Quentin Crisp – English Raconteur in New York

“You first have to find who you are, then you have to be it like mad”

Quentin Crisp

The last post has inspired a look at a particularly infamous ‘Englishman in New York’ – Quentin Crisp.  A raconteur who experienced hostility and violence here in the homophobic 1920s-60s and moved to New York in the early eighties.  Crisp offended a staunch 1930s society by inhabiting London’s Denbigh street and parading around in bright make up, painted nails and toenails shown off together with sandals and crimson long hair.  His attempt to join the British Army when World War II broke out was rejected on the account he ‘suffered from sexual perversion’ (according to the medical board).

The publication of his memoirs; The Naked Civil Servant in 1968 launched his ‘gay icon’ status and he developed a one man show which quickly sold out in London’s Duke of York theatre in 1978.  After taking the show to New York Crisp decided to emigrate there and renowned for his caustic humour and witty storytelling strangers would invite him out to dinner to hear his unique observations on the world.


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