Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Armistead Maupin's sell-out UK tour

Armistead Maupin delighted fans when he toured the UK to publicise Mary Ann in Autumn, published in the UK by Doubleday in November.

The tour included a reading and signing in London, an appearance at the Cambridge Wordfest, and visits to bookshops in Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Nottingham.

The author of the hugely popular Tales of the City series, of which Mary Ann in Autumn is the eighth instalment, who was greeted by sold-out audiences, also found time to appear on The Review Show on BBC2.

Armistead Maupin: Barbary Lane, barbarism and the Vatican

As Armistead Maupin revisits the world of Tales of the City, he tells Eva Wiseman why the pope is the enemy of all he holds dear

Eva Wiseman
The Observer, Sunday 19 December 2010

Armistead Maupin speaks like he writes, in slow short sentences that trickle from beneath his white moustache like honey on the turn: sweet but sharp. When he talks about the things that anger him – the pope, for instance, or Republicanism – his pitch doesn't rise, his voice doesn't quicken. In fact, it's when discussing what he perceives as the wrongs of the world that Maupin, chronicler of gay life and the first novelist to tackle Aids, seems most at ease.

Maupin's 10 novels all linger on themes of identity, sexuality, loss and the logical ("as opposed to biological") family. He is, of course, most famous for his Tales of the City, which were first serialised in a San Francisco newspaper in the 1970s, growing into six volumes over the next 10 years. A mini-series (starring Laura Linney as token straight Mary Ann) was made in 1993, and a seventh book appeared 18 years later, in 2007. This month an eighth volume – Mary Ann in Autumn – is published. It's a return to the heartbreaking and rickety world of Barbary Lane (or thereabouts) and a return, the critics are saying, to his 1970s best.

While Maupin's books have always featured soapy storylines – secret identities, strange religious sects, amnesia – these bubble in a basin of such delicate writing and beautifully flawed characters that for his many readers (one of whom, upon discovering his name was an anagram for "Is a man I dreamt up", wrote to him questioning his very existence) his novels are more like bibles. At a reading recently, a fan told him that when her best friend died, he'd been buried with Maupin's books.

Despite its ties to the 1970s and 1980s, the legacy of Tales of the City continues to grow. The day we meet, the pope has condoned condom use for the prevention of sexually transmitted disease. I ask Maupin how he feels about this inching forward of morals, and he scoffs. "The pope's barbarism is so enormous that all he could do is quit to impress me at this point, so deeply mired in hypocrisy, in bad thinking. I have very little patience for organised religion," he says, "which is mostly dedicated to demonising homosexuality. That shows you right there how little they know about the nature of love, and true spirituality."

Maupin (one-time lover of Rock Hudson, who appears in his novels as closeted film star ____ ___) got married in 2007 to Christopher Turner, the editor of a website he'd been browsing, At their wedding Laura Linney, to whom his new book is dedicated, read a poem –"The Bliss of With" – and at her wedding some months later, Maupin returned the favour. "The last line is 'You are my undoing and my altogether'," he says. "It's about the way someone takes you apart then puts you back together again. It was the loveliest way for Laura and me to be bonded for ever."

"For ever" is a theme he returns to often. Despite having served in Vietnam, Maupin's war, he says, has been with Aids. "I'm distressed to realise that now there are gay men who've lost their sense of self-worth to the degree that they experience a sense of relief when they're infected," he says, "because they think there's nothing else left to worry about. But of course that's really when the worrying starts." The worry, he says, of a "for ever" on medication. "People my age end up looking 90 after a lifetime on meds. But at least it is a lifetime now, if not an eternity".

Maupin has fallen happily into the role of international spokesperson for gay rights, but, at 66, is unafraid to veer endearingly off-message. In More Tales of the City, his second novel, Michael Tolliver (the character Maupin based most clearly on himself) writes a coming out letter to his mother, a letter that's been used as a template by real people countless times since. Referring to this, Maupin explains why he hasn't lent his name to Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign for bullied gay teens, a video project whose contributors include Barack Obama and Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters. "My work has basically been saying it gets better for the last 36 years," he sighs. "I'd be surprised if the suicide rates [that inspired Savage's video campaign] have really increased – the sad truth is that gay kids have been killing themselves for years, and it simply hasn't been reported because of their families' shame. But the thing what Dan's done that is quite revolutionary, is calling upon adults to defend children. For years adult gay folks had been wary of concerning themselves with the plight of gay teenagers for fear of being accused of seducing them. But we're the experts. At least now people are willing to talk about the bullying – that's an improvement." However many decades pass, this will always be the story that Maupin tells, one of marginalised people fighting for a voice.

But then, just when you think you see where his sweetness is spreading, there's the unexpected sharpness, Alcatraz looming on the horizon of a peaceful Californian sea. "On the other hand," he adds, "when I was a child, homosexuality wasn't a constant topic of discussion. Now it's everywhere." He shakes his head. "Even though back then there was great darkness around the subject, the pressure for young people now is greater. It gets better, sure, but it gets worse too."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Author Magazine - An Interview With Armistead Maupin

Friday, December 10, 2010

Five real places that inspired great fiction

Audrey Medina, Special to The Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle December 10, 2010

All good fiction has its roots in the real world. The settings where stories take place have their own charm and character, influencing and changing the fictional folks that inhabit them as well as the readers. Here are places that inspired great works of fiction - but where experiences can be real.

1. Macondray Lane, San Francisco

There was always something interesting going on at 28 Barbary Lane. In Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City," Barbary Lane is home for an adventuresome little band of locals. Listen closely and you might hear Mary Ann Singleton and Anna Madragil chatting in the garden as you stroll along this leafy path on Russian Hill. Explore it on your own or as part of the daylong Real SF Tour ($50). (888) 973-8687,

2. Cannery Row, Monterey

Doc Ricketts' lab, Lee Chong's grocery and La Ida's cafe are a few of the spots that inspired John Steinbeck's portrayal of life along the piers during the Great Depression. Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cannery Row exhibit, or take one of their monthly walking tours. (831) 648-4800, (search for "Cannery Row").

3. Angels Camp

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was the yarn that launched Mark Twain to international stardom. While Twain spent only 88 days in Angels Camp as a miner during the Gold Rush, he managed to find plenty of time to spend in the bar at the Angels Hotel listening to local stories. These days, Angels Camp is a quiet little mountain town, except for a few days every May during the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee. (209) 736-2561,

4. John's Grill, San Francisco

The interior hasn't changed since Dashiell Hammett sat at the bar ordering Sam Spade's usual, "chops, baked potato and sliced tomato." Spade was here, along with some other suspicious characters, on the lookout for the Maltese Falcon. Search for clues in the photos upstairs. 63 Ellis St., (415) 986-3274,

5. The Bishop's Lodge, Santa Fe, N.M.

In Willa Cather's "Death Comes for the Archbishop," the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean Marie Latour, arrived in his new diocese in 1852. He made many improvements throughout his territory, including a small ranch in Little Tesuque Canyon. The story is based on the real life of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. A lot of changes have been made during the last century, and today the Bishop's Lodge is an elegant resort. The little chapel has been saved, as has the stunning beauty of the landscape that Cather loved. Rooms from $149. Bishop's Lodge Road, (800) 419-0492,

This article appeared on page M - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Read more:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Castro LGBT museum reopens

by Matthew S. Bajko

After months of permit delays and last-minute construction issues, the GLBT Historical Society will open the doors to its new exhibition space in the Castro this Friday, December 10.

It has been a little more than a year since the archival group closed its first foray into opening a museum in the city's LGBT neighborhood. Now it is back in a new venue with a five-year lease and two exhibits showcasing numerous items among its collection that have never been shown to the public.

Society officials warn that it is a soft opening and that the installations may not be fully complete until the official opening Thursday, January 13. Nonetheless, they are excited to be back in the heart of the city's LGBT community.

"This is a preview exhibit. The doors are open but there still might be some rough edges. Signage still needs to be put in and some electronic displays may not be fully functional, but we want to let people come in and see" the new museum, Paul Boneberg, the society's executive director, told the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday afternoon.

Several times this year the society has had to push back the opening date for the museum. Boneberg initially had hoped to be open in time for Pride in June but permit issues caused that deadline to come and go.

The society then had hoped to be open last month and has been racing to install the two new shows into the remodeled storefront at 4127 18th Street. As it became clear that the work would not be completed over the Thanksgiving holiday, the unofficial opening date was pushed back to this weekend.

"This last project has been more difficult in some ways than we hoped," acknowledged Boneberg. "We lost six months. We wanted to be open six months ago and we lost it. The permits and build out process was more difficult than we had thought."

The archival group is renting the space from Walgreens, which signed a lease for the vacant storefront in order to expand its specialty pharmacy that is next door. When neighborhood opposition to those plans derailed the project, openly gay District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty helped broker a deal to allow the national drug store chain to share the building with the historical society.

In return for city approval to use a portion of the space for its expansion, Walgreens agreed to pay for the construction costs to remodel the remaining area for use as an LGBT museum. The historical society, in turn, will pay reduced rents during the first several years of its lease. Its first payment of $2,000 was made December 1.

"Walgreens did a wonderful job for us. They absorbed all the costs and hassles with permits and made it so we were able to open," said Boneberg.

New treasures go on display

With $100,000 in city funding to help mount the new exhibits, the historical society has created two brand new shows for the museum's opening. The first is called "Great Collections from the GLBT Historical Society Archives" and was curated by Boneberg.

The show is broken into various categories of the types of material in the archives, from posters and videos to textiles and ephemera. It is meant to educate visitors why various items are collected and preserved by the society.

Included are the pantsuits worn by Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin when they became the first same-sex couple to marry at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 and the kitchen table and personal effects that belonged to the late Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city's first openly gay elected official.

The second, larger show is titled "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History." Founding society member Gerard Koskovich; former board member Don Romesburg; and Amy Sueyoshi, who is on academic leave as a director and associate professor of race and resistance studies at San Francisco State University, curated the exhibit. They took inspiration from items donated in 23 of the last 25 years since the archival group was formed.

"When we looked into the archives to see what to put in the show, we pushed ourselves to tell more interesting and less known stories," Koskovich told the B.A.R. during a sneak peek of the exhibit Tuesday, December 7. "This is all entirely new stuff. The vast majority of documents have never been show in an exhibit at the historical society."

Romesburg said they have attempted to tell "100 years of queer history in 25 years of the archive."
They have also strived to reveal hidden LGBT stories through the objects selected for the 23 different displays. A case inspired by the 1978 sales report for the now defunct Old Wives Tales, a feminist bookstore that had been on Valencia Street, led to the topic of "Consuming Queers: The GLBT Marketplace."

While shoppers can go into any number of gift shops in the Castro and buy gay merchandise, that wasn't always the case, explained Koskovich, yet people often overlook that fact.
"We are bringing forth these hidden histories," he said.

Another display centers around the papers of George Raya, one of the first fulltime gay legislative advocates in the country and the first to roam the halls of the state Capitol in Sacramento in the early 1970s. One black and white photo shows Raya, who lives in Sacramento, with then-Governor Jerry Brown, who will be sworn into a third term in the office next month.

"You know Jose Sarria was the first gay political candidate in the country. Both he and Raya were Latino men. It is not normally what we think of," said Romesburg, referring to the long held stereotype that the gay community is made up of primarily white men.

Other panels depict the lives of little known gay pioneers such as Jiro Onuma, the only known gay man to be interned in the Japanese camps during World War II, and Donald S. Lucas, whose work in the 1960s around poverty issues in the Tenderloin led to the creation of the first transgender and LGBT youth organizations.

Due to the large space they have to work with – it is 1,600 square feet – the society is able to display items it could not in its previous galleries. In one corner stands a gown worn by Baroness Eugenia Von Dieckoff (a.k.a. Henry Dieckoff) to the Grand Ducal Ball in 1983.

"It has amazing stitch work and rhinestones but we have never been able to display it because the cape is 15 to 16 feet long," said Romesburg.

Another outfit serves as the closing statement of the show: the dress that Laura Linney's character Mary Ann Singleton wears in the opening scene of the television adaptation of local author Armistead Maupin's novel Tales of the City.

"The object is meant to symbolize that both gay and straight people come here with the same hopes of coming to San Francisco and making your dreams come true," said Romesburg.

With the opening of the new exhibit space, the historical society is one step closer to achieving its dream of having a permanent home to showcase the city's LGBT treasures and forgotten stories.
"I think of this as our first real museum. The space was constructed to our specifications," said Koskovich.

The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. It is closed Mondays and Tuesdays; general admission costs $5.

Due to support from the Bob Ross Foundation, named after the B.A.R.'s founding publisher, the museum will be free the first Wednesday of the month throughout 2011.

Armistead Maupin's "Mary Ann in Autumn" WNYC Interview

Armistead Maupin, author of the bestselling Tales of the City series, discusses Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth book in his series. It tells the story of Mary Ann Singleton, who left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Twenty years later, she’s returned to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Armistead Maupin interview

By Paul Burston
Thu Dec 2 2010

Armistead Maupin talks about love, sex, marriage and 'Mary Ann in Autumn'

Armistead Maupin was at a book signing recently when someone suggested that he resembled a gay Santa Claus. 'That's okay,' he replied in his cheery way. 'My husband thinks Santa is hot!'Afterwards, as he sat on a low chair and people queued to get their books signed, it was difficult to know whether to kneel before him or sit in his lap. It's a measure of just how loved the author is. When British readers voted for their favourite gay books a few years ago, 'Tales of the City' came out on top. So it's cause for celebration that he's back with a new addition to the series, 'Mary Ann in Autumn'.

The new book is described as 'A Tales of the City Novel', though your book, 'Michael Tolliver Lives', also featured characters from the series.
'I wanted to write a novel about a gay man who had survived Aids, and was now dealing with middle age and beyond. And it dawned on me that I had just such a man in my repertoire, readers knew his history, and I might be able to explain his perspective through a first-person narrative. Some of the critics, especially the British ones, took it as an exercise in self-indulgence. The accusation was that I'd highjacked my own character for my own autobiographical purposes. But there's not a single character from “Tales of the City” that I haven't used for my own autobiographical purposes, including DeDe and Mona and Mary Ann!'

And now Mary Ann is back again, older and wiser.
'I've always drawn on my own experience. And the critics and readers who cringe over the notion that these characters who once made them feel so youthful are now old, are in part revealing their own fears. I think it would be in abysmal bad taste on my part to ever regret growing old. There are too many friends that I lost years ago that would have loved to have come along for this ride, and were not able to do so. I get very angry at gay men of my generation who complain about ageing. My job is just to be the best version of an old gay fart that I can be!'

Is there less awareness of HIV now?
'We had a dear friend who seroconverted the day before yesterday. A young man - in his forties. His emotional state made it quite clear that he knew what sort of road he had ahead of him. It's not easy with the meds, and it's not a given that you're going to survive. There are plenty of people my age who look like they're 80 now, because of those meds. And, more tellingly, feel that way. So it has always been, and it remains, a question of personal responsibility and self-love, I think. You have to love yourself enough not to condemn yourself to that experience. And it saddens me to think that a lot of gay men still aren't at that point.'

Illness features in the new book, but there's also love, sex and social networking. Like Mary Ann, you're on Facebook.
'Facebook and, most recently, Twitter. Twitter is a bore.It annoys the hell out of me. There are actual conversations going on on Facebook. I love a good thread, and I am the dominatrix of my thread! If somebody gets on there and starts tossing “bitch” and “cunt” around every time a woman's mentioned, they're gone. I like the civility of Facebook. There's something very old fashioned about it, I think. People swapping ideas, gently apologising if they're misunderstood. But there is something very creepy about it too, obviously, which is acknowledged in my book.'

What do you say to those who regard gay marriage as an attack on the family?
'Why are you attacking an institution if you're merely attempting to expand it? That's the question. Isn't that merely a way of people defending their own homophobia? They don't want to put a blessing on it. Well, tough shit, because they're gonna have to. They're gonna have to allow the right for people to love each other the way they want to, and choose the partners they want. Because that's what basic human freedom is about.'

'Mary Ann in Autumn' is published by Doubleday at £17.99

Monday, December 6, 2010

Desert Island Disks: Armistead Maupin

Here is an interview from Desert Island Disks from November 30, 2007.

Click here for the interview

Writing Mary Ann by Armistead Maupin

Barnes & Noble Announces December “More In Store™” Offers Available Only on the NOOK™ Family of eBook Readers

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading

New York, New York – December 1, 2010 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced the December line-up for the “More In Store™” program for the NOOK™ family of eBook Readers. Available only in Barnes & Noble stores and only on NOOK, the free More In Store program offers NOOK customers new, exclusive content from bestselling and new authors, special offers and savings, and weekly bestseller and new release lists.

Barnes & Noble’s free in-store Wi-Fi service makes access to More In Store content easy. With just a simple tap of the NOOK “shop” button, customers can explore content from such authors as Dean Koontz, Tony diTerlizzi and Armistead Maupin, and in-store promotions including special savings and free café offers. More In Store is updated weekly and each new feature is available for four weeks on a rolling basis. Once a customer downloads the content to their NOOK, it is saved to their digital locker and can be accessed at any time.

December 26
Writing Mary Ann by Armistead Maupin
Bestselling author Armistead Maupin is widely known for his wonderful, humorous novels of life in a tight-knit and eccentric San Francisco building. In this exclusive essay for Barnes & Noble, Maupin discusses the return of one of his most troublesome characters: the delightful and difficult Mary Ann Singleton.

Armistead Maupin's visit to the Armistead Centre in Liverpool.

Special thanks to Tim for this wonderful interview.

For more information on the Armistead Centre, visit

One Minute With: Armistead Maupin, novelist

Interview by Arifa Akbar
Friday, 3 December 2010

Where are you now and what can you see? I'm on a train on my way from London to Liverpool and there are English fields flying by the window and the sun is coming out. It's a milky view of an England that doesn't change.

What are you currently reading? Alexander McCall Smith's 'The Charming Quirks of Others' and Christopher Isherwood's diaries from the 1960s. He was an old friend of mine so it's like having him back for Christmas.

Choose a favourite author and say why you like her/him I would say Christopher Isherwood again because of the clarity of his voice and ever present wit. I have re-read 'A Single Man' many times, just to remind myself what beautiful writing looks like.

Describe the room where you usually write It's a garret at the top of my house and it overlooks a forest. There are a few books there but it's relatively pristine. I don't have a view from where I write. There's a studio couch where I can conk out.

What distracts you from writing? Facebook, occasionally television shows, walking the dog.

Which fictional character most resembles you? I don't identify with fictional characters. I've been trying most of my life to identify with myself!

What are your readers like when you meet them? They are generous, kind
, emotional, and many identify with the mistresses in my work. There's a lovely, familial feeling in the room when I go to readings. It's pretty evenly balanced in Britain between gay and straight.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature? Ian McKellen because of his generosity, and his complete willingness to sacrifice his time to the causes of gay rights, which is utterly inspirational. At the moment he is travelling around the schools of Britain telling kids they can live their lives honestly and openly.

Armistead Maupin's novel, 'Mary Ann in Autumn' is published by Doubleday

Friday, December 3, 2010

Be among the first to buy tickets to Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City!

A new page has been added to Armistead Maupin's website, courtesy of the ACT, to pre-order tickets to Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City musical debuting at the American Conservatory Theater next Spring.

To visit the Armistead Maupin page, click here

Join the TALE Chasers at to get exclusive first looks, messages from the creative team, and much more.

American Conservatory Theater: A limited-time offer to buy TALES tickets now!

Be among the first to buy tickets to
Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City!

Dear Tale Chaser,

After an exciting workshop production this fall, the countdown to Tales has officially begun! And now you have an exclusive, limited-time opportunity to purchase tickets—before they go on sale to the general public.

Click here or call 415.749.2228 to order your tickets! Don't delay—sales end at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, December 9.

The capstone of A.C.T.'s 2010–11 season, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City will unleash an exuberant celebration of the irrepressible spirit that continues to define our City by the Bay. Performances begin May 19.

Interested in bringing a group of 15 or more? Enjoy free tickets for group leaders and amazing discounts! Call 415.439.2473 for details.

Don't miss out on the magic of this unprecedented theatrical event—and your chance to see Mary Ann, Mona, Mouse, and Mrs. Madrigal take the stage. Lock in your seats today!

See you at the theater!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Seeking to Create Buzz, Tales of the City Musical Will Get "Flash Sale" Dec. 5-9

By Kenneth Jones
30 Nov 2010

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) will put single tickets for the world-premiere musical Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City on the market in an early "flash sale" offer Dec. 5-9.

The highly-anticipated show from the writer and director of Avenue Q is based on the popular novels (first seen as newspaper-serial columns) by Maupin, who wrote of life, love and friendship in pre-AIDS San Francisco. The limited-time opportunity to purchase single tickets begins 10 AM Dec. 5 and ends 11:59 PM Dec. 9. A.C.T. performances in San Francisco are expected to sell out quickly, and single tickets will not be available for purchase again until January 2011.

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City will play May 17-June 19, 2011, at the American Conservatory Theater at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco. No casting has been announced, but it's thought that Tony Award winner Betty Buckley will play Anna Madrigal, a part she performed in the recent workshop of the show.

According the not-for-profit A.C.T., "Three decades after Armistead Maupin mesmerized millions with his daily column in the city's newspapers, detailing the lives and (multiple) loves of Mary Ann, Mouse, Mona, Brian, and their beloved but mysterious landlady, Mrs. Madrigal, his iconic San Francisco saga comes home as a momentous new musical from the Tony Award–winning creators of Avenue Q (librettist Jeff Whitty and director Jason Moore) and the musical minds behind the glam-rock phenomenon Scissor Sisters (composers Jake Shears and John Garden). The capstone of the 2010–11 season, A.C.T.'s world premiere musical adaptation of Tales of the City unleashes an exuberant celebration of the irrepressible spirit that continues to define our City by the Bay."

Tickets will be available on the A.C.T. website at

"Tale Chasers," members of A.C.T.'s email fan club, will be able to purchase tickets beginning Dec. 2. To join "Tale Chasers" — and to receive exclusive first looks, presale ticket information, and other special offers — visit


Development of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City was supported by the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center during a residency at the National Music Theater Conference of 2009.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Armistead Maupin Interview

Thanks to Tim Brunsden for bringing this to my attention.

Armistead Maupin, celebrated author of Tales From The City talks to Lou Muddle on his new novel Mary Ann In Autumn ;After the intimate first-person narrative of Maupins last novel, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn marks the authors return to the multi-character plotlines and darkly comic themes of his earlier work. Among those caught in Mary Anns orbit are her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michaels transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the indefatigable Anna Madrigal, Mary Anns former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Armistead Maupin opens next chapter in Tales of the City series

Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth instalment in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, was released earlier this month and he told The Hour why his story has kept going for thirty years.

26 November 2010 16:50 GMT

The literary character Mary Ann Singleton first arrived in San Francisco 34 years ago and her life since then has been immortalised by author Armistead Maupin. Originally serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Tales of the City series that she starred in has now become eight novels and been dramatised on screen. After twenty years away from ‘Frisco, she finally makes her return in Maupin’s latest work, Mary Ann in Autumn.

Now 57, she has aged as her creator has aged. Like her, he first arrived in San Francisco young and naïve. There he found a city far more comfortable with his homosexuality than he was, and ultimately he flourished there. For Mary Ann, the city wasn’t such a success:

“She left in kind of a bad way,” Maupin told The Hour. “A lot of people didn’t like the character by the end of the sixth book because she’d left her husband and child to go pursue a career in television.
“It didn’t pan out for her so she ended up stranded in suburbia in Connecticut, but now she’s had a couple of major life crises that have brought her back and the only person she feels she can talk to still is her old best friend Michael Tolliver, a gay man who’s her age, in his late 50s.”

When Maupin first began writing about his eccentric cast of characters he never could have imagined the success they’ve now had. As well as his eight novels, his stories have been dramatised as TV series and Scissor Sisters front man Jakes Shears is now collaborating with Tony award-winning writer Jeff Whitty to produce a musical.

Although his success has taken him by surprise, Maupin did have his suspicions why the characters had so much resonance:

“It’s very hard for me to analyse my own work but I think there’s a sense of family, a sort of modern urban family. I use the term you’re ‘logical family’, as opposed to your ‘biological family’, meaning the one that you make for yourself.

“Sometimes that includes members of your biological family but not always. I think that people respond to that: the notion of a big inclusive household where people are chasing love in all different directions and connecting with each other and making friends with each other in the process.”

For Maupin, one of his best friends is American actress Laura Linney, who starred as Mary Ann in the TV mini-series of his first three novels. When he married his partner two years ago, she came to the wedding and read a poem that had figured in their courtship. Four months later, she asked him to read the same poem at her wedding.

“We’re very bonded and I think we always will be,” he said of her. “Mary Ann in Autumn is actually dedicated to her.

“She serves as a kind of literary aid for me now because I hear her voice when I write the character and that makes it so much easier. I used to hear my own and I couldn’t quite separate myself.”
Mary Ann in Autumn is out now.

Video interview at the link

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tale Wagging

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mary Ann is back where she belongs

FICTION | Returning character to San Francisco brings return to form for Maupin in ‘Tales of the City’ novel

November 14, 2010

As a longtime fan of the “Tales of the City” books, Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco saga, I prefer to believe that 2007’s Michael Tolliver Lives never happened.

The first book in the series, Tales of the City, was set in 1976 and opened with seemingly naive Cleveland native Mary Ann Singleton turning her back on Ohio to take an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane. As far as I am concerned, the series ended with 1989’s Sure of You. That’s when Mary Ann packed her bags and abandoned her husband, adopted daughter and friends for a job in New York.

Until now.

Mary Ann in Autumn is a return to form, with Maupin once again returning to a third-person narrative (he shifted to first-person in Michael Tolliver Lives). The resulting book is a heart-warming and life-affirming tale that should please fans as well as those new to the series.

After a 20-year absence, Mary Ann returns to San Francisco. Now 57, she’s facing her autumn years with much uncertainty and returns to the playground of her youth to lick her wounds. Her once-promising television news career went bust and the once-independent Mary Ann spent the last decade or so as a housewife — until her Republican husband had an affair with her life coach, of course.

Despite being abandoned by Mary Ann 20 years ago when he began to get sick from AIDS, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver welcomes her back with open arms, even offering her shelter in the detached, one-bedroom cottage on his property. Tolliver’s much younger husband, Ben, is less than enthused.

Meanwhile, Anna Madrigal, the pot-growing, transgendered matriarch of 28 Barbary Lane, where Mary Ann and Mouse both once lived, has survived a stroke and is now a “transmother” to her pre-op, transgendered caregiver, Jake Greenleaf.

Rounding out the cast, Mary Ann’s estranged and bitter adopted daughter, Shawna, is in a committed relationship with a pier clown named Otto. After Shawna befriends a dying homeless woman named Leia, she sets the novel’s mystery into play as she attempts to discover who Leia was and thus lend some meaning to the deceased woman’s life.

As the mystery unfolds, the plot threads begin to connect in surprising ways, uniting strangers and long-lost friends and family. This has always been Maupin’s biggest point. Though we may feel isolated and alone while living in big cities like Chicago, New York or San Francisco, we cannot shuck off our inherent humanity and — at least in Maupin’s books — the world continually reminds us that we are all connected.,mary-ann-in-autumn-maupin-111410.article

Author Armistead Maupin: Jake Shears has done a great job on my musical

 Andrew Williams
16th November, 2010 

Author Armistead Maupin, 66, is best known for his Tales Of The City novels which started as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976. He returned to the series after an 18-year break in 2007. The latest book in the series, Mary Ann In Autumn, is out now.

One of your new characters is a female-to-male transsexual. Did you have to do much research?

One of my friends is a transman who was enormously helpful when I was writing the character of Jake. He told me to ask whatever I wanted. I write about what’s going on around me.

Were you surprised by anything he told you?

I got a clearer vision of what it must be like to be someone who was born female but who now wants to be a man loving a man. That’s the situation with my character, Jake. He goes to gay bars looking for male companionship but doesn’t have the one thing a lot of the guys in the bars are looking for. That makes my own romantic quandaries pale by comparison. Gender and sexuality are completely fluid and independent of each other. I’ve been exploring that notion since 1976.

Weren’t your publishers unsure if they wanted to include the character in the last book?

That’s true. I had the same problem with Anna Madrigal, the male-to-female transgendered character, 34 years ago when Tales Of The City was written as a newspaper column. They refused to include the fact she was a transsexual until the column had been in print for at least a year. They thought it was possibly threatening to their readers.

Is it depressing you’re still facing the same issue 30 years on?

Publishers always trying to read the minds of the public. I had an editor and agent tell me I went too far in the last book when I got specific about gay sex. There were probably people who were put off by it but I don’t care. I’ve always tried to keep the story true to my own emotional landscape.

Have things got better or worse for the gay community in the US since you started the books?

It’s got both better and worse. People forget 35 years ago the subject of homosexuality was taboo. Now the subject is open and stories about people fighting for their rights are covered in the news. But as a consequence churches and politicians have become organised against it. In some ways they’ve made life more of a torture for gay teenagers today.

Is that what’s behind the recent spate of gay teenage suicides in the US?

Yes, it’s not about stopping bullying in schools it’s about stopping bullying in the pulpits. There’s a YouTube campaign called It Gets Better in which gay adults address gay kids. They’re saying ‘enough is enough’ and they’re supporting young people. Parents who rail against homosexuality in front of their children are, in the cases where those children are gay, committing child abuse. They’re torturing their children over something they can’t change.

Why’s the situation more extreme in the US than it is in Britain?

The fundamentalist sects don’t have a grip on your country the way they do on ours. You wisely threw out your Calvinist witch hunters 400 years ago but they landed in the US and have never gone away.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I write and re-write endlessly before I proceed with the next paragraph. Writers’ manuals often tell you to spill it all out and go back and re-write it but I don’t.

How’s the Tales Of The City musical going?

They’ve just done the first presentation and it’s set to open in June 2011. I wasn’t familiar with Jake Shears’s music before he was proposed as composer and he’s done a great job.

What’s been your most extravagant purchase?

I bought a small antique woven Native American basket for my husband for his birthday. The tribe that lives near us in the mountains made it and the dog ate it.

Mary Ann In Autumn published by Doubleday is out now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bee Book Club: Armistead Maupin brings latest 'Tales of the City' to Sacramento

By Allen Pierleoni
Published: Monday, Nov. 15

SAN FRANCISCO – The ancient wooden gate is so impenetrable and intimidating that it could be guarding a fortress. It's at sidewalk level on a hilltop cul-de-sac in Parnassus Heights, and bears a two-digit address.

It's not "28," but it's close. The street name isn't Barbary Lane, either, but it might as well be.

Novelist Armistead Maupin lives in the century-old house behind the gate, and he constructed 28 Barbary Lane. The address is the best-known one in the Bay Area and far beyond, that of a fictitious apartment house he "built" in 1974.

That was the year the residents of 28 Barbary Lane – a mixed crew of emotionally laden gay and straight characters – debuted in the San Francisco edition of the Pacific Sun, under the title "The Serial." It moved to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976 as "Tales of the City," told in installments that ran weekdays.

Now, 36 years later, Maupin's eighth "Tales" title has been published. "Mary Ann in Autumn" is The Bee Book Club's choice for November.

Behind the gate, Maupin's home is crowded with bookcases, framed art, pottery, family photos and mementos. In the back garden, above a hot tub, is a green street sign that reads "Barbary," a prop from the "Tales of the City" TV miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney.

Maupin shares the three-story house with his husband, Web developer Christopher Turner, and Philo, their Labrador retriever-standard poodle hybrid. The bouncy "Labradoodle" sleeps in "the world's most luxurious dog crate in our bedroom. It comes with its own Tempur–Pedic mattress," Maupin explained. "We couldn't give him any less than what we have."

In retrospect, two things about "Tales" are clear: Maupin had great fun writing the epic, and the books are very much a history.

"One of the thrills of writing installments for a newspaper was I could react in the moment to what was going on," said Maupin, 66. "When Anita Bryant launched her anti-gay campaign in 1977, the next day I had (character) Michael Tolliver's mother writing from Florida, telling her gay son she'd joined Anita Bryant's campaign. I've been telling the same story in real time since 1974. So (the 'Tales' books) serve as time capsules."

"Mary Ann in Autumn" (Harper, $25.99, 287 pages) resumes the story of "drama queen" Mary Ann Singleton and her longtime gay friend, the affable (and HIV-positive) Tolliver, 20 years after Mary Ann left San Francisco to seek a high-profile career in New York. Now she's returned to the city, where, of course, things have changed.

"Certainly when we revisit our pasts we have to confront the consequences of not only our actions, but our inactions," Maupin said. "It's sometimes the things we didn't do that we regret the most. For me, it (involves) people I wish I'd talked with longer, who I now see as a link to a past I'll never be able to connect with again. I'm looking at all that through Mary Ann's character."

'Tales' opened a door

In the day, the "Tales" serializations and the three novels to come out of them were shocking because they opened the door to the gay lifestyle unseen by most straight people.

"There were gay people who complained that I revealed too much about the so-called subculture," Maupin said, "but I'm not writing about gay people – I'm writing about everyone, for everyone.

"Still, I'm very proud (that) I didn't keep gay life in some precious little bubble. I said, 'These are people who live in the same building as you.' "

The "Tales" books are known for their wit and satire, but Maupin presented a more serious agenda, too.

"There's a lot of frivolity, yes, that's how I was able to drive across issues such as AIDS, lesbian mothers, gay-bashing and the gay- marriage movement. The first fictional death from AIDS appeared in 'Babycakes' in 1983 (after a friend died of it). My rule from the beginning has been to follow my own life, and I go wherever it takes me."

That path led him to document the stories of the GLBT community – gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender – in San Francisco.

"Sometimes history can be better told through art than by historians," said Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. "Gay men read Armistead and say, 'Here's our true story. It's being told by someone who understands it.' "

"Armistead has been a crusader who has supported many (gay) causes both in fiction and reality," added Teddy Witherington, executive director of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. "In the stories, Michael Tolliver was a member of the Gay Men's Chorus for a while, so in some of the programs (to our shows) we actually put in his name because he was such a role model for us."

A news background

Maupin grew up in Raleigh, N.C., and still has traces of a Southern accent. His father was a trial lawyer; his mother, an actress.

"I come from a very verbal background," he said. "Telling stories was natural to me and extremely comforting, because it was the one thing I knew how to do better than the other kids."

After getting a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Maupin served as a naval officer in Vietnam. Later, he settled for a while in South Carolina and worked at the Charleston News & Courier (the Post & Courier since 1991), and then applied to the Associated Press.

"They offered me San Francisco, which I thought was wondrous," he recalled. "I was 26. I packed everything into a white Opel GT and drove across the country."

The newcomer felt "instant acceptance from the straight friends I was making. That made me lighten up on the spot. My heart opened up, my creativity opened up, and I started imagining the stories I could tell about such a place. I was smart enough as a writer to know that the (gay lifestyle) hadn't been covered in a popular milieu, such as a newspaper."

Maupin quit the AP after five months "and promptly found myself jobless for several years. I took odd jobs and was happy to do anything that would allow me to live here."

Those jobs included temporary office work through Kelly Services, handing out fliers on street corners, selling Thai silk at a shop on Union Street, and unloading mannequins from a warehouse "with a guy who closely resembled Lenny from (John Steinbeck's) 'Of Mice and Men.' "

Chronicle picked up 'Tales'

Were thoughts of "Tales" percolating? Was he taking notes at cocktail parties and in Castro Street Laundromats?

"I had the vague notion that I wanted to write about an address that I could make famous," he said. "I've always been intrigued by the connection between literature and our sense of geography. As I child visiting Atlanta, I wanted to look for Tara (the mansion in 'Gone With the Wind'). I knew it was a fictional locale, but I sort of wanted to know where it would be anyway. Instead, I saw Peachtree Street."

Maupin's breakthrough came in 1976, when editors at the Chronicle approved the "Tales" project.

"They said, 'We want six weeks' worth in advance,' which meant 30 episodes. I flew into panic mode," he recalled.

Later, when Maupin prepared to write the first "Tales" book, "I put all the (newspaper installments) on the floor and rearranged them. Some story lines were lost, others were improved. They were basically the first draft of my book."

Things are going well for Armistead Maupin. His upcoming book tour will take him to cities along the West Coast of the United States and, later, to England, Scotland, Australia, France and Germany.

The debut of a musical version of "Tales of the City" is planned for a June opening at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

"I'm doing so little of the work on it," he said. "I get to watch."

And what about "Tales," the ongoing saga? Will the former residents of 28 Barbary Lane continue their dramas in the city so loved by and identified with their creator?

"Yes. No. I don't know yet, but I think so," he said, punctuating the comment with his signature loud laugh. "That's the honest answer."

Armistead Maupin's eight-book "Tales of the City" series has been called "a glittering and addictive comedy of manners (showing) the follies of urban life." They have been translated into

15 languages and have sold more than 6 million copies


Maupin's bibliography is composed of the "Tales" books – "Tales of the City" (1979), "More Tales of the City" (1982), "Further Tales of the City" (1982), "Babycakes" (1984), "Significant Others" (1987), "Sure of You" (1989), "Michael Tolliver Lives" (2007), "Mary Ann in Autumn" (2010) – and two stand-alone novels, "Maybe the Moon" (1992) and "The Night Listener" (2000), made into a movie starring Robin Williams.



What: The author will give a presentation, answer questions and sign copies of "Mary Ann in Autumn" and his other books.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St., Sacramento

Information: (916) 321-1128

Cost: The event is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. "Mary Ann in Autumn" is $25.99. Get 30 percent off the title through Thursday at these bookstores: Borders, Barnes & Noble, Book Lovers, Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento, Avid Reader in Davis, Time Tested Books, Underground Books, Carol's Books, Hornet Bookstore at CSUS, the UC Davis Bookstore and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.

In retrospect, two things about "Tales" are clear: Maupin had great fun writing the epic, and the books are very much a history.

Read more:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back to the City

Armistead Maupin
Published: November 12, 2010

In 1974, Armistead Maupin, then a young journalist, covered a story on a Safeway supermarket in San Francisco that had become a popular pickup spot. Local customers, gay and straight, were not, as it turns out, shopping only for wheat bread and alfalfa sprouts, nor were they willing to talk to a reporter. Undaunted, Maupin created his own spokeswoman: a fictional young Midwesterner named Mary Ann Singleton.

So taken with her was he that he began publishing short stories about Mary Ann and her friends, which in 1976 were serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle. That serial would go on to become a best-­selling, internationally beloved multi­volume opus — one that begins when the naïve Mary Ann arrives in San Francisco for what she thinks will be a short visit, falls in love with the city and decides to stay. She takes a room in a boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane, which is run by the droll and dignified Anna Madrigal, whose warmth and good will create among her tenants a sense of family. One of those tenants is Michael Tolliver, a young gay man who becomes Mary Ann’s closest friend and one of the series’s central characters.

In 1978, the series was published as a novel, “Tales of the City,” and was embraced by readers for its frank and funny depictions of contemporary San Francisco. Several more “Tales” followed, ending (or so Maupin claimed) in 1989, with the sixth installment, “Sure of You,” in which Michael is dealing with his own H.I.V. diagnosis and Mary Ann, hoping to trade in her big-fish, small-pond life as a local television host (“Her face was on the side of buses”) for larger celebrity on the national stage, takes a job in New York, deserting her husband and daughter, deserting San Francisco, and deserting Michael.

But if Maupin was done with “Tales,” it wasn’t done with him. In 2007, he came out with “Michael Tolliver Lives,” which he insisted was not a new installment but rather an “intimate and simple novel of daily life in the Castro.” Soon, however, Maupin recanted, admitting not only that the book was the next “Tales” installment, but that he had yet another still in mind. Et voilà: the tenderhearted and frolicsome “Mary Ann in Autumn.”

It is the late fall of 2008, and Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco after an absence of 20 years. Much has changed. Anna Madrigal’s once diversely populated and lively apartment house on Barbary Lane has been bought by new owners and renovated into a single-family dwelling, and every trace of Mary Ann’s bohemian life seems to have been erased. The once creaky but always welcoming gate now has a lock and buzzer, and a security camera has been installed under an eave, preventing Mary Ann from snooping around even for nostalgia’s sake.

“It all goes so fast,” Mary Ann thinks. “We dole out our lives in dinner parties and plane flights, and it’s over before we know it. We lose everyone we love, if they don’t lose us first, and every single thing we do is intended to distract us from that reality.”

This sense of the ephemeral engulfs Mary Ann, who at 57 has, as the title suggests, entered the autumn of her life — a life that has been recently and abruptly rocked by two devastating crises. Having nowhere else to turn, she reaches out to Michael Tolliver, the friend she once abandoned. But in returning she’ll also have to face her estranged daughter, Shawna; her old friends DeDe and D’orothea; the young transgender gardener Jake Greenleaf; Anna Madrigal, now in her 80s; and Michael’s young and spirited husband, Ben — all of whom have reasons to mistrust her motives for coming back. Longtime readers may wonder if, in Maupin’s Californian cosmology, Mary Ann isn’t having some serious karma visited upon her, what Shawna calls “bad juju.”

To say more about Mary Ann’s predicament would be to reveal the many secrets and surprises that drive the novel’s elaborate plot, which involves Facebook and old photos, dogs and blogs, pedophilia and drug addiction, and some restless ghosts from Mary Ann’s past. It is precisely the elaborate plotting, however, that is the novel’s weakest part. For under­neath all the rigging and staging, all the convenient coincidences and improbable encounters, Maupin has built Mary Ann a solid narrative, has given her not only a story, but an entire life.

Mary Ann’s is a tale of long-lost friends and unrealized dreams, of fear and regret, of penance and redemption — and of the unshakable sense that this world we love, this life we live, this drama in which we all play a part, does indeed go by much too fast.

Joseph Salvatore teaches writing and literature at the New School. His story collection, “To Assume a Pleasing Shape,” will be published next year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Mary Ann in Autumn"

Karl Arbuthnot               

Of all of the icons of contemporary gay culture, few figures remain as poised and revered as celebrated author Armistead Maupin, and fewer still retain the timeless affection that is bestowed upon Tales of the City, Maupin's groundbreaking, sprawling series of books first published as a newspaper serial in 1974.

Mary Ann in Autumn, the eighth novel in the long running saga, is a welcome return to form after a near 20 year hiatus was resurrected in 2007 with the eagerly awaited Michael Tolliver Lives. Return to form, however, may be a little inaccurate, as Maupin is – extraordinarily - rarely off it in the first place.

The latest chapter in the eccentric soap opera sees the beloved Mary Ann Singleton, now a gracefully ageing 57 year-old, return to San Francisco with important news for Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, who is now cosily loved up with his charming husband Ben and in business with the adorable and wickedly named trans-gendered gardener Jake Greenleaf. The happy domestic set up is only crowned by the addition of Roman, the epileptic dog.

Taking refuge in the happy-couples backyard cottage, Mary Ann attempts to rebuild her life and return to the simpler lifestyle she abandoned when she up and left for New York to pursue a dubious short lived affair with fame and celebrity. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter, popular outspoken sex-blogger Shawna, becomes tangled up in the mysterious life of a homeless woman whose fate will ultimately lead to some astonishing revelations. Overseeing proceedings within the new age, barking bohemia is, of course, the legendary Anna Madrigal, landlady and Buddha-esque wise woman of 28 Barbary Lane.

With Mary Ann in Autumn, Maupin has not only kept up with the series’ consistent line of lightweight humour balanced with poignant observation, but also managed to reflect a delicate and subtle passing of time. The narrative still weaves effortlessly in and out of the numerous characters’ stories, and the charming details as characters pass each other unknowingly in and out of each others' lives before gradually being pulled closer and closer throughout the novel is handled with such deft aplomb that at no point are you ever in doubt that you are in the hands of a true master story-teller.

The tale is also so bang up to date with Mary Ann’s induction to Facebook and other, weirdly current pop-culture references, that this latest addition feels so vital and relevant to now. And while the drama propels the story along, it is the quieter dialogues and glimpses into the internal narratives of our leads that really bring home the true theme of loss and regret, and the overwhelming feeling that it’s never too late to change anything.

As ever, Maupin remains faithful not only to his art but to his readers and, more importantly, to the characters he created and so obviously adores, instilling in all of them their own individual charms and neurosis and always imbuing them with a quiet dignity that is all too rare in modern fiction. We can only hope that Mouse, Mary Ann and Anna grace us with their presence again very soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Armistead Maupin's quirky yet engaging characters still speak to him

His book 'Mary Ann in Autumn' is the first full-fledged 'Tales of the City' novel since 1989.

By David L. Ulin Los Angeles Times Book Critic
November 9, 2010

Reporting from San Francisco —

The house that "Tales of the City" bought sits on the slope of a small hill not far from Golden Gate Park, tucked between Haight-Ashbury and the Sunset. It's behind a gate, up a flight of outdoor stairs, greenery lush and a little wild. The atmosphere, one imagines, is akin to that of 28 Barbary Lane, the fictional Russian Hill apartment building where the first six of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" novels took place, magical and mysterious and full of history, much like San Francisco itself.

This, of course, has always been the point for Maupin, who began the saga in 1974 as a serial in the Marin County-based newspaper the Pacific Sun before moving it to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976. Three and a half decades later, the characters he invented — Michael Tolliver, Mona Ramsey, Mary Ann Singleton and the irrepressible Anna Madrigal — have become part of the mythos of the city, their adventures re-created in three miniseries and commemorated on bus and walking tours.

"It's an enormous privilege," Maupin says, his voice still carrying the trace of a Carolina drawl after nearly four decades in the Bay Area, "to have created characters who are in the consciousness of readers who remember the history of those characters, and who can remember a time in their lives when those characters intersected with their own feelings."

Maupin has long been something of an elder statesman, in both the literary and the gay community. "It's very easy to forget now," he reflects, sitting in his cozy front parlor, "how invisible gay life was 34 years ago. What I was watching, the flowering of this young culture and the personal liberation I was feeling, all became fodder for the work."

And yet, at 66, he finds himself in a place that feels a lot like renewal; his new book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," is the first full-fledged "Tales of the City" novel since "Sure of You" appeared in 1989.

It's not that Maupin ever lost sight of his characters: There were those miniseries and some minor references in his 2000 psychological thriller "The Night Listener." But in the wake of "Sure of You," he immersed in other projects, including the Hollywood novel "Maybe the Moon" (1992), and it wasn't until 2007's "Michael Tolliver Lives" that he considered a full-scale return.

"I wanted to do a personal novel about a gay man who had survived AIDS," Maupin says. "I realized I had just such a man in my repertoire and I decided that it would make sense to write through his eyes."

Written in the first person and focusing primarily on a single character, "Michael Tolliver Lives" does not have the multi-voice quality of a true "Tales of the City" novel, Maupin insisted at the time. Now he acknowledges, "I was testing the waters to see how people felt about the series. What really drove me back was the urge to do that multi-character story line again."

Equally important was the appearance of the saga's other characters. "All the characters auditioned for me one at a time," Maupin jokes. "I held off longest with Mary Ann. I was still a little grumpy about her. She got much nastier than I expected before I was finished with the series. Basically, I think, she was the incarnation of my darker, more ambitious side. And she was leaving San Francisco at the same time I was leaving the series. So I could talk about my own so-called betrayal in that way."

Mary Ann has always been at the center of "Tales of the City"; the first book opens with her decision to stay in San Francisco, in the middle of an eight-day vacation, and the sixth ends as she, now a local TV talk show host, decamps to New York. It's only fitting, then, that "Mary Ann in Autumn" should be the story of her reconnection — with the city, with her old friends, with herself.

"I wanted a little redemption," Maupin says of her, "but not a tremendous amount." The idea was to explore a more complex kind of reconciliation, in which old hurts can be forgiven but not entirely set aside.

Mary Ann is not without her own problems: She has ovarian cancer and is on the run from a failing marriage and a collapsed career. More than that, she is aware of all the people she has hurt, even if she doesn't quite know how to make it right.

"The past doesn't catch up with us," she thinks at the beginning of the novel. "It escapes from us." If "Tales of the City" was, initially anyway, a story of hope and possibility, "Mary Ann in Autumn" refracts those themes through the lens of aging, offering a more constrained view of the universe, in which certain things cannot be resolved.

That, to be sure, has always been part of the aesthetic; "I've never written an end in my life," Maupin says with a laugh.

On the one hand, this is in the nature of a serial, which relies on a succession of cliffhangers, from episode to episode and book to book. For Maupin, it's the fun and a necessary corollary to having written the first five novels for the newspaper, at the rate of five columns a week.

Yet even more than that, he points out, "You don't wrap up life."

Indeed, the "Tales" saga may be most remarkable for Maupin's ability to reflect, through his characters, the open-ended world in which they live. "I came out in the serial," he recalls. "Michael's coming-out letter to his parents was my letter to my parents. They were subscribing to the Chronicle and I knew that they would know that I was talking about myself."

Three books later, in "Babycakes" (1984), he began to write about AIDS.

The death of Michael's lover, Jon Fielding, in that book was, Maupin notes, "the first AIDS fatality in fiction" and a source of considerable controversy. "A lot of gay people," he remembers, "wrote me and said, 'How dare you spoil our light morning entertainment with your personal agenda?'"

All these years later, Maupin is still mixing the personal and the political. Next May, San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater will premiere a musical of "Tales of the City," featuring, among other things, his coming-out letter set to song. Meanwhile, "Mary Ann in Autumn" appears to signal a new engagement with the serial. "It's a little scary for me," Maupin admits, "now that I feel committed to the notion of doing it for life."

But why not? It's a vivid time to be writing, with gay marriage a leading indicator of what Maupin calls "the great civil rights movement of the 21st century" and outreach efforts such as "It Gets Better" galvanizing a community.

"What makes the campaign so brilliant, so revolutionary," he enthuses, "is that gay adults have behaved the way adults should behave towards kids, namely to lead the way. We've been afraid to do that for years because 30 years ago, Anita Bryant said gays are out to recruit your children. So everyone kept a respectful distance rather than simply acting as mentors and saying, 'I know what it's like, I was there.'",0,3314818.story?track=rss

Monday, November 8, 2010

Age cannot weary Armistead Maupin and his Tales Of The City

Mark Smith
8 Nov 2010

The San Francisco saga continues with Mary Ann In Autumn.

A funny thing happened to Armistead Maupin the other night. He was sitting in a theatre in San Francisco watching the musical version of his Tales of the City novels (“the whorehouse number is extra- ordinarily dirty!”) when, quite suddenly, he realised what had changed for him since the first novel in the series was published.

Back when he was writing that first book in the 1970s, Maupin was totally obsessed with the stories of Mary Ann and Michael, the twentysomethings who come to San Francisco looking for boyfriends and fun and a new kind of family. Thirty years on, as he sat in that theatre, however, Maupin realised his allegiances had shifted and he was now wrapped up in the lives of his older characters, Edgar and Mrs Madrigal. It’s what happens, he says, when you write a series of novels over 30 years and you get old yourself.

The morning after that little moment of revelation, I call Maupin at his home in San Francisco to talk about the latest Tales book, Mary Ann in Autumn, and it’s obvious these thoughts of ageing and change were very much on his mind as he wrote it. Both Mary Ann in Autumn and the first novel begin in much the same way: Mary Ann arrives at a house on Barbary Lane in search of change. But as she stands outside the house at the beginning of the latest book, she sees how the place has changed, how she has too and realises this old house, and this old city, aren’t going to work their magic a second time. She’s a girl, says Maupin, who can no longer be saved by geography.

Talking about that moment, Maupin says it was inevitable that the themes of ageing and change would burrow themselves into the novel because of where he is in his own life. “It’s what emerges from a 66-year-old writer,” he says. “Things speed up as you circle the drain and older people become more aware of it. I was thinking the other day: when one is young, one thinks that one’s grandparents are old forever but when you reach their age you realise how fast time is passing. It makes me wish I could go back to the elders of my family and talk to them again.” And then, just when things are beginning to sound a bit melancholy, Maupin does what he does best and adds in some humour. “I have a handy reference point on ageing,” he says. “My husband Christopher is 21 years younger than I am.”

Maupin famously met Christopher Turner after seeing a picture of him on the internet (a story he fictionalised in Michael Tolliver Lives) and in the new book, Mary Ann launches into her own exploration of the web. This leads to a brilliant plot twist that you only realise at the end of the book has been hurtling towards you like an out-of-control San Francisco tram, but what it also does is allow Maupin to put Mary Ann back at the centre of the books and retune the image many Tales readers have of her as a bit of a B.

“I wanted to humanise Mary Ann a bit more and show something of her own process,” he says. “I make no apologies for any of the characters. They are who they are and nobody’s supposed to be perfect and that’s one of the reasons the stories appeal to people. They are all just one big mass of foibles.”

In Mary Ann’s case, all the foibles are still there, but the big baddie she has to face in this novel is fear: she’s coming out of a marriage, she’s been diagnosed with cancer, and she’s going back to face some of the people she let down, and the fear of it all is in danger of consuming her. “How did I get like this, afraid of everything and everyone, even myself?”, she asks at one point.

Maupin says this fear Mary Ann experiences is woven into what he’s saying in the book about ageing: just because you get older doesn’t mean you get less afraid. “I remember one of the eerier nights of my childhood,” says Maupin. “I was walking past my grandmother’s room and I heard her crying in her sleep. She was 80 at the time and it came as a great shock to me that she had anything to cry about at that point. We carry these childhood demons with us all our lives.

“Mary Ann also has some sense that she’s committed wrong by some of the things she did not do. They were acts of omission, not commission, and I think we all have that.”

In case you’re worried that all this contemplation of ageing and fear makes Mary Ann in Autumn a melancholic book, don’t be. It’s sad in places but there is also plenty of Maupin’s humour too, including a stupendously rude joke about The Sound of Music. There is also, of course, another ingredient that has made the Tales books so successful: the portrayal of how gay life is, and can be.

“I hear from people today who read Tales when they were 13 and struggling with their own sexuality and it was the first time they had ever seen anything that told them they were as good as anybody else,” says Maupin. “That’s been going on now for 34 years so I’m proud I’ve been able to say that.”

Maupin is delighted too that there has been so much progress on gay rights since the first novel, but says more is needed and is disappointed that Obama has still not repealed the US policy on gays in the military which requires them to hide their sexuality (“We know Obama’s a decent guy but he’s curtailing it at every turn for political purposes”). He also says that, despite the progress, there are still gay kids who need to come to San Francisco to change themselves, just like Mary Ann and Michael did, and just like Maupin himself once did. Mary Ann may say in the latest novel that geography can’t change her, but it took a while for Maupin to realise that.

“All my life I’ve had this sensation that if I just took a trip somewhere, there would be this wondrous new life waiting for me, but in fact we carry our lives with us. Gay men get in the habit early on of fixing our lives by moving – sometimes you need new people around you to be yourself and pick your friends one at a time. We’re all born into this big biological mould that we think we have to love until we realise we should be auditioning them just as we audition the rest of our friends.”

It’s partly by writing the Tales novels that Maupin has realised all this – and it’s not the only time he has used the books to work out issues he himself is facing. He’s often, he says, used his writing to cope with, and explore, his life, and he’s still doing it with the latest novel, and with the musical version. In fact, the musical has driven home one of the themes that’s present in every one of the novels: the joy and surprise of coincidence and connection in our lives. “I look for patterns in my life through my social connections and when I find them that’s beautiful to me,” he says. “Coincidence is my only religion.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Armistead Maupin on his continuing Tales of the City series and returning to the Homotopia Festival

Nov 5 2010 by Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo

WHEN he was 14, Armistead Maupin went looking for Scarlett O’Hara’s house Tara in Atlanta. “I knew it was a fictional creation but I wanted to know where it MIGHT have been,” he says.

Gentleman that he is, the 64-year-old has let me into this little secret to make me feel less of an idiot for telling him I once went looking for Barbary Lane – the fictional San Francisco setting for his hugely successful Tales of the City books.

“Well there is a street that inspired it,” he says. “Sometimes news crews ask me to go over there and talk, and we invariably find people there with little guidebooks, looking for it.

“If I were to run into you I’d be very happy because I think it’s the supreme compliment!”

No need to cross eight time zones to meet the man himself though, as the creator of Anna Madrigal, Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton is heading for Liverpool and this month’s Homotopia festival.

He previously appeared at Homotopia – the city’s festival of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender arts and culture – in 2007, reading from his book Michael Tolliver Lives at St George’s Hall.

This time the setting is slightly different; Armistead will read sections from his latest ‘Tales’ novel Mary Ann in Autumn while the already sell-out audience enjoy high tea at the London Carriage Works.

“If it involves cake I’m all over it!” he exclaims, laughing when I tell him he’ll be sitting in splendour on a raised dais. “As long as I don’t have to hold a cup of tea while I do it – I’m not that co-ordinated.”

Mary Ann in Autumn, out next week, revisits one of his core Tales of the City characters 20 years after she left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a TV career in the Big Apple.

Now a couple of calamities have driven her back to the West Coast and she finds temporary refuge in a cottage at the end of Michael Tolliver’s garden.

Armistead first started writing his Tales of the City as a newspaper serialisation in the 1970s before they were turned into a series of best-sellers.

But at first it wasn’t all plain sailing, and he admits he owes a lot to British publishers and public who caught the ‘Tales’ bug early on, thrusting him into the mainstream literature market.

“I owe a very great deal to my homeland. I think I can call it my homeland – my grandparents were British,” he tells me from the home in San Francisco he shares with husband Christopher Turner.

“My grandfather, who it turns out was not married to my grandmother, would be 150 if he were living today.

“When my tour goes through Bath I’m going to meet a gentleman who’s 93 and is also his grandson. We share a grandfather neither of us ever met.”

It’s a colourful tale that, as it unfolds, would make a fantastic basis for a story – or an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?

His grandmother, who was the inspiration for his character Anna Madrigal, was an English suffragist, actress – and palm reader.

“When I was 14 she said: what do you plan to do with your life dear?” he recalls.

“I said ‘I’m going to be a lawyer like my daddy’, and she closed my palm and patted it, and looked the other way.”

Armistead Maupin appears at Homotopia on November 24. For full details on the festival programme, visit

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Armistead Maupin Interview on KQED Public Radio

Tue, Nov 2, 2010 -- 10:15 AM

Armistead Maupin, author of the acclaimed "Tales of the City" series, joins us to discuss his latest installment, "Mary Ann in Autumn."

Host: Michael Krasny


Armistead Maupin, author of nine novels, including the six-volume "Tales of the City" series, "Maybe the Moon," "The Night Listener" and, most recently, "Michael Tolliver Lives"

'Mary Ann in Autumn,' by Armistead Maupin

October 31, 2010
By Jane Juska
Special to The Chronicle

Mary Ann in Autumn

A Tales of the City Novel

By Armistead Maupin

(Harper; 287 pages; $25.99)

The Castro in 2010 isn't nearly as much fun as Russian Hill in 1978, and Collingwood Street cannot compare with Macondray Lane. To make matters worse, Anna Madrigal in Armistead Maupin's new book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," is old - when we first meet her she is lying on the kitchen floor having what she calls a little snooze - and Mary Ann Singleton is 57. Lord, what would Laura Linney think of that?

I'm not as much fun now either as I was in 1978, when I read the serialization of "Tales of the City" in The Chronicle. Gay sex, gay drama, gay tragedy and gay fun - funnier than straight fun - made each excerpt a must-read. With each one I felt smarter, more sophisticated and a whole lot wittier. Here were people I would never meet who welcomed me into a world I would never know but who suffered and laughed and worried and enjoyed life just like the rest of us, or like the rest of us were trying to do, not so easy with all those straight people interfering.

With the exception of Anna Madrigal, everybody back then was becoming; in "Mary Ann in Autumn," almost everybody is. Is is never as much fun as becoming. Take it from one who is closer in age to Mrs. Madrigal than to Mary Ann, although so far I do not nap on the kitchen floor.

So what does Maupin offer us to blunt the pain of aging, in its own way a sort of becoming? In addition to Facebook, he offers us the kind and gentle Michael Tolliver, Mary Ann's best friend both then and now, whose advice and sympathy she has come to seek as a wounded wife buried for too long in Connecticut. Michael, too, has been wounded by time and life: the death from AIDS of many friends, a shrinking economy, the changes in his almost-60 body. He cannot help but worry about the age difference - 28 years - between him and his husband of three months, and clings to the possibility of building a cabin in the Sierra on a bit of land he'd bought in better times.

Amid all this he is a loyal and steadfast friend to Mary Ann when she reveals her decision to leave her husband. It seems that Bob Straightallover (not his real name) has gotten himself caught on Skype being serviced by Mary Ann's life coach - in Venice. Back in Darien, Mary Ann watched the whole thing and then packed. She needs a friend to listen to her marital woes, and she needs a friend to help her through her recently diagnosed cancer.

Right here in San Francisco, through thick and through thin, is Michael. And just down the Peninsula is her old friend, DeDe, who speaks of herself as "a pushy old lesbian," in Chanel, no less. And here are Anna and ultimately Ben and just possibly Shawna, the adopted daughter Mary Ann left behind when she defected to Darien. She is surrounded by love and hope; she simply must recover.

Kind of soapy, huh. But good soap, 99 44/100 percent pure. Whip it up with Michael's new husband, Ben, young and a roamer; add Jake, a transgender in the making - talk about becoming! - and a Mormon missionary named Jonah Flake, and you've got a concoction that is irresistible. Whoops, let's not forget the lesbians; sometimes only a woman will do.

The year 2010 has been a grim one for many people inside books and out, no matter their gender or their sexual orientation. Just how grim shows up in the character of Leia, a woman Shawna finds in an alley in the Tenderloin, earning the only way she knows how the money she needs for heroin. Leia is not only a victim of the drug but also of necrotizing fasciitis, "the flesh-eating disease."

Leia turns out to be linked to the other people in the book - mystery eventually solved - but she is of more interest to the reader as a real human being rotting on the streets of San Francisco. Maupin's creation of her is fine; we feel queasy at the sight of her filthy self waving down cars on South Van Ness for a handout, and hopeful that medical help will come in time. We feel angry and helpless and frustrated. Goes with 2010.

But this is not a book that calls us to action. This is a book about middle-aged people struggling with the autumn of their lives and about young people struggling with the spring of theirs. At different points in the novel, they all become aware that they need each other - "the genderless neutrality of the human heart" - to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and to have a good bit of fun along the way. After all, they live in San Francisco, where you can go to Pier 39 and watch all those seals.

Nota bene: There are two dogs in this book and a clown. No cats, though.

Jane Juska of Berkeley is the author of "A Round-Heeled Woman" and "Unaccompanied Women." E-mail

(C) San Francisco Chronicle 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mary Ann in Autumn Facebook Banner

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tales in the House

by Dan Rubin

Throughout the month of October, while Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet rehearsed on the sixth floor of A.C.T.’s studios at 30 Grant Avenue, two floors up the creative team of A.C.T.’s upcoming season finale, the world premiere of a new musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, busily worked with a remarkable cast to develop the book, music, lyrics, and choreography for what promises to be the event of the Bay Area theater season.

The production features a libretto by Tony Award–winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of the glam-rock band Scissor Sisters; it is directed by Tony Award winner Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek: The Musical) and is choreographed by Larry Keigwin.

Unlike rehearsals, theater workshops are not intended to culminate in a fully staged production; instead the goal is to help the creators develop a piece of writing, such as a script or score, that is still in draft form. The plan for A.C.T.’s Tales workshop was to get the libretto and music ready for next spring, so that the cast and creative team can begin rehearsals for the world premiere production—which begins performances at A.C.T. in May—with a nearly finished text and score.

The cast of the workshop of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City at A.C.T.’S San Francisco studios. Photo by Ryan Montgomery
“A new musical is one of the hardest things in the world to create,” says director Jason Moore. “Having the time to be together and to try stuff out with actors who interpret the writing is such an important process for any musical, but particularly for one that has this scope.” A.C.T. is committed to developing original large-scale, multidisciplinary productions, especially projects that are immediately relevant to San Francisco—like 2007’s After the War and last season’s dance-based The Tosca Project. “A big part of what we do here,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff, “is celebrate our community. We believe that gorgeous things locally become gorgeous things globally. It is an incredible honor for us to work on this material—which was born in San Francisco—and launch it with this potent combination of artists.”

Armistead Maupin, author of the original Tales of the City newspaper series in the San Francisco Chronicle and the beloved novels it inspired, was himself in attendance for the first day of the three-week developmental workshop. “Thirty-seven years ago,” he told the assembled Tales team and A.C.T. staff, “I was working as a mail boy at Hoefer, Dieterich & Brown down on the Barbary Coast, the ad agency that became the model for Halcyon Communications in Tales. I was desperate to get out of there, and I had heard through the grapevine that there was a job opening in the promotions office of A.C.T. I was just over the moon because I thought, ‘Oh you would get to work in an office, but it’s theater. It would be perfect for me!’ I didn’t get the job, so I had to go out and write a book to find a way to bring myself back to A.C.T.”

“It is thrilling to be at this institution,” continued Maupin. “It is the perfect place for Tales of the City, because it did grow from this little, local thing that was laughed at and protested. To think that it has lasted all this time. I’m hearing from people who are coming from Paris to see the show. It’s very exciting.”

The world premiere production of Tales is scheduled for May 17–June 19, 2011. Single tickets go on sale in January 2011. To lock the best tickets and the best prices, subscribe to A.C.T.’s 2010–11 season.

Support Tales of the City by becoming a member of the Tales of the City Circle. For more information, visit or call 415.439.2353.

For exclusive first looks, presale ticket info, and special offers, join Tale Chasers, A.C.T.’s email fan club, by visiting