Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles in Sutton, Surrey England on Christmas Day in 1908.
I didn’t meet him until about 65 years later in NYC. I was 21 and working at Vogue at the time and I “courted” Quentin (non-romantically) who was 50+ years my senior. Working for a magazine I got loads of invitations (many hand-me-downs from editors) to screenings, plays and various events and Quentin became my default date.
Once we were were watching a series of short movies at an avant-guard gay film fest at the Anthology Film Archives and after a particularly obtuse and odd short ended, the lights came up, I turned to Quentin and he looked at me and said,
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 as we ate dinner together, chatted, gossiped and talked on the phone, he was a bit of a sphinx, an unknowable entity, really.
One of the sweetest memories I have of him was eating dinner together at his favorite Second Avenue diner, practically in silence. We were at that comfortable stage where he didn’t need to have his Quentin Crisp “on” and I had stopped “interviewing” him long before.
In 1998 I threw a private 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 all came to pay their respects to the great man, whom they truly loved. Author Allegra Huston (sister of Anjelica) penned new words to God Save the Queen, changed to God Save OUR Queen, and we all sang it to him.
Sadly, he was gone before he turned 91. I miss him, like we were actually related – as though he were my great, gay British uncle. I do have some British blood in my DNA and coincidentally, my mother’s last name, after she remarried, is Crisp.
Anyone ringing him up on the phone always got the same intro…
Hi, Quentin. It’s Trey…
Oh, hello, how are you?
I’m fine. How are you?
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 his reading of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. So, listen, and look at the style, and soak in one of THE most fascinating characters of the 20th century.
You can read more about him in Stephen Rutledge‘s post #BornThisDay.
Happy Birthday, Quentin.
(Polaroid portrait, Trey Speegle)