LGBT People Of History Part Sixty Quentin Crisp
Quentin Crisp was a one-off. He described himself as an ‘effeminate homosexual’ and would parade the streets covered in make-up and flamboyant clothes often inviting ridicule and attack. Did he care? No! This was in the 1930s!
Born Dennis Charles Pratt 25th December 1908 he was an English write and raconteur. Even today his memory still makes him the biggest gay icon since the 1970s.
He was born in Sutton, Surrey to his father Spencer Charles Pratt and his mother Frances Marion Pratt.
It was in his third decade that he changed his name to Quentin Crisp after he left home and adopted his loud and flamboyant appearance in makeup and lipstick, along with much prejudice from homophobic Londoners.
From a very young age he was teased mercilessly for his effeminate behaviour even at school – Kingswood Preparatory - where he won a scholarship to Denston College, Uttoxeter, England in 1922.
He left school in 1926 and studied Journalism at Kings College in London; though sadly he failed to graduate and went on to take an art class at the Regent Street Polytechnic.
It was around this time that he worked as a prostitute in Soho London. He had an aversion to housework famously saying that ‘the dust doesn’t get any worse after 4 years’ – wonderful man!
During the Second World War 1939 to 1945 he attempted to enlist with the British Army but was rejected by the medical board stating that he was suffering from ‘sexual perversion’ and declared him exempt.
He lived in London during the Blitz and paraded through the city streets during the blackout picking up American GIs. He claimed this inspired his love for all things American.
He published the book ‘The Naked Civil servant’ in 1968.
John Hurt starred as Quentin in the TV adaptation of ‘The Naked Civil Servant’ and catapulted both of them to stardom. Quentin then did a sold-out one-man series of shows in London and then moved to New York City. There he would spend his life attending dinner parties and answering the telephone – he lived on his wits and was in tremendous demand. He also carried on with his one-man shows and appeared in various TV and theatre productions.
He had no time for ‘Gay Liberation’ as he famously asked ‘What do you want to be liberated from?’ he had a wicked sense of humour calling AIDS ‘a fad’ and homosexuality ‘a terrible
disease’. Quentin was an absolute enigma and would hold his audiences spellbound. He would converse with anyone any time. He was very dignified yet never standoffish.
Sting of the Police dedicated his song ‘An Englishman in New York’ to Quentin. Andy Warhol was amongst his friends. John Hurt reprised his role of Quentin in ‘An Englishman in New York’ telling the story of Quentin’s later years in Manhattan in 2009.
Quentin carried on working and appearing until the end of his life. He said he wanted to live to be a hundred with a decade off for good behaviour. He died at the age of 90 in Manchester in 1999! His ashes were sent to Philip Ward in New York City.
He remains perhaps the ‘gayest’ enigma who ever lived.
Ian and Callum.
With thanks to Wikipedia.
Here Are Links To Our Many Other LGBT People Of History Series
- Raiders Of The LGBT Vault - Raiders of the LGBT Vault
Here Is Our New Website Our site brings to light our LGBT History and Biographies Of International LGBT People of the past. Some you will know and some you wont know about. Our aim is to educate and bring the lives of legendary historical LGBT people
- LGBT People Of History Collection
Here are the links to each of the LGBT People Of History hubs that Ian and I have wrote. As mentioned above, each time a new one is published you will find it on here.