupin often recounts a story about how his editor at The San Francisco Chronicle kept tabs on the number of homosexual and heterosexual characters in his work to make “sure that the gay characters didn’t overtake the straight characters and thereby undermine civilization.” One need only imagine that actual chart in that editor’s office with one column marked “heterosexual” and one marked “homosexual” to understand how Tales of the City broke barriers.

Today, the books have withstood the test of time even as they encapsulated the moments in which they were written. The series remains an enduring favorite to its initiates and brings more devotees into the fold each year. With The Days of Anna Madrigal, The Tales series may come to an end, but its impact on readers certainly won’t. It is the impact on people once cast to the fringes of society that Maupin says he is proudest of: “I know that the most important thing I’ve done is bring the gay experience to the world at large, I know that and I’m proud of it.”

As part of its sponsorship of TowleREAD, Audible is offering a free download of Armistead Maupin’s The Days of Anna Madrigal at with a 30-day trial membership for Towleroad readers.

Listen to Maupin read an excerpt from the book HERE:

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