The Stately Homo of England
Date of Birth: 25th December 1908
Place of Birth: Sutton, London, England
Birthname: Denis Pratt
Date of Death: 21st November 1999
Place of Death: Manchester, England
"There was no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn't get any worse."- Quentin Crisp
Quentin Crisp was a flamboyant writer and eccentric gay campaigner probably best know for his autobiography entitled The Naked Civil Servant.
Born on Christmas Day in a London suburb, Crisp was the youngest of four children. His mother was a former nursery governess and his father a lawyer distantly related to Boris Karloff. Later in life, Crisp described his parents as middle-class, middle-brow, middling parents.
"If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style"
- Quentin Crisp
Crisp's childhood wasn't the most pleasant time for him. His effeminate ways led to him being ridiculed and occassionally beaten in the prison-like schools he attended.
As a young gay man who was out about his sexuality, he chose an alternative lifestyle wearing makeup and high heeled shoes in his every day life. Together with this personal statement he sought out circles of friends who were more acccepting of his life choices. After moving out of home, and changing his name, he worked a number of different jobs to pay his way including book designer, a prostitute and as a nude model in government supported art schools.
Crisp's first book, co-written with Albert Frederick Stuart,was called Lettering for Brush and Pen. This was published in 1936. Another book, Colour In Display followed two years later. This book discussed the use of colour in design particularly to a window display designer, another of Crisp's past jobs.
Og and Other Ogres was published in 1946, followed by All This and Bevin Too in 1948. This later book was a story in the form of a poem about the adventures of a kangaroo who answers an advert in the situations vacant column for a position at a local zoo.
The Naked Civil Servant
In 1952 Crisp wrote Love Made Easy, a novel based on characters he had known during his time in London. This novel, his first, however, wasn't published until 1977. In the mean time, in 1968 whilst modelling for life drawing classes, Crisp received a proposition. To write his autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, so called because the government funded the art classes when he posed nude. This book was to describe Crisp's difficult childhood growing up in a homophobic society with later accounts of aging in conservative England. In 1975 a dramatisation of this autobiography was made into a series for television starring John Hurt.
This ground breaking text brought Crisp to the attention of the public at large.
With people more aware of him, Crisp published more books which had greater success.
In 1977, and the age of 72, Crisp moved to New York which he described as his greatest achievement. He was asked by the US Embassy in an interview in preparation of his move if he was a practising homosexual. To this he responded that he didn't practise as he was already perfect.
"In America, everybody's your friend and happiness rains down from the sky. And in England, nobody's your friend."
Crisp lived in a one bedroom apartment which was painted pink in the East Village for 14 years. His number was in the telephone directory for all to see and he invited absolutely anyone to invite him for lunch. As well as members of the general public who were brave enough to dial him number, one of his callers was Sting who sent him a bottle of champagne each Christmas.
"Never keep up with the Joneses; drag them down to your level. It's cheaper."- Quentin Crisp
In 1978 he first presented An Evening with Quentin Crisp. It received good reviews and a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. This show starring Crisp with purple eye shadow and swept up white hair under a balck fedora, continued until his death in 1999 in Manchester, England.
Crisp continued to do work on other projects whilst taking part in his one man show. In 1981, Crisp wrote the second volume of his autobiography entitled How To Become A Virgin in which he described his life as a celebrity in the UK and the USA. Roles in a number of films also followed.
His Final Days
In his nintieth year, despite Crisp's disliking of England and his frail condition, Crisp agreed to appear in a tour of England with his one man show. Whilst in Manchester, the day before a performance, he died in the house in which he was staying which belonged to a friend of the theatre in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. he was found in the morning and pronounced dead at hospital.
"No flowers. No long faces standing around in the rain, staring down into a hole while someone drones on about how wonderful I was. I'd rather be shuffled off. Just drop me into one of those black plastic bags and leave me by the trash can." - Quentin Crisp
How to Become a Virgin by Quentin Crisp