Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Birds on a Wire

Artists Brian Goggins and Dorka Keen's installation Language of Birds lights up the sky between Chinatown and North Beach.

Anyone who’s seen Brian Goggin’s Defenestration at Sixth and Howard—the art installation in which furniture and appliances appear to be climbing out of a building’s windows—shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this Daliesque scene has its roots in magic. You see, Goggin, a 20-year resident of San Francisco, spent much of his peripatetic youth making fast money as a childhood magician. “I specialize in illusion and sublime spectacles,” he says.

Keep that in mind when his new site-specific installation (a two-year collaboration—commissioned by the SF Arts Commission—with local political activist Dorka Keehn) is unveiled this month above a new plaza linking Chinatown and North Beach, at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus. The Language of Birds (a reference to the ancient Greek and Celtic mythical languages used to communicate with the divine) is a flock of 23 books suspended 15 to 30 feet above ground and arranged with their bindings open, as if in flight. For the sublime-spectacle portion of the program, the books, sculpted from white translucent polycarbonate and embedded with LED lights, will be illuminated from dusk till dawn using solar power from ad-hoc panels installed above City Lights Books. “Eventually, the goal is to take City Lights off the electrical grid,” Keehn says. (Bonus points awarded for the project’s

While the book imagery alludes to the strong literary history of North Beach and Chinatown, the bird metaphor was inspired by a friendly flock of sparrows that would visit Goggin’s studio while he was a participant at Woodside’s Djerassi Resident Artists Program in June 2006. Concurrently, Keehn, on vacation in Italy, was having a more Hitchcockian experience. “Every pigeon in Capri would come to my porch every morning to attack my breakfast!” she laughs.

Broken phrases from works in three languages by more than 90 authors, from Armistead Maupin to Jade Snow Wong, will be sandblasted into the plaza below the main installation, appearing to have fallen straight from the pages of the books above—the jumble of words creating the new and improved, carved-in-stone (literally!) Language of Birds.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Senior housing for LGBT community opens in Oakland

By Lucinda Ryan
Article Last Updated: 10/24/2008 09:05:52 AM PDT

The refurbished apartments at the former Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland are now open for retirement living, though residents need not be retired to settle in. Nor do they need to be lesbian, gay, straight or transgender.

They need only to want to live in a diverse community within one building, a community modeled on author Armistead Maupin's fictional series, "Tales of the City."

Maupin's characters all lived in a San Francisco apartment on Barbary Lane. It was a place where homosexuals and heterosexuals — young and not so young — built friendships and camaraderie and no lines were drawn on which lifestyle was acceptable. Everyone was accepted.

So goes the philosophy at today's real-life Barbary Lane Senior Communities, where, say representatives of the 46-unit Art Deco historical building at 1800 Madison St., aging baby boomers can live in a "richly diverse community."

"The conformist generation is diminishing," said Dave Latina, president of Barbary Lane Senior Communities, at a grand opening event held Thursday. He spoke of long-retired GIs who were accustomed to taking directions and not rocking the boat, and pointed out that baby boomers (defined by the U.S. Census as those born from 1946 to 1964) have a far different take on life.

And to demonstrate the point, Thursday's event included an appearance by Maupin, who said he didn't want to live in the kind of place where his grandma died or where his Aunt Nancy, who retired in North Carolina, had to "sneak her high school sweetheart in so she could get a cuddle from time to time."

But Maupin said what really sold him on having his name and lore attached to Barbary Lane Senior Communities were the rooms themselves.

"I could live here," he said, speaking of the apartments' ambience and of the convenience of having housekeeping and room service.

He said when he tells his friends — gay, lesbian or straight — about the building and amenities, "it's my heterosexual female friends who get the most excited about it."

The apartments went on the market in June, but because it takes time for people to make moving arrangements, there are currently only two residents living there.

Lorraine Hall, 83, is one of them. She had been on a TV talk show with Maupin to talk about transgender people like herself, who was born a male but always felt like a female.

She remained in the closet, marrying at 23 and having three children. The family lived in the East Bay, where Hall was a mechanical engineer until retirement, and then a teacher of computer-assisted design in adult school and high school for a few years.

In 1953, she saw a headline about a GI who became a woman. That GI was Christene Jorgensen, who became famous for her public story of transforming her male body to female to become the gender she had always felt she was.

"What could I do?" she said. "I was with a woman I loved dearly, and we had a 5-month-old infant."

At 60, after she heard a radio talk show with transgender guest speakers, she partially came out of the closet, still protecting her children by keeping her plans to herself but eventually doing what Jorgenson had done — getting hormone treatments, surgery and cosmetic tweaks, including getting rid of facial hair. The program offered information about a support group, which she joined.

Her wife died after 58 years of marriage, and, at age 74, Hall had surgery. Though she still protects her children from public scrutiny, she has been more open about her transgender, to the point of appearing on TV with Maupin, who mentioned the upcoming Barbary Lane Senior Communities.

That, Hall said, is where she wanted to go and that is where she is happy now, feeling completely accepted.

"Barbary Lane is a different thing," she said. "It's a new life for me and it's a very wonderful feeling."

More than 20 people have signed the waiting list. Representative Bob Prettyman said it may take 18 months before the apartments are filled. Until then, Executive Extended Stay has a contract to rent the apartments.

For more information, go to or call 510-903-3600.
If you go
Grand opening events are scheduled from today through Sunday at Barbary Lane Senior Communities, 1800 Madison St., Oakland. They are:
Today: Big Band and swing music from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the Terrace Room. Entrance is $19.43 for people 65 and older; $25 for those younger.
Saturday: Golden age memories from 6 to 8 p.m. featuring Coco Lopez, the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus and musician and opera singer Leslie Hassberg. Free with RSVP (call 510-903-3600 to RSVP).
Sunday: Jan Wahl's "Food and Wine in Film" from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Terrace Room. $19.43 for 65 and older, $25 for younger.
All events are open to the public, but space is limited. Call 510-903-3600 to reserve.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Armistead Maupin Youtube Playlist

"Michael Tolliver Lives" in paperback

Ok, I've really been dropping the ball lately, but "Michael Tolliver Lives" came out in paperback on May 20. The front cover replicates the latest paperbacks in the "Tales" series.

Michael Tolliver Lives paperback

you can find it at or your local bookseller.


Hi Maupin fans,

Has anyone been watching "Swingtown"? I wanted to ask, because Alan Poul, who produced the three "Tales of the City" miniseries, has directed several episodes and is the executive producer of the series. (He was also the executive director of the great Showtime series "Six Feet Under").

"Swingtown" takes place in 1976, so wouldn't it be cool if we saw a character from "Tales" make an appearance?

More information can be found at

Tales Websites

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to add a couple of websites for Tales fans.

The first website I found years ago is created by UK Native, Colin Temple. He has put together a great site with some downloads (audio clips, wallpapers, etc).

Of course, do not forget to visit Armistead Maupin's official website at

Cheers everyone!

CBS Logo News Interview

Here's an interview from LOGO CBS News.

Be sure to support LOGO TV

INMagazine Interview

INMagazine Interview


The Legend

One of our community's best and most famous writers, Armistead Maupin, is the featured author at Palm Springs Pride's Author's Village. Not only will he be in the parade, but he'll also be signing books, and he couldn't be more excited. "I haven't been to Palm Springs for 25 years, and I've never been to Palm Springs Pride," he laughs. "It'll be a brand new experience, and I'm really looking forward to it."

Won't it be fun to ride in the parade like a beauty queen?

(Laughs) Well, the good thing about riding in parades is you get the best seat!

You might get tired of waving, though. I hear Queen Elizabeth is on her fifth wrist replacement.

Oh, that's a burden I can handle.

How've people responded this year since Michael Tolliver Lives came out?

Very positive—the book seems to have legs and the reviews have been very good. I've been promoting it so far in 20 different cities around the world, so it's been a very busy—but productive—time.

Now that you've caught up with Mouse, you're going to write a book called Mary Ann In Autumn, right?

That's right. I'm looking forward to revisiting that character and finding a little redemption for her.

She was always my favorite, and I'm glad to hear it. Is it cool to realize how much these characters mean not only to the fans, but also to you?

Yeah. They do mean a lot to me. They have their ups and downs in life just like us. It's fun to be back in that mode again.

What would you say to someone who doesn't believe in celebrating Pride?

I think that there's always someone who benefits from Pride. A lot of us feel quite jaded about the experience because it's not a new one to us anymore, but there's always someone for whom it's a transformative experience. So I don't see any reason why we can't continue to enjoy ourselves and create that space for people who need to come out.

You'll be signing books, too. What's your favorite part of that?

Talking to the readers. This is difficult, because you're making me brag about myself. (Laughs) It's very gratifying. People often explain the roles the books played in their lives or coming-out process. They tell me that their boyfriend or girlfriend read the books to them in bed. I get a lot of intergenerational stuff these days—mothers and daughters who read the books at different times in their lives, even fathers and sons. It's extremely rewarding. It's like receiving applause from an audience.

Just seeing how important your work has been to them, right?

It can be quite moving and unexpected sometimes. People have cried sometimes. To see such a strong response to your work is pretty much a writer's dream.

You've accomplished so much already in your life. What's next for you to conquer?

You know, I've reached a point in my life where I want to continue to be healthy and spend time with my husband, Chris, and enjoy the life that's come to me. I don't have a lot of career ambitions at this point except to continue to tell these stories.

Everyone's going to be trying to get your attention at Pride, so what would you like to say to them here?

It's very hard to deliver a message to the world—I'm not the pope! (Laughs) My message has been pretty much the same for 30 years: Be yourself, love yourself and get on with it! It's a pretty simple message, but it's amazing how many people are still afraid of their true natures.

And that's the point of Pride, right? To embrace who you truly are?

Yes! If you ain't proud, you shouldn't be there! (Laughs) It's not so much about being proud and being gay, but about being proud and open about who you are, whoever you are. —J.R.

A Novello Evening with Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin will be appearing at the Novello Festival of Reading at ImaginON in Charlotte, NC October 16, 2008 at 7:00 pm.

Tickets can be ordered at

The following is a list of the other great authors appearing at the Festival.

If any of you lucky dogs get to see him, post me a comment back. Rumor has it, that Maupin's next book is "Mary Ann in Autumn."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Maupin reaps the laughs at the Novello Festival of Reading

If you're an Armistead Maupin fan, you know that the secret of Anna Madrigal, one of his beloved "Tales of the City" characters, can be found in an anagram of her name: "A man and a girl."

Clever literary trick. Also a total accident, Maupin told a Novello Festival of Reading audience Thursday night.

A fan who wrote Maupin in the 1970s said he'd discovered the anagram, and with it, Anna's secret – she's a woman who was once a man. Maupin recalled to an ImaginOn audience of 300 his shocked response, which can't be repeated in a family newspaper. But it drew big laughs.

Maupin had people laughing from the minute he walked on stage and announced: "I appreciate you all coming tonight, when you could be in Elon listening to Sarah Palin."

Maupin, who grew up in Raleigh, made his name with his six-volume "Tales of the City" series, which began in 1976 as a San Francisco Chronicle series. It follows gay and straight friends through free-sex, gay liberation and AIDS. His 2007 novel, "Michael Tolliver Lives," continues their stories..

Charlotte author Malcolm Campbell interviewed Maupin, and audience members also posed questions.

Describing his marriage in California this month to husband Christopher Turner, Maupin said the ceremony was lovely, but basic. "I've been to too many where the people are held captive, and they have to go through all this crap before they get to eat."

Asked about his writing process, Maupin said he works slowly, "continually filled with self-doubt," polishing every sentence and paragraph before moving on.

That's a luxury he didn't have when he was churning out 800 words, five days a week, for the newspaper serial. "I just had to tell myself, 'It's just going to be on the bottom of somebody's birdcage tomorrow, so don't be so precious about it.'"

That remark got laughs, as did his response to an audience member who asked: "Did you actually go to a Rock Hudson pool party?"

"Oh," Maupin replied, "it was so much more than that."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

GLBT Historical Society Celebrates Third Decade

By Dennis McMillan
Published: October 16, 2008

Board co-chairs Denise Dellotti and Don Romesburg, Supervisor and soon-to-be Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and ED Paul Boneberg. The dramatic 1978 No on 6 campaign was brought back to life by speakers and film. Photo by Rink.

Celebrating 30 years of queer history in the making, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society held its annual gala fundraiser, “Modern History: From Milk to Marriage,” at Elan on Oct. 9. The event honored author Armistead Maupin and two groups of activists who coordinated the fight against the 1978 Briggs Initiative. Maupin and representatives from the Bay Area Coalition Against the Briggs Initiative (BACABI) and The No on 6 Committee were presented with the Walker Award. Named after Willie Walker, a co-founder of the GLBT Historical Society who passed away in 2004, the award honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to the civic, cultural, and political life of the LGBT community. “Armistead Maupin and the groups that organized against the Briggs Initiative are both such pivotal figures in GLBT history,” said Executive Director Paul Boneberg. “They are a perfect fit for our Walker Award this year as we take a moment to look back on thirty years of GLBT history in San Francisco.”

In 1976, Maupin’s “Tales of the City” serial in the San Francisco Chronicle was the first gay-themed fiction to ever appear in an American daily newspaper. Its publication in book form in 1978 marked a cultural turning point that many believe helped to launch the past 30 years of political and social progress for the queer community. In 1978, the Briggs Initiative was a measure on the California State ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from working in California’s public schools. The failed initiative followed similar legislation that had passed in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and followed the highly explosive campaign to repeal one of the first gay rights ordinances in the U.S in Dade County, Florida that was led by Anita Bryant.

The Society also previewed several key pieces from their upcoming exhibit scheduled to open at 18th & Castro streets later this fall, which will feature historic photographs, objects, and documents that chronicle the evolution of the queer community in San Francisco and the emergence of the Castro as the nation’s “Gay Mecca.” On display upstairs were a photo of activist Del Marin at the 1966 Federal Building protest; disco diva Sylvester’s costume from the ‘70s; a hand-painted 1977 Harvey Milk for Supervisor campaign poster; a 1977 No on 6 poster; and Gilbert Baker’s sewing machine used to create the first Gay Pride Rainbow Flag in 1978. Downstairs footage of past LGBT events screened, and then the awards ceremony began.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano joked that back in 1978, he was a mere child, “and if you believe that, you believe Yes on Prop 8.” He said he was excited about the Oct. 28 opening of the MILK movie, based on Harvey Milk’s life, which was greatly contributed to by the Historical Society. “Tonight is a memorialization and validation of the many years we’ve been in San Francisco and accomplished so much,” he said. “In San Francisco, we know the difference between a soccer mom and a drag queen.” On a serious note, he said, “It’s important that we honor our history, because the attacks on us never really stop; but when we’re in crisis – whether it’s Anita Bryant or Sarah Palin – we always do come together.”

Boneberg said that beginning November 1, for an entire year, the Society will sign a lease to have the storefront at 18th and Castro rent-free, thanks to Supervisor Bevan Dufty. They intend to be up and running by the time MILK comes to town. Levi Strauss will be the presenting sponsor of the exhibit with its $50,000 donation. “We’re building a museum; we’re preserving history; and we’re telling the stories,” Boneberg said.

“We are at a historic moment,” said Assemblyman Mark Leno. “Twenty-six days from now, this country will decide … whether we can move forward with the ‘wild concept’ of equality for all taxpaying, law abiding citizens or not.” Leno said people must not get discouraged but should redouble their efforts, “so that we will wake up on November 5th, cheering our victories both here in California and across the country.”

Co-chairs Denise Bellotti and Don Romesberg spoke about the awardees. Board Member Michael Nava gave an award to Maupin, saying this man used to be a protégé of the infamous Sen. Jesse Helms, but in 1974 he came out in San Francisco. Maupin said “many lovely things” have come his way this year, making him maybe “an advertisement for being a happy old queen.” He said many elders in the room had made the decision years ago to be out and proud. He gave high praise to MILK, saying, “It’s a brilliant movie, hitting every button just right.” He compared the scary 1978 election that could have put queer teachers back in the closet and set back gay rights considerably, to this current “referendum on our humanity,” adding, “but if we lose it, we’re still here, and our love is still out there and beautiful to other people.” Leno married him and his husband Christopher Kenner here last weekend, after having been married a year and a half ago in Canada. “And we might just get married somewhere else,” he joked. He said, “If the 11,000 marriages stand here, should the referendum pass, I think those 11,000 should get on a marriage-mobile and tour the country.”

Gwenn Craig, a lead organizer with No on 6, and Paula Lichtenberg, a lead organizer with Bay Area Coalition Against the Briggs Initiative (BACABI), each accepted awards. “The Briggs Initiative represented one of the most far reaching assaults on the LGBT community at that time,” said Craig. “That political fireball, Harvey Milk, asked me and my friend the late Bill Krause to manage the electoral campaign to defeat Prop 6.” She said everyone expected to lose, as homophobic rhetoric became rampant; but politicos came together to become strong LGBT activists, rounding up over 800 fully committed volunteers. Craig said at the same time, BACABI emerged to carry out a grassroots crusade to educate of the evils of Prop 6. Lichtenberg spoke of leafleting in Sausalito when a homophobic man asked if she were “one of those cock-suckers.” She said with a laugh, “I assured him, I wasn’t.”

She concluded, “Grassroots was just one of the winning strategies, and we were proud to be part of that।”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Edie Adams

Edie Adams, who played Ruby Miller in the "Tales of the City" miniseries ("Heal him Jesus, heal thy servant, Edgar") passed away today. Her obituary can be found at

She was an amazing woman, a fighter, and will be missed.

A clip from the final episode of "I Love Lucy" with Edie Adams.

Armistead Maupin Audio Interview

Originally posted October 15 ,2008
Frank Stasio and Olympia Stone

Author Armistead Maupin has been in the public eye for more than three decades. Beginning in the mid-1970s, his "Tales of the City" series broke new cultural ground with its frank depiction of gay life in San Francisco and became an essential part of American pop culture. But although Maupin is most closely associated with the city of San Francisco, he actually grew up in Raleigh. In fact, he was once the protégé of the late Senator Jesse Helms, who was known for his anti-gay stances. Armistead Maupin joins host Frank Stasio to discuss how growing up in the South shaped him as a writer.

To listen to the interview, follow this link...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

GOPer turned firebrand

San Francisco is the city forever linked with Armistead Maupin.

It's the 64-year-old writer's adopted home and the quirky, magical setting for his "Tales of the City" series.

But before Maupin came out as a gay man and immortalized San Francisco in his newspaper-serials-turned novels, he had a different home and a very different life.

Raised in Raleigh, Maupin was a North Carolina boy. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill and wrote a column for The Daily Tar Heel. A conservative column. A column that so impressed a certain TV news commentator named Jesse Helms that he hired young Maupin as a reporter.

It's true. Armistead Maupin was once a Republican.

"It just takes some explaining, I suppose," Maupin said in a recent interview from his San Francisco home. "People are always so shocked."

On Wednesday, Maupin returns to his Tar Heel roots to speak at the Carolina Theatre during an event organized by the Durham County Library. He heads to Charlotte for an appearance Thursday.

With any luck, he will tell his audience about recent nuptials. More on that later.

How did Maupin begin adulthood as a conservative? "I think it came down to wanting to desperately please my father," he says.

The late Armistead Maupin Sr. was a prominent Raleigh lawyer who used to say he regretted being born too late to fight for the Confederacy.

His namesake son made a stab at following in his footsteps, trying law school but dropping out, serving in the Navy in Vietnam and, in a truly odd footnote to history, playing a small part in helping President Nixon "as a counter-propaganda agent" against John Kerry and Veterans Against Vietnam.

After the Navy, Maupin worked as a reporter in Charleston, S.C., then with The Associated Press in San Francisco.

But the facts and formulas of reporting felt confining.

In 1976, he launched his "Tales of the City" series in The San Francisco Chronicle. The work stood out in several ways. It was the first fiction in an American newspaper in decades. And even in free-spirited San Francisco, his editors "were horrified to learn I was introducing gay characters."

By the time editors were having second thoughts, however, readers were already hooked. The series, which eventually became six novels, takes readers from gay liberation and the free-sex '70s through marriages, divorces and the onslaught of AIDS. The final one was published in 1989.

But last year, Maupin revived his fictional Barbary Lane family with the publication of "Michael Tolliver Lives." Michael, nicknamed "Mouse," is now in his 50s. He's HIV positive but healthy. And like his creator, he's happy and deeply in love with a younger man.

Maupin and Christopher Turner married last year in Canada, but when California legalized same-sex marriage, they decided to wed in their own country.

Last month when he spoke with The Observer, Maupin was preparing for the Oct. 4 ceremony. "I can't tell you how excited we are," he said. "I'm going to mock my straight friends a little less about their excitement over weddings."

Armani jackets had been purchased. Friend and fellow writer Amy Tan was lending her home for the occasion. And Maupin's family members, including those with a conservative bent, were to attend.

When he came out to his family in the '70s, Maupin says his parents had a hard time. But "they listened and they learned. And I learned to not demand so much from them."

In 2005, with his father near death, Maupin brought Turner to meet him. "It was one of the loveliest days of my life. They hit it off beautifully. At one point, the old man pulled Christopher aside and said, 'You take care of that boy.'"

Maupin is starting on a book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," that continues the saga of his Barbary Lane characters. A Broadway musical based on "Tales of the City" is also in the works.

"I'm happier than I've ever been in my life," he says. "It has to do with being in love, having attained something with my work and just a general mellowing."

"I really wanted 'Michael Tolliver' to say to people they never have to give up on love। It's available to them their entire life if they keep their hearts open."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Books: Isherwood's 'Berlin' rewards a return visit

On Books: Isherwood's 'Berlin' rewards a return visit

By Scott Eyman
Palm Beach Post Books Editor
Sunday, October 05, 2008

The novels that combine to form Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories have been in print since they were written in the 1930s, but New Directions has a new edition with a foreword by Armistead Maupin. When I read the Isherwood novels originally, I was so impressed by his command of tone and setting that I barely noticed how frankly gay they were. The sexuality seemed subsumed by Isherwood's purring yet ingenuous and open voice, and the fascinating procession of characters that paraded in front of his accepting gaze.

And when I sat down to reread the new edition, damned if the same thing didn't happen.

Put in a larger context, of course, these were - and remain - astonishing books: brave, forthright, utterly matter-of-fact and compulsively readable. Autobiography transformed into literature by language, emotion and the luck of the spectacular setting of Weimar Berlin, just before the fall.

Maupin's introduction involves a pilgrimage with Ian McKellan to the apartment house in Berlin where Isherwood lived, now marked with a plaque, as well as his own friendship with the writer.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

AfterElton’s 50 Greatest Gay Books Poll is taking a poll of the 50 Greatest Gay Books, and although I hate to box Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" as an exclusive "Gay Book", I still went ahead and completed the poll with the first five books in the "Tales" series.

If you get a moment, check it out at: