Friend and confidant

Looking back to when Quentin Crisp turned eighty was the time we met. I was working at Paul Stuart (the gentlemen’s shop on Madison Avenue at 45th Street) doing the display windows. I had been to the movies one weekend to see Resident Alien with my soul mate (cell mate) Edwin. Seeing QC on film and in New York City, I realized he was out and about.

So on one Monday morning I picked up the phone and dialed 212.254.0508 (he was listed in the phone book). A voice answered, “Hello.” I asked if this was “Quentin Crisp” and the crackly voice answered, “Yes.” I then asked QC if he would like to come to Paul Stuart for a formal tea in the Display room.

QC said he would have to check the “Sacred Book”. So he seemed to leave the phone. His voice coming back saying he was free on the date we choose. “Fantastic!” was my reply, giving QC the time and place. I hung up the phone thinking to myself, This is going to happen.

The date arrived and QC was met at the entrance to Paul Stuart and escorted through one shop to the Display room. The room where all the window things happen was now a worktable draped with paisley fabric all set like a fantasy tea, with china cups, pot, silver spoons, cookies, cakes, sweets and a special chair for Quentin.

The formal tea was a hit as QC drank his tea and told amazing tales of England and New York. And it turns out that one of his first jobs was a window dresser. It all seemed to fit together as the display team and some guests listened to every word QC uttered. QC was on stage . . . doing what he did best: Being Quentin Crisp. As the tea came to an end, we hurried QC past the shop windows and tried to get a taxi. No luck. But a black limo pulled up and said it would take QC to the East Village. I jumped in with Quentin and had a magical ride to 46 East 3rd Street as QC talked the whole trip. I knew we would be friends forever.

Leaving QC, I walked home rethinking this man with his black brim hat, purple hair, tattered shirt collar, dressed to the nines. We had made plans for brunch the following Sunday. So Sunday came and I took Edwin to brunch and QC was a surprise. (Funny how a week ago you see someone in a film and the next week you are enjoying his company at brunch!) That day someone came up to QC and wished him a Happy Birthday. He said it was eightieth.

So began our time together. QC was out and about writing his column for two gay newspapers in those days. So Edwin and I helped him fill his pages with the theater, movies, parties, dinners, photo shoots, a scotch or two or some port (of course). Always listening to QC stories and adventures. QC could make a cab ride an event or waiting at a bus stop, where someone once told him, “I see you got it all on today!” In Quentin’s write ups that followed, I became “The Display King” and Edwin was my constant companion.

Ten years later, every once in a while I take out QC writings and remember it as it was—QC’s love for New York City—“In New York City, everyone is your friend. In London no one is.” … to his “the moment I saw New York, I wanted it” … and the fact that “I came to New York when most people my gage were going into a nursing home”!

I have collected all of Quentin’s books (even Chog), his movies, his recorded performances and photos, and have a kind of QC corner in my home. Edwin added to the collection with a signed original Al Hirscheld of Quentin Crisp in all its details and magical lines.

Thinking back just before QC went to London for his last one-man show, he really did not want to make the trip. But QC always kept his date, and lived by the Sacred Book.

Now he would be 100 years old, and he would only say, “I am not worthy.” !

P.S. Happy 100 QC

Read about designer John Galliano's tribute to Quentin Crisp,
thanks to Tom Beebe who was at the show!

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Photograph copyright © by Jill Lynne. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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