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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 40
Tales of Armistead Maupin
Maupin to appear in Seattle October 16
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Tales of Armistead Maupin
Maupin to appear in Seattle October 16

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN
IN PERSON
BENAROYA HALL
ILLSLEY BALL NORDSTROM
RECITAL HALL
October 16


Armistead Maupin is one of the best American gay, storytellers of the contemporary time. His beloved chronicles, Tales of the City, became blockbuster classics and have become a part of Gay history.

Appearing at Benaroya Hall on October 16, Maupin has published his memoir, Logical Family, which was released on October 3, and also has a new documentary film based on his life, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, will be screening at the TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival's Opening Night Gala on October 12 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown.
NOTE: Those choosing to attend the TWIST: Seattle Queer Film Festival screening of The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin can enter to win a pair of tickets to meet Mr. Maupin in person at Benaroya Hall on October 16.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a writer?

Armistead Maupin: I fell in love with a book called Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther - the inspiration for the movie [of the same name]. It was a series of beautiful essays of domestic English life on the verge of World War II. It was originally serialized for the London Times. To this day I think it is some of the most beautiful writing. Christopher Isherwood was another big influence in that he was a 'Queer' writer that called himself queer. He became my friend and mentor, encouraging me to keep doing what I'm doing. I think we [as writers] need that.

Andrews-Katz: You've said you possessed 'story telling instincts' since you were 8 years old. What were the first signs and how were they expressed?

Maupin: I made my friends sit around the camp fire. I retold them the ghost stories of North Carolina [where I grew up]. I developed a habit of putting myself to sleep by telling myself stories. I'd do serials actually, picking up that night from where I left off the previous night. I had several of them going on in my head at the same time. I use that technique to this day and go to sleep working on things. I believe the subconscious helps me with the process.

Andrews-Katz: In 1974 you 'came out.' What was your coming out process like for you?

Maupin: That depends on what you call 'coming out.' I did it several times. There was a feature article about me in 1974; then there was my coming out to my family in Tales of the City, when Michael wrote his own coming out letter to his parents. That was mine to mine.

Andrews-Katz: Did you actually reprint the letter you wrote to your parents about coming out?

Maupin: Not quite. My parents were subscribing to the Chronicle at the time. I knew they would get it when they read it. I also warned them I would be in Newsweek's article, and they would be describing me as a 'homosexual columnist.' In true fashion, they left town when the article came out. I have often used journalism as a way of explaining myself to the world. When I actually DID come out, I had the entire city [San Francisco] behind me as they were all reading Tales of the City, and cheering me on. My parents were about 3000 miles away. My mother had a hard time with it, but my father was a bastard about it. I was spared a lot of the drama that some people go through because none of that was around me. I had to piece it together on my own for my memoir.

Andrews-Katz: Given the chance to go back, is there anything you would change about the first six Barbary Lane books?

Maupin: I would have populated it with more people of color. By the time I realized that it was a fairly worldwide operation; I had already started the cast. It was hard to bring in other characters that stacked up. I had invented D'orothea Wilson when someone wrote and told me that she wasn't like any black woman she'd known. She was more of a white woman in black skin. So I made it who she was; it was covering my ass. I might have changed that. The rest of it turned out pretty well. For a while I was flying by the seat of my pants inventing stuff day-to-day.

Andrews-Katz: Do the Barbary Lane characters ever put restrictions or limits on accomplishing other works?

Maupin: Oh, no. [chuckling] I never felt the urge to do anything else. Once I realized what I had, I knew I would have something kind of timeless and important, if I just stayed with it. No one sits down and says, 'I'm going to write a novel' without being overwhelmed. If you take it a day at a time, you can creep in on something big. And I did.

Andrews-Katz: What made you decide to write your memoir, Logical Family?

Maupin: It was something to do with my age of 73. It was a chance to tackle the form. I admire a lot of writers that can write autobiographical, or pretend autobiographical, and I wanted to do it.

Andrews-Katz: What is the most surprising thing that readers will discover when reading your memoir?

Maupin: It depends on how well they know me now. If they've ever heard me speak in public, they know about my dark, conservative past. There's the fact that the first person to give me a writing job was Jesse Helms. Or maybe it'll be the fact I was a virgin until 25 years old, which is of course linked completely to having been a frightened conservative who was trying to please his father.

Andrews-Katz: Tell us about the documentary premiering at the TWIST festival on October 12, 2017.

Maupin: It's directed by Jennifer Kroot (who also directed To Be Takei) and co-directed by Bill Webber (who worked on the films We Were Here and The Cockettes). I've admired both of them as artists. I'd seen Takei about two months before Jennifer called and said she wanted to do a documentary about me. I loved Takei so I accepted it immediately; it has political content, humor, and knew she'd do the same for me.

Andrews-Katz: What contemporary writers' career would you wish you could have - if not your own?

Maupin: David Sedaris. He makes me laugh. He makes me admire his sentences, and he lives in a cottage in England. That's enough reasons. And he's a nice man.

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City first appeared as a satirical column in a Marin County newspaper in 1974, later to be picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976. His later attempts with novels, Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener, diverged from (the first six) Barbary Lane books, and didn't garner the same fanfare, so Mr. Maupin went back to write three more books chronicling the events of the San Francisco 'Barbary Lane' family he created.

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Tales of Armistead Maupin
Maupin to appear in Seattle October 16

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