A heartwarming story for everyone who loves Quentin Crisp.
This is the story of how I inadvertently caused English gay literary icon and all round troublemaker Quentin Crisp to be the subject of yet more homophobic slurs in public. All my fault. But it turned into something quite beautiful in the end.
I had just immigrated to the USA from London and was living in New York City. I was working a temporary job moving files for a corporate move in Manhattan. We were moving a big company’s files from lower midtown Manhattan to Hudson Street in the lower west side. Like everyone is familiar with the geography of NYC. I say it because our route took us through the famous West Village, gay capital of the gay capital of New York.
I should point out that it was while working on this no brainer job that I became familiar with the blunt. A Jamaican co-worker turned me on. I was fairly baked when this episode occurred.
Our crew leader, and van driver, was a lunatic Puerto Rican named Ronnie who drove us like a madman through Manhattan. And if you were in the passenger seat, as i was this day, wearing a seatbelt was forbidden as being only for ‘pussies’ per Ronnie.
So Ronnie rolls up our van to a pedestrian walkway in the Village. I remember it was raining lightly. And we wait for a creaking old specimen and his tiny Japanese assistant to cross the walkway. She was much shorter than he and was comedically trying to cover the old guy’s head with an umbrella.
It took forever. So long that I got a good look at the old rouge-wearer himself. “Fucking hell! That’s Quentin Crisp!” I exclaimed. Instantly regretting it.
I had seen the amazing movie of his book The Naked Civil Servant starring John Hurt as Quentin. Quentin was famous in the British Isles but had lived in NYC in the 80s. This was
Ronnie immediately demanded to know how I knew this “faggot”. Reluctantly I explained that he was famous in England.
Ronnie began rolling down the window. Oh shit.
Quentin was just a few feet in front of us. “YO, QUENTIN CRIPS, YOU FUCKIN’ FAGGOT!” Ronnie screamed.
What had I done to this poor old man who had suffered enough of this abuse all his life. I felt like shit.
And then something very unexpected happened. Quentin turned to face us. He was beaming as brightly as anyone I have ever seen.
He was delighted to have been recognized by this uncouth denizen of the South Bronx. We had made his day.
“By god the name Quentin Crisp still means something in this godforsaken town!” was written all over Quentin’s glowing face.
We sped off. Quentin and his little Japanese assistant inched their way towards Christopher Street.
New York eh.