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.

Posted in Armistead Maupin, Video | Tagged , | Comments

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?”

Posted in More Tales of the City, More Tales of the City Miniseries | Tagged , | Comments

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

Posted in Ian McKellen, Michael's Letter to Mama | Tagged , | Comments

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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