Jesse Hamlin, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Nobody captured the hedonism and high spirits of San Francisco in the '70s better than Armistead Maupin. His "Tales of the City" books - based on the piquant serial he wrote for The Chronicle - have sold more than 6 million copies internationally and inspired three TV miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney. Maupin also wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film "The Night Listener," based on his novel of the same name and starring fellow San Franciscan Robin Williams. The writer, who lives in Parnassus Heights with his husband, Internet entrepreneur Christopher Turner, is at work on his eighth "Tales" novel, "Mary Ann in Autumn."
Q: What's the new book about?
A: It's about Mary Ann Singleton (a central "Tales" character, played by Linney) at the age of 57. She's been living as a Connecticut housewife for 20 years. She's having another life crisis and has to come back to San Francisco to take care of it.
Q: Do you think of Laura Linney when you're writing that character now?
A: I do. She makes it so much easier. I just imagine how she'd play it at 57. In the past, when I was forced to read my work, I'd always hear my own voice and cringe. Now, I hear Laura's voice.
Q: What else is going on?
A: I'm really excited about the "Tales of the City" musical slated for Broadway. It's in the hands of very talented people. Jake Shears and John Garden of Scissor Sisters are composing the music and lyrics. I've been listening to the songs and offering comments on the script. There's a raunchy whorehouse number, "Ride 'em Hard and Put 'em Down Wet," a tune called "You May Be the Last Good Lay He'll Ever Get" and some gospel-singing A-gays (as in A-list). Jeff Whitty, who won a Tony for "Avenue Q," is writing the libretto. It's brilliant. He managed to be faithful to the story and make it work for the stage.
Q: What are you reading?
A: A lot of Alexander McCall Smith (the British mystery writer), the Isabel Dalhousie series. It's sort of comfort food for me.
Q: What are you listening to?
A: Christopher's in charge of the music. It's all over the place - Rufus Wainwright, a lot of Brazilian music like Caetano Veloso and Bebel Gilberto.
Q: Seen any good movies?
A : I've seen "Milk" twice. I thought it was brilliantly handled. Sean Penn channeled Harvey. We've mostly been staying home with "Lost." I'm totally addicted to it. We've just started watching it, on Apple TV. We're watching the first season five years after the series started - I'm very out of it - a different episode every night. It's just fun being on that island with those people.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: We've got a 14-month-old black Labradoodle, Philo. He's named after the guy from San Francisco who invented television, Philo T. Farnsworth. We have an old cat named Maxine who tolerates Philo. They both sleep on the bed with us.
Q: Any trips in the works?
A: We're thinking about Brazil. I gave a speech to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association in Las Vegas, and the pay was two round-trip tickets to Brazil.
Q: What's your take on the new administration?
A: It's such a novelty having a wit in the White House.