Friday, February 25, 2011

Maupin Basks in Autumn Days

Kylie Northover
February 26, 2011

FOR almost four decades, the much-loved characters from the Tales of the City novels have aged in real-time along with their creator, American author Armistead Maupin, and his fans.

In the latest, eighth, instalment, Mary Ann in Autumn, published late last year, Maupin takes a nostalgic tone, but fans of the seminal gay author should not read this as an indication that the end is nigh.

Maupin, who appears at the Athenaeum Theatre tomorrow as part of the Wheeler Centre's Big Gay Week, says the nostalgia in the latest book is ''a function of my age, not the fact I'm trying to wrap up anything''.
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Maupin, 66, also rejects criticism that has been levelled at him that the new book is a treatise on the ''taboo topic of gay ageing''.

''I've been talking about ageing forever, and I don't consider it a taboo,'' he says. ''I consider it a privilege to be an ageing gay man because so many of my friends weren't able to come along on the journey with me.

''It's not fashionable to be old and gay but I don't give a f---! It rankles me to hear that there are gay men who moan about being old. It's OK to groan about aches and pains but to devalue the privilege of being here after all these years is quite obscene.

''I lost my best friend two weeks after his 40th birthday and I still miss him terribly. I feel those people - the people we lost - are being dishonoured when that talk comes up.''

Maupin has famously chronicled gay life (he was the first author to broach AIDS) and the notion of non-biological ''families'' since his Tales series began as a newspaper serial in the San Francisco Chronicle in the mid-1970s. And while Maupin has written novels that aren't part of the series, it's for the Tales that he is most feted, with ardent fans who tend not to merely like his work but fervently adore it.

During our phone conversation, several have tweeted the author to tell him he is now a specialist subject on the British quiz show Mastermind.

''I've made it now,'' he says, laughing, ''although someone just sent me the questions and I flunked a couple of them! That fan clearly knew more than I did.''

Given his global fan base, which increased after the 1996 TV mini-series based on his novels, it's hardly surprising.

''The books went viral before there was an internet - people passed them around and it spread on its own,'' Maupin says. ''That's why I have a certain amount of confidence in the story after all these years. People share it with each other and make it a part of their own family structure.''

Ask any fan what they think of Mary Ann, one of the Tales core characters, and arguments are bound to ensue.

''Part of why I wrote the new book is because I got tired of people asking why Mary Ann became such a bitch,'' Maupin says. ''And because I put a certain amount of my own emotional life into that character, I take it personally!''

He admits there's something of himself in all of the main characters. ''I have been DeDe, I relate to that character a lot; she's a reformed debutant and so am I. I grew up in a very conservative, socially aristocratic family in North Carolina where they thought it was the most important thing the world,'' he says.

''Then Brian's a failed lawyer, and I dropped out of law school. Also, Brian's womanising was roughly the equivalent of my man-chasing back in the '70s.''

His fans, too, see themselves in various characters.

''People tell me they read the books over the years, in real-time, and connect it with incidents in their own lives. That's the rare privilege I've had - to be able to tell a story in real-time over 34 years.''

He has also, albeit reluctantly, become something of a spokesperson for gay rights, partly as himself and partly as the character he identifies with most, Michael Tolliver.

(That character's coming-out letter to his mother, in More Tales of the City, has been used as a real-life template by countless others to reveal their sexuality to family and friends.)

''I squirm a little when people say I'm a spokesperson - I'm only speaking for myself,'' he says. ''Although 35 years ago it was rare for anybody to speak about it all.''

Maupin married Christopher Turner just before California's Proposition 8 was voted in. Maupin met Turner, who is 27 years his junior, after seeing him on a ''specialist'' dating website.

The story goes that Maupin saw his photo on the site, then saw him in the street, and chased him down the block, calling out ''Didn't I see you on''

''Yes, that is absolutely true,'' Maupin says. ''It might have been the uncoolest thing to say but as he actually owned the website he was very happy.''

The pair were married earlier in Canada in 2007 (a marriage recognised only in British Columbia), and refuse to refer to each other as ''civil partners''.

''Elton John has a 'civil partner'; I have a husband. We have so many serious problems in the world and that people spend even 10 minutes fretting about this is preposterous to me,'' Maupin says.

''It says to me they don't understand the first thing about love if they don't understand how it can happen to a variety of people in a variety of configurations.''

There are still a few tickets left to see Armistead Maupin in conversation with Noni Hazelhurst tomorrow at 7.30pm at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just announced: Armistead Maupin to be keynote speaker at Seattle PrideFest 2011

Seattle PrideFest just announced that best selling author Armistead Maupin will be the keynote speaker at Seattle PrideFest at Seattle Center on Sunday, June 26. The writer of the beloved “Tales of the City” series of novels focusing on the complicated lives of a group of queer and straight friends living in San Francisco is also a fierce advocate of LGBTQ rights. Mr Maupin was recently in the Seattle area back in November of last year, promoting the 8th book in the “Tales” series, Mary Ann in Autumn and he’s also gearing up for the world premiere of the theatrical musical version of the first two novels in the series which debuts May 18, 2011 at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco with music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden of Scissor Sisters and a book by Avenue Q writer, Jeff Whitty.

Seattle PrideFest will announce more artists as they are booked, including performers for this year’s big Saturday, June 25th concert, and artists for the Red Party events also scheduled for that Saturday night.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Darker Tales of the City

Written by Andrew Shaw | 07 February 2011

Author Armistead Maupin is coming to Australia to read from his latest book in the 'Tales of the City' series and meet his fans. He spoke with Andrew Shaw about his new, darker take on life in the city.

Armistead Maupin's career is the stuff of legend. Starting out as a newspaper serial in the Seventies, his Tales of the City books about the residents of a boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane, San Francisco became international bestsellers.

Maupin wrote through the eyes of several characters – eternally optimistic gay man Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver, strait-laced, 20-something Mary Ann Singleton, the eccentric landlady, Anna Madrigal, who welcomed new tenants by taping joints to their doors. Although not all his characters are gay, over the years Maupin kept up with changes in the queer community – the impact of HIV/AIDS, the rise of American conservatism – and his characters aged with him.

Maupin, now 66, still lives in the city that made him famous – and vice-versa – with his husband, Christopher Turner. Recently, when San Francisco became home to America's first gay museum, he was called on to donate an exhibit. He chose a dress that actress Laura Linney, playing Mary Ann, wore in the 1993 Tales TV series. Coincidentally, Maupin's latest book, Mary Ann in Autumn, begins with Mary Ann, now 57, returning to San Francisco to stay with 'Mouse' and catch up on old friends after a long absence. It's the eighth in the Tales series.

In 1989's Sure of You, Mary Ann left San Francisco to marry a wealthy, conservative New York CEO. The accusation from some was that she had 'gone Republican', and it's been suggested Maupin is trying to redeem her character with the new book.

Maupin laughs. "She didn't exactly 'go Republican', but she moved to New York, which is almost as bad in the eyes of San Franciscans. I don't think anyone can be 'redeemed'... In the end, we are who we are. But I wanted people to understand her a little bit more in this novel."

Maupin's style is often compared to Charles Dickens', who also had his early stories serialised. In Mary Ann in Autumn, one of the characters is warned about getting too close to a mentally disturbed street person, telling her that life isn't "quaint and Dickensian".

"I'm sort of making a joke on myself there, to tell you the truth," Maupin laughs. "Dickens never shied away from the grim details of life himself. In this book I've probably embraced that a little bit more than I have in the past with the homeless storyline."

In fact, this Tales book is much darker and more disturbing than any previous novel, edging closer to Maupin's non-Tales thriller, The Night Listener. There is one extremely disturbing turn of events in Mary Ann that will leave many readers of the series gasping.

"It's about as dark as you can get," Maupin admits. "I was thinking last night that the line I hear most often from people and that you can see time and time again on Amazon is: 'It was like visiting with old friends!' And I thought, 'Well, I've written a book that involves cancer, pederasty, child abuse and homelessness and people still think it's like visiting old friends.'"

Maupin shocked his readers in the early Tales story when it was revealed Anna Madrigal was a transwoman. Now in her 80s, Anna is one of the most loved characters in gay literature. But she cannot live forever, and Maupin is not relishing writing her death scene. In fact, it clearly upsets him.

"Yes, I am a writer and yes, I probably have a certain understanding... God... I'm stammering here... I really don't know how to answer you here. It kind of disturbs me, to tell you the truth. I have had people moan and groan at public gatherings when the possibility even arises. But I can't keep her around forever unless I move into the vampire genre."

In the latest book, Michael Tolliver and his 21 years younger partner, Ben, have a loving, open relationship, guided by trust and communication. "I hope it comes across that way," Maupin says of their bond. "It reflects some of the neurosis that occurs when an older man is with a younger man, but it also reflects the solidity of the relationship. But I don't adhere to any strict definition of what 'marriage' means. That's what freedom's about.

"I know gay people who are strictly monogamous and I know gay people with relationships so open you could fly a 747 through them. I think Chris and I have something somewhere in between. But all of it relies on staying open and loving with each other.

"Even in a loving relationship it's easy to get wrapped up in your own concerns and fears that you lose track of the other person: 'What was your day like?' is an extremely important question."

Maupin and hubby Turner are married in the eyes of the State of California – they got in before Prop 8 closed the window of opportunity. Maupin disagrees that Seventies activists would be horrified at the way some gay men are embracing marriage. "I am an old school activist from that time, and I see it as the final fulfilment of our civil rights – or one of them," he argues.

"Marriage is defined by whatever two people are married – we make our own rules. I want to be recognised in the eyes of my government in the same way that anyone else is. In part because it has financial benefits but mostly because I don't want to be told that my love is any less than other, straight couples. Supporting marriage is part of my continuing defiance."

Maupin is looking forward to his appearances in Melbourne and Sydney, where he will be reading from his book, and answering questions from the audience. He finds the public appearances enjoyable, despite the expectations people may have when meeting 'Armistead Maupin'.

"I'm generally able to live up to people's expectations of me," he laughs. "I don't mean that immodestly, I just mean that there's nothing particularly complicated about me. It's not like I'm some porn star they want to fantasise about. I'm just a storyteller and that's what they get when they meet me."

An Evening with Armistead Maupin, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Thursday, March 3, 2011. Bookings: (02) 9250 7777,

Friday, February 4, 2011

OUT in America In Their Own Words, a portrait of LGBT Americans From a News Release

Premieres June 2011 on PBS
New York, NY, January 24, 2011 — Emmy award-winning director Andrew Goldberg and PBS, in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting, today announced a new national PBS special, OUT in America. The one-hour film will make its national premiere on PBS in June, in conjunction with National Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.

OUT in America is an uplifting collection of unique, transformative stories and inspiring personal narratives told through the lens of the country's most prominent LGBT figures and pioneers, as well as many average, yet extraordinary, citizens from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities. The program weaves together diverse stories - from urban and rural America, from the heartland to New England, from San Francisco to Harlem. Deeply moving and often humorous, viewers will get a glimpse of awakenings, first crushes, unlikely soul mates, intimacy and liberation. While separated by circumstance and upbringing, the film's subjects are all united in their shared experiences of self-discovery, coming out, pride and love as well as a triumph over adversity and a true sense of belonging. Against the backdrop of historical events, each also traces their own hopes, struggles, influences and contributions towards advancements in equality and broad social change.
"The first of its kind, OUT in America is a more realistic portrait of LGBT life than almost anything seen on TV before," says Goldberg. "So often, media coverage of LGBT life in America is polarizing or exploitative of controversy and homophobia, or alternately LGBT individuals are presented as caricatures of a stereotype. OUT in America however focuses on empowerment, diversity and relationships."

The special features interviews with and anecdotes from cult TV personality Andy Cohen (Bravo TV Host), famed Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin, country music star Chely Wright, humorist Kate Clinton, as well as legendary LGBT activists James Hormel (philanthropist), Urvashi Vaid (former Executive Director of the pre-eminent civil rights organization National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, recently cited in Out Magazine's list of most influential men and women in America) and Dr. Patricia Hawkins (psychologist renowned for her early work with HIV patients). Other influential lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people in the film include: Reverend Peter Gomes, who came out on the steps of Memorial Church at Harvard; PJ Serrano, Puerto Rico's first openly gay and HIV positive political candidate; a transgender police lieutenant, who transitioned while on active duty; a Muslim lesbian from the country of Mauritius; a gay rancher; the organizer of Capital Queer Prom; a Latino rapper; a West Point graduate and former Captain in the US Army; a drag queen; a great-grandmother; and "The Harolds," a giddy bi-racial couple in their 80s, who reminisce, in unison, about their five decades together. "We've had a good life. We still love each other, which is rare in most cases…it just gets better."

OUT in America examines the ways in which LGBT Americans obtained a sense of freedom from social oppression by reconciling conflicts between their sexuality and other prominent factors in their public lives such as faith, family and service in the military. The film addresses the complexity of an individual's tendency to embrace multiple identities across lines of race, gender, class, religion, age and nationality. While much progress has been made to emerge gay life from underground to mainstream over the past 50 years, many caution the urgency for political and social activism is more important than ever, indicating that legality of marriage, the repeal of the nation's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and other legislative victories still don't ensure equality and acceptance around the country or at home in their own cultural, religious and ethnic groups.

With early media coverage and public attention on the community primarily focused on gay men, OUT in America also looks at the patriarchal shift and growing role of lesbians in the rights movements, in particular their visibility in marches on Washington, a division and subsequent alignment with the feminist and women's liberation movements and most significantly, the organizational change and growth in leadership as healthcare providers and activists during the early years of the AIDS crisis.

OUT in America was written, directed and executive produced by Andrew Goldberg of Two Cats Productions. The film was edited by Linda Lamm; Steve Rubinstein served as Associate Producer; and Douglas Chang as Coordinating Producer.

New TALES dates on sale now -- including Pride weekend!

Due to popular demand, Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has already been extended an extra two weeks—now playing May 19–July 3. As a Tale Chaser, you have the first chance to buy tickets for this brand-new set of performances—including fabulous seats during San Francisco's Pride weekend. Act now before they go on sale to the general public this Sunday!

Order online or call 415.749.2228 to be first in line for the best new seats.

Expecting company? Save up to 20% off regular prices with a group of 15 or more. Call 415.439.2473 for details.

Lock in your tickets today, or extend this special offer to friends and family to revel in the most highly anticipated theatrical event of the season.

And don't forget . . .

    Be among the first to order your copy of the limited-edition Tales poster. Available for a limited time only, this collector's item is flying off the shelves. Get one before they're gone!

    This just in! Fans in the U.S. can now watch the beloved television miniseries—based on the first Tales of the City novels—for free on Hulu! Starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis, this captivating adaptation will get you in the mood to see Tales come to life this spring.

    Connect with thousands of fans on our Tales of the City Facebook page. While you're there, become a fan of Armistead Maupin, the legendary author who wrote the best-selling novels that inspired the musical. Pick up his latest Tales of the City novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, to follow the continuing adventures of these iconic characters, and check out his schedule of upcoming events and appearances to see him in person!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

News from the ACT

Limited-edition posters now available!

Tale Chaser exclusive! Be the first to grab this collector's item, featuring the vibrant artwork from the world premiere production. Available for a limited time only.

Get Friendly with Tales on Facebook

Connect with thousands of other fans on our Tales of the City page, where you can swap stories about your own Tales experiences—and discuss when you're coming to see the show!

Fan the man who started it all

While you're on Facebook, become a fan of Armistead Maupin, the legendary author who wrote the best-selling novels that inspired the musical. Pick up his latest Tales of the City novel, Mary Ann in Autumn, to follow the continuing adventures of these iconic characters, and check out his schedule of upcoming events and appearances to see him in person!

The Scissor Sisters go Gaga for Glee!

The musical masterminds behind Tales are on the road and taking the world by storm—in excellent company. Don't miss their March 22 performance featuring Lady Gaga at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Catch them on tour at a venue near you, and join actor Chris Colfer's campaign to get them a guest spot on the award-winning TV show Glee.

Get your tickets!  Save big with a group

Tickets are selling quickly. Order online or call 415.749.2228 today! Groups of 15 or more save up to 50% off regular prices. For details, call 415.439.2473.

Get wired on our website

Go online to go behind the scenes at A.C.T.! Check out savvy backstage perspectives on our blog, get the scoop on acting classes in our award-winning conservatory, and buy tickets to performances—on the mainstage and beyond.

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