Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles in Sutton, Surrey on Christmas Day in 1908. I didn’t meet him until about 75 years later in New York City, through my ex boyfriend’s girlfriend. I was working at Vogue at the time and I “courted” Quentin non-romantically, who was 50+ years my senior.
As a young designer at Vogue, I got loads of invitations to screenings, plays and various events and Quentin became my defacto date. (Once we were watching a series of short movies at an avant-guard Gay Film Festival at the Anthology Film Archives and after a particularly obtuse little film had ended, the lights came up, I turned to Quentin. He looked at me and said one word. “Why?”)
I wasn’t aware of it but we must have made a pretty cute pair back then and over the years, after countless “dates”, we became, what I considered, friends. But, I felt, as many times we ate dinner together, chatted, gossiped and talked on the phone together, he was a bit of a sphinx, an unknowable entity, really. One of the sweetest memories of him was eating dinner at his favorite Second Avenue diner, practically in silence – we were at that comfortable stage where he didn’t need to have his Quentin “on”.
I threw a 90th birthday party for him that turned out to be quite the event… John Waters, Rufus Wainwright, Simon Doonan, Penny Arcade, Lauren Hutton, Amanda Lepore and many others – they all came and paid their respects to the great man, whom they truly loved. Allegra Huston penned new words to God Save Our Queen and we all sang it to him. But, sadly, he was gone before he turned 91. I miss him, as though we were actually related – like he were my great gay uncle, on the English side of my family. (Ironically, my mother’s last name after she remarried is CRISP.)
Anyone ringing him up on the phone, the dialogue intro was always the same…
Hi, Quentin. It’s Trey.
Oh, hello, how are you?
I’m fine. How are you?
Oh, I’ve gone on living, in spite of everything…”
I can still hear THAT voice – and so can you, if you listen to the audio of this reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas. So, listen, and look at the style, and soak in one of THE most interesting characters of the 20th century.
Happy Birthday, Quentin.