Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maupin's Blog

When Armistead released "Michael Tolliver Lives", he began blogging on his website. Those blogs are no longer listed, so I thought I would add them over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, I do not have the original dates of these articles, but will post them chronologically. (3 of 3).

In Denver at the Monaco, a hotel that gives you goldfish for your room. Always a little creeped out by that, however humanely they treat them. What those fish must see. Too bad they can’t write memoirs. Interview this morning in LA with Peter Boyles, a Denver radio institution I’ve known for years. He’s the guy — the straight guy — who broke the Pastor Ted-and-Mike story when the local “alternative” paper (run by a gay person, I’m told) refused do so. Cool guy and always has been. Told me they auctioned off Mike’s massage table as a benefit for Project Angel Food, the AIDS food delivery service. Keep hoping I’ll run into Mike on the road. His book is out now. Great title: “I Had to Say Something.” Hustlers, for my money, do far more good than pastors.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Maupin's Blog

When Armistead released "Michael Tolliver Lives", he began blogging on his website. Those blogs are no longer listed, so I thought I would add them over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, I do not have the original dates of these articles, but will post them chronologically. (2 of 3).

Spent last four days in steamy Miami, since I neglected to pack my passport at the start of the American tour. Fed-ex two days late in getting it to me. Mandarin Oriental not a bad place to be stranded, but I have to hit the ground running in London . Taping of “Desert Island Discs” two hours after I arrive. Songs I picked for my desert island: “Mockingbird Hill,” “Moon River,” “Maybe This Time,” “Desperado,” “Wicked Little Town,” and “The Heart of Life.” Gooey as hell but all held significance for me at one point or another. Am told security will be a nightmare after that flaming SUV invaded Glasgow Airport (not to mention those foiled car bombs in London.)

Missed London Pride at Trafalgar Square (and being on stage with the great Graham Norton) thanks to passport screw-up. C has been so patient about this. Me, I’m kicking my ass around the block. We’ve had a good time pigging out at Porcao, the Brazilian place across the water from the Mandarin. Great slabs of beef on skewers, sliced at the table. Octopus salad and Caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail. Will start making those at home, we decided.

I’ve had hiccups intermittently for two days — probably all that beef. C went online, then told me to arch my neck back, hold my breath for ten seconds, then drink a glass of water. Actually works. Also cured them by eating a pack of sugar.

My big gig here was at The Congregational Church in Coral Gables. Laurie, the pastor, is a fan from way back. Felt odd reading the “winking sphincter” passage from the pulpit (and signing books at the altar) but no one seemed ruffled. Last year I spoke at an MCC church in Ft. Lauderdale. Seems like the movement is run by churches down here– much the way the civil rights movement was run in the south all those years ago. Totally refreshing, considering all the damage churches doing these days.

Catching up: crowd of 400 at Outwrite Books in Atlanta, fanning themselves like folks at a revival. Esther Levine, the world’s best media escort (proudly Southern and Jewish) took me lunch at the Barbecue Kitchen, where we had chicken livers and fried green tomatoes. Told me about the Golden Dart Award — given annually at the Book Expo to least favorite client of media escorts. Faye Dunaway won one year, Lewis Grizzard another. (It’s not literally presented to them, of course, just a private joke.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All singing, all dancing, all Armistead Maupin: "Tales of the City" hits the boards this summer

Originally published 4-16-2009
by Alonso Duralde

What rhymes with "Mary Ann Singleton"? Fans of Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City will find out this summer with the debut of the long-awaited stage musical adaptation.

Maupin's not the only gay artist involved, however. Avenue Q's Jeff Whitty has written the book for this new musical, while Jake Shears and John Garden of the Scissor Sisters contributed the songs. No word as to who has been cast as Mrs. Madrigal, Michael, Mona and the rest of the Barbary Lane gang.

Maupin's work has already been successfully adapted for television (three Tales of the City mini-series), movies (The Night Listener) and even opera (Jake Heggie's Anna Madrigal Remembers) so why not Broadway?


AIDS grove hires executive director

Originally Published 4-16-09

by Matthew S. Bajko

he board of the National AIDS Memorial Grove has reinstated its executive director position after going without the top post since 2004. The move is aimed at kick starting a five-year-long focus on bolstering the group's endowment and financial resources.

John Cunningham, 48, formerly the development director at Positive Resource Center, started in the revived job April 1. He will receive an $80,000-a-year salary and oversee an estimated $2 million endowment.

At the same time, the board decided to lay off its operations manager, whose last day will be April 30, to make way for Cunningham. The board is transitioning to Cunningham the tasks of managing the endowment and overseeing fundraising.

"We can't afford to not do this. We needed to step it up a bit to boost the endowment and fulfill our responsibility for the memorial," said board co-chair Gina Gatta regarding the staff change. "We want to maintain our donors, keep AIDS in the forefront because it is not over, and protect our investment with the grove over the years."

Gatta estimated the endowment lost 20 percent of its value over the last year due to the faltering economy. But she added that it could have been worse.

"We are a very, very conservative organization," she said in terms of the board's investment strategy. "At the same time, our expenses have gone up. We see this as let's get an executive director in here and put our funding programs in place."

Out of the 75 applicants who applied for the job, Gatta said the board was most impressed with Cunningham due to his fundraising skills. In addition to his work the last three years with PRC, Cunningham served as board chairman of the New Hampshire AIDS Foundation for two years in the mid-1990s.

"We needed someone with development skills," said Gatta, an out lesbian who is publisher of the Damron gay and lesbian travel guides.

The grove has been a place of particular comfort for Cunningham, who has lived with HIV for 11 years and lost a partner, Tony Levesque, to AIDS in 2004.

"It is a place where, over time, I find great spiritual healing and solace," he said. "I believe strongly in the original vision of the grove and it being a place for healing, hope and remembrance."

He experienced firsthand the devastation wrought by AIDS. In the early 1980s Cunningham served as president of what was known as the Castro Community Business Alliance and owned a home in the heart of the gayborhood.

He now lives in Twin Peaks with his current partner, Joel Stevens, and has spent much time volunteering with the grove.

"I have done grove workdays for many years. I have also took part in memorial services there and several weddings," said Cunningham, who learned just days after taking on the grove job that a close friend was given mere months to live due to AIDS-related complications. "We began planning for his wishes after he passes, which include his desire for his service to be at the grove and for his name to be placed in the circle with those who have gone before him."

More attention

One of Cunningham's main goals is to bring greater national attention to the 7.5 acre living memorial to those lost to AIDS located within Golden Gate Park's de Laveaga Dell. He plans to invite President Obama to visit the grove during World AIDS Day, which takes place each year on December 1. It would mark the first presidential visit since the grove was established as a national memorial in 1996.

[Hillary Clinton, then the first lady, did attend the ceremony establishing the national recognition of the grove. But her husband, as well as President George W. Bush, never visited the site while in office.]

"The national AIDS memorial is not only, at times, the best kept secret in San Francisco, but also is a somewhat unknown entity on the national level," said Cunningham. "It is our hope that perhaps he or Michelle or another representative will join us to commemorate and to remember those who have gone before us, those who have helped along the way, and to remind those who remain of the importance and magnitude that AIDS has taken on in our communities."

For the last several years Cunningham has been involved with the AIDS Memorial Film Project. Filmmaker Michael Weiss is making a documentary, called Forget Me Not, about the AIDS grove, and is working closely with the grove's board on the project.

Cunningham sees the film as another way to expand the grove's scope and aid in his desire to reach out beyond the LGBT community to other groups, particularly minority communities, who have also been impacted by AIDS.

"Like any nonprofit, it is critical that an organization continue to remain relevant in the current time," said Cunningham. "The face of AIDS may have changed, and those who are affected may be different, and therefore it is critical that organizations such as the national AIDS memorial broaden access and awareness to all segments of our population."

The grove's operating budget for the fiscal year is set at $300,000. In addition to Cunningham, the grove pays $75,000 for a dedicated gardener, Ray Goodenough, who is an employee of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. The grove has a 99-year lease with the city, and depending on the year, spends between $10,000 and $20,000 annually for plants.

This month the grove is reviving a spring within its glen. The water feature has been dry since a drought in the 1990s.

"We have recently begun to place water back in what was called Dry Creek," said Cunningham.

It is the first major change within the grove since the board abandoned plans in December 2007 to move forward with a controversial design that called for constructing 90 blackened steel poles, a new entrance, and a sidewalk overlook. The board ultimately decided it was not feasible for it to raise the $6 million needed to complete the project.

The controversy has had a lasting effect, said Gatta.

"Some donors we lost that wanted the project to go ahead. A lot of longtime volunteers didn't want it to happen," she said. "It did take a lot of energy out of the board."

Gatta said since then the board determined to "regroup" and "get back to basics."

"We decided to get back to the foundation of what the grove was created for, so the next generation can go there and remember what this pandemic did to the world and our community," said Gatta, who plans to step down from the board after her term expires in 2010. "It is the most beautiful treasure in San Francisco. You just walk into the grove and the energy is there. It is such a gift we have and many people don't know about it."

Over the last several weeks, Cunningham has been reaching out to past donors and supporters of the grove. He said he is doing so in order to "reach out to those individuals and to learn directly from them what makes the grove such a special place."

He also has canceled the grove's Mad Hatter fundraiser, which usually occurs in the spring, and instead is planning an event to tie into this year's World AIDS Day.

The grove is hosting a fundraiser on June 11 with author Armistead Maupin to raise money to complete the film project, which is estimated to need $120,000.

In the meantime, volunteers are needed the third Saturday of each month (including this Saturday, April 18) to help tend to the grove. The work day begins at 8:30 a.m. and lunch is provided.

For directions and more information about the grove, visit its Web site at http://www.aidsmemorial.org.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009



Picnic at Hanging Rock and Tales of the City

To Be Developed At The O’Neill This Summer

Waterford, Connecticut –The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center announced today the two musicals to be developed at the 2009 National Music Theater conference. The conference, opening on June 27, will run through July 11 at the O’Neill’s campus in Waterford, Connecticut. Tickets will go on sale beginning Wednesday, June 10.

Chosen from a record 152 musical submissions through the O’Neill’s Open Submissions process—which allows any writer, with or without agent representation, to submit and utilizes readers from across the country to choose works based on merit—these projects will undergo the O’Neill’s development process, employing acclaimed actors, directors, and music directors in an intensive series of rehearsals, discussions, and public readings.

Since its founding in 1978, the National Music Theater Conference has developed and presented more than 100 musical works, including early works of award-winning writers and composers such as Tan Dun, Kirsten Childs, Andrew Lippa, Joe Masteroff, Steven Sater, Duncan Sheik and Jeannine Tesori. Arthur Kopit, Mario Fratti and Maury Yeston’s Nine, developed at the O’Neill in 1979, won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score in 1982, and for Best Revival of a Musical in 2003; Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s Avenue Q, developed at the O’Neill in 2002, won three 2004 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In The Heights, a 2005 NMTC project, received the Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Musical when it played off-Broadway in 2007 and four 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

National Music Theater Conference Artistic Director Paulette Haupt said, “The Conference received a record number of submissions this year. Among the 152 projects considered, we discovered many worthy and promising new works by extraordinary writers and composers. Although we can only support the development of two of those projects this year, we extend our congratulations to hundreds of other deserving talents. We look forward to providing a supporting and challenging environment for the four artists selected, enabling them to further develop their visions and see their work come to life.”

The O’Neill’s Executive Director, Preston Whiteway, remarked, “Now in its 32nd Season, the National Music Theater Conference under Paulette Haupt will again host writers and works representing the best of new musical writing today. Daniel and the team of Jeff, Jason and John each have a unique voice which will give life to these well known tales. I look forward to welcoming them and our audiences this summer.”


Librettist/Lyricist/Composer - Daniel Zaitchik
Performances: Saturday, June 27 at 8:00 pm; Sunday, June 28 at 3:00 pm; Wednesday, July 1 at 8:00 pm; Friday, July 3 at 8:00 pm
Picnic at Hanging Rock is a new musical adaptation of Joan Lindsay's classic Australian novel, with book, music and lyrics by Daniel Zaitchik. This delicately haunting mystery follows a group of schoolgirls from a prestigious boarding school who are released from their studies for a picnic on Valentine's Day in 1900. When three of the girls vanish into the wilderness, we are lulled into a dark reverie of sexuality, repression, nature, and the unknown.

Librettist - Jeff Whitty
Lyricist/Composer - Jason Sellards
Composer - John Garden
Performances: Saturday, July 4 at 8:00 pm; Sunday, July 5 at 4:00 pm; Wednesday, July 8 at 8:00 pm; Saturday, July 11 at 8:00 pm
Based on the beloved series of novels by Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City follows a community of friends, lovers, and others who reside at the mythical address of 28 Barbary Lane in 1976 San Francisco. Mary Ann Singleton, a fresh arrival from Ohio, falls into a diverse band of Bohemians and blue-bloods, as families are created and rediscovered under the watchful eye of mystical landlady Anna Madrigal.

The 2009 NMTC will also reinstitute two residencies, last offered in 2004, to writers and pieces earlier in their development. Names and projects of these residencies, along with directors for the two workshops, will be released shortly.

Schedules are subject to change. Tickets will be on sale beginning Wednesday, June 10. Please call the O’Neill Box Office at 860-443-1238 or visit http://www.theoneill.org for times, prices and reservations.

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, founded in 1964, is the pre-eminent center for the development of new works and new voices for the American theater. It has been home to more than 1,000 new works for the stage and 2,500 emerging artists. Scores of projects developed at the O’Neill have gone on to full productions at other theaters around the world, including Broadway, off-Broadway and major regional theaters. The O’Neill itself is the winner of a special Tony Award, the National Opera Award, the Jujamcyn Award for Theater Excellence and the Arts and Business Council Encore Award. The O’Neill’s programs include the National Playwrights Conference, National Music Theater Conference, Puppetry Conference, Cabaret Conference, National Critics Institute, and the National Theater Institute, which includes semester-long, fully accredited intensive theater training programs in Waterford and Moscow and a six-week accredited summer program, Theatermakers. In addition, the O’Neill owns and operates the Monte Cristo Cottage, a National Historic Landmark and the childhood home of Nobel Prize-winning and four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill. For more information regarding the Center, please visit the O’Neill website at www.theoneill.org or call 860-443-5378.


Daniel Zaitchik is a singer-songwriter, theatre writer/composer, and once (and maybe sometime again in the future) actor. Daniel's first full-length original musical, Ula, which follows the magical adventures of the curious son of lighthouse keeper, ran at the 45th Street Theatre and was developed further by Ars Nova Theatre. His musical adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock was also first read at Ars Nova and had its first workshop and staged reading at Lincoln Center Theatre. Daniel's current theatre projects include a collaboration with playwright Jordan Harrison. As an actor, Daniel has worked at theatres including Playwrights Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club, Cherry Lane, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Long Wharf Theatre, and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He originated the role of Billy in the premiere of Craig Lucas's Prayer for My Enemy at the Intiman Theatre, directed by Bart Sher, and the role of Pete in The Burnt Part Boys at Barrington Stage Company, directed by Joe Calarco.

Jeff Whitty is delighted to return to the O'Neill Theater Center for the third time, the first as an actor, and now twice as a librettist. At the O’Neill’s 2002 NMTC, he developed the musical AVENUE Q with composers Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, under the direction of Jason Moore and musical direction of Stephen Oremus. With the same creative team, AVENUE Q moved Off-Broadway the next year, then to Broadway, where it is still running. In 2004 the show won three Tony Awards for Libretto, Score, and Best Musical. It also runs on London's West End and in dozens of international productions. Jeff's other plays include The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, The Hiding Place, The Plank Project, Balls and Suicide Weather. Theaters producing his work include the Atlantic Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Repertory, and New York Stage and Film. He is currently developing a musical version of Bring It On. Jeff divides his time between Manhattan and upstate New York.

Jake Shears (real name Jason Sellards) is originally from Seattle and has lived in New York City for 10 years. Originally planning to be a fiction writer, Jake ended up writing a few songs and forming a band called Scissor Sisters in 2001. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2004, and it became the biggest-selling album in the UK that year (it was also banned from the shelves of Wal-Mart due to its "coarse language"). The album has since gone almost ten times platinum worldwide, was nominated for a Grammy and won 3 BRIT Awards in 2005. The band’s second album, Ta-Dah, was released in September 2006 and reached number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in its first week of release, completing a first for the Scissor Sisters: both a single and album at the top of the UK charts simultaneously. Ta-dah has sold over 4 million copies worldwide to date. Jake and his bandmate and writing partner Babydaddy have written with the likes of Bryan Ferry, Kylie Minogue, Paul Williams, and Elton John. Jake and the band are currently working on the third Scissor Sisters record. He lives in downtown Manhattan with his partner Chris, dog Toby, and a tortoise named Cheeseburger.

John Garden is a London based composer and multi-instrumentalist. Since 2004 he has worked with Scissor Sisters as Musical Director, keyboardist, bassist and occasional co-writer, completing two world tours as well as performing at 2005’s LIVE8 concert in London’s Hyde Park. In 2006, John recorded keyboards (alongside Elton John and Paul Leschen) for their second album Ta-Dah, which went straight to number 1 in the UK charts in its first week of release. He also co-composed the song “The Other Side” from the same album.

Since 2002, John has been resident composer for the BBC Radio4 series “You’ll Have Had Your Tea: The Doings of Hamish and Dougal”, a spin-off from the cult UK comedy show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”.

Apart from working on Tales of the City – The Musical, John’s other creative projects include an improvised film scoring duo with jazz drummer Tony Orrell – “JJ and the Birdman”; producer/arranger for Nathan Daniel and Tilted City’s forthcoming album “Cheek Denied”; and a writing collaboration with Bristol singer/songwriter Lucy Harper. John currently lives in London, and divides his time between London, Bristol and New York.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O'Neill Theater sets summer sessions

O'Neill Theater sets summer sessionsCruz play,
'Tales of the City' on Center's slate
From Variety 4/14/09


NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The tuner adaptation of "Tales of the City" and the latest play by Pulitzer-winner Nilo Cruz are among the new works to be developed this year during the O'Neill Theater Center's annual summer sessions.

O'Neill campus in Waterford, Conn., hosts a couple of high-profile legit development programs, with separate conferences for plays and musicals. Alums of O'Neill stints include several August Wilson plays and recent Tony winner "In the Heights."

"Tales," with book by Jeff Whitty ("Avenue Q") and songs by Scissor Sisters musicians Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears) and John Garden, will run as part of the O'Neill's 32nd annual National Music Theater Conference, along with composer-lyricist-librettist Daniel Zaitchik's adaptation of Aussie novel "Picnic at Hanging Rock."

At the O'Neill's 45th annual National Playwrights Conference, Cruz play "The Color of Desire" will join works by Susan Smith Blackburn prize winner Abbie Spallen ("Pumpgirl") and Julia Cho ("Durango," "BFE"), among others.

Spallen's latest, "Bogwog," is part of the Irish Project at the O'Neill, supported with funds from Xerox. Cho, meanwhile, will present "The Language Archive," commissioned by the Roundabout Theater Company.

Also nabbing stints at the Playwrights Conference are Lauren Gunderson for her play "Fire Work," Gregory Moss for "House of Gold," Josh Tobiessen for "Spoon Lake Blues" and Emily Schwend for "Carthage."

Writers in residence at the conference will be Tracey Scott Wilson ("The Good Negro," "The Story") and Katia Rubina, a multimedia writer from Russia. A third writer is still to be announced.

Playwrights Conference a.d. Wendy C. Goldberg will helm Cruz's "Desire," about an American businessman in 1960 Havana who hires a Cuban actress to play his lost love. No other directors have been announced.

More than 800 plays were entered in the Playwrights Conference's open submissions process. The seven selected plays will be given readings July 4-26.

The two shows selected for the musical conference were drawn from 152 open submissions.
The tuner incarnation of "Picnic," which was also adapted into a 1975 pic by Peter Weir, has been staged as a reading at Lincoln Center Theater. O'Neill run is skedded for June 27-July 3.
"Tales," which hopes to tap the Broadway potential of Armistead Maupin's series of books (and subsequent tube adaptations), will be seen at the O'Neill July 4-11.

Musical conference also will have two residencies for creatives and projects to be announced later.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Maupin's Blog

When Armistead released "Michael Tolliver Lives", he began blogging on his website. Those blogs are no longer listed, so I thought I would add them over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, I do not have the original dates of these articles, but will post them chronologically. (1 of 3)

A steel-gray sea and green, green fields as our train follows the cliffs of the Scottish coast. Lovely day yesterday seeing a matinee of Ian McKellen’s “King Lear” in Newcastle — three-and-a-half hours long and utterly riveting. Wept like a baby when Lear holds Gloucester in his arms. Ian came to my signing at Waterstone’s, four doors down from the theatre. Had the crowd sing Happy Birthday to old chum Alison Barrow, publicist from Transworld. C and I joined Ian and John Lahr for a late dinner at The Living Room. John doing a New Yorker piece on Ian for The New Yorker. Late night drinks with the RSC at the Northern Men’s Club, when C was smitten with Frances Barber (Goneril). Sylvester McCoy was there too, so the club was thrilled to have Gandalf and Dr. Who under same roof.

Catching up: Stunning venue in Liverpool: the Small Concert Hall of St George’s Hall, where Dickens did readings. All gilt and cream, like performing inside of a wedding cake. I was first gig there since its restoration. Charming MTF, “playing the surgery card” came to the head of the autograph line with her post-operative caretaker. Asked me to sign her book “In the spirit of Anna Madrigal.” Also a sweet young transman who thanked me for Jake Greenleaf. Lot of straight folks too, even a father and son.

Travel note: the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle (my grandfather’s hometown) has decreed that the recent flooding here is God’s revenge on Britain for being lenient on homosexuals (e.g. letting them marry). Must explain why rain is following us EVERYWHERE.

On a positive note: Britain banned smoking in public places the day we arrived so dining here is a much more pleasant experience. Also there’s a brand-new prime minister, Gordon Brown.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Behind the Sun: Queen Kate, approximately

From the Pacific Sun April 3, 2009

'Pacific Sun' unveils hidden talents of Armistead Maupin, drag queens...

by Jason Walsh

35 years ago

From the Sun vaults, April 4 - 10, 1974

"Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she..."—Lou Reed, early '70s

The Pacific Sun was taking a walk on the wild side 35 years ago this week.

Not content with bestowing quality alternative journalism to only the north side of the Golden Gate, the Pacific Sun had spent the early months of 1974 paving media inroads down Doyle Drive and into the heart of the Castro with its ballyhooed "Pacific Sun San Francisco edition." A mere 10 years after honing its typesetting techniques through stories about Stinson fishing derbies and grisly Highway 1 auto carnage, the Sun was now landing big-city interviews with Martin Scorsese, partying with Divine and Johnny Thunders and wriggling onto the press list of the North Beach Playboy Club.

And, like any wide-eyed suburban catechumen on the prowl for authentic cultural modes of Shaky Town, there was only one place for a Marin publication to turn.

Drag queen parties.

And there was only one Pacific Sun cub reporter properly equipped to investigate such events.

Armistead Maupin.

The Sun's newest contributor was a 30-year-old North Carolinian (and one-time staffer for Jesse Helms) who'd arrived in San Francisco three years prior with the dream of becoming a writer. Brandishing a fondness for the perverse and a willingness to work on the cheap, the future best-selling author was a perfect fit to assist the Sun with its latest Barbary Coast adventure. In just his second assignment for the paper, the former conservative (who, at this time, was only taking a wary peek out of "the closet") found himself in the jam-packed California Hall surrounded by hundreds of Polk Gulch queens.

"Good evening, I'm Kate Marlowe, and this is my first ball of the season, so get in there and dance your tits off, darlings...ooooohhwee!" was the opening quote from the Maupin's April 1974 story about a soiree hosted by Union Street hairdresser Kenneth Marlowe. Kenneth was throwing the Polk Street fete for 800 of his closest friends (at $5 head) to fund the surgical procedure that would once and for all transform him into the XX-chromosomed "Katherine," just as nature had intended.

"Tonight is the ball to end balls," quipped Maupin.

Katherine, decked out in Max Factor and a black-sequined pantsuit, welcomed the reporter gregariously.

"Ohhh! I just greeted a couple of queens at the door who took one look at this crowd and said they thought this was supposed to be a gay party," she said, referring to the many pleated-slacks clad straights in the room. "Well, sweetie, I just told them—look bitches..."

Kenneth/Katherine was an ex-street hustler, gay-bordello madam and Bible-school dropout with a prurient, if predictable, knack for double entendre. ("No wonder I'm changing my sex," she howled while struggling to adjust a microphone, "I can't screw this for nuthin'!") She was hoping Maupin's Sun piece would help spread the word about her quest for a new gender identity. "I'm really tripping on the turnout for this," Marlowe purred excitedly. "I mean can you buhleeeeve it?"

The entertainment highlight of the evening was an appearance by legendary burlesque fan-dancer Sally Rand. "The room goes black, a blue spotlight hits the stage and Her Sexcellency glides into view," described Maupin. "At first she is swathed in the enormous pink fans, then the incredible legs and breasts emerge."

Rand was celebrating her 70th birthday that evening. "That's the nice thing about show business," the silent-screen and stage star said, after receiving a bouquet. "You get the flowers before you're dead."

Then a streaker bounded across the stage and everyone broke for cake.

A few heterosexual couples headed for the exits.

"You know what's wrong with the straight world?" Marlowe queried Maupin. "They don't know how to have a good time. They need me to show them. They need me... [her attention turns to a handsome young man strutting past] uh, would you like to dance?"

According to single-named author Nelson, who recounted the life of Marlowe in his 2000 book, Call Me Kate: The Story of Katherine Marlowe, a Transsexual, Kenneth eventually did realize his dream—becoming Katherine Marlowe in gender, as well as attitude, sometime in 1979.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rhino and Word to collaborate

San Francisco Chronicle

Theatre Rhinoceros and Word for Word have revealed the table of contents for the previously announced first-ever collaboration between the nation's oldest continually operating, proudly queer theater company and the innovative troupe that stages short stories with every word intact, the final show in the Rhino's current season. Called "Three on a Party," and opening May 16 (previews begin May 13), the program will consist of Gertrude Stein's "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene," Tennessee Williams' "Two on a Party" and "Suddenly Home" by Armistead Maupin.

The stories will be presented Word style, meaning the performers will enact every word of the text, with Word's Delia MacDougall directing Stein's story and Rhino Artistic Director John Fisher doing the honors for Williams and Maupin. Fisher will also conduct an onstage conversation with Maupin following the May 17 performance and there will be a post show discussion with Stein expert Hans Gallas on May 22.

As for the mysterious "new work" by Fisher planned for the season's penultimate slot, the playwright-director has announced that it will be a workshop production of "A Necessary Evil," a play he's developing about the current state of domestic relations in a time of shifting legal definitions. "Evil" will have an abbreviated run, April 16-26. Tickets for both shows ($15-$40; or $30-$50 for "An Evening With Armistead Maupin") at (415) 861-5079 or www.therhino.org. - Robert Hurwitt