The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin (2017) Movie Script

[unidentified male]
Mr. Armistead, you are...
[Armistead] No,
got to start over again.
That's my first name.
[unidentified male] Okay.
Mr. Maupin, I guess you would
call yourself a gay writer.
[Armistead] Not really.
I'm a writer who is gay.
I'm not a gay writer.
I write about
heterosexuals as well.
My writing didn't really
flourish until I came out,
because it's very impossible
to... to keep a huge secret in
your heart and
be a good writer.
I think it's very difficult.
And my whole
success was concurrent with
my coming out sexually.
[Armistead] When I was a boy in
Raleigh, I was afraid of being
locked in Oakwood
Cemetery overnight.
Every Sunday after church when
our blue tailed white Pontiac
cruised through the entrance,
I fretted about the sign posted
above us,
"Gates locked at 6:00 p.m."
What if they lost
track of the time?
That enormous gate would clang
shut and we would be trapped
there all night eating
acorns for survival.
My brother, my sister,
my parents and me,
Cemetery Family Robinson.
Oakwood Cemetery was not just
the landscape of our past,
but also the very
blueprint of family.
My father would eventually lay
out the rules for his children
in a self-published
family history.
One thing is certain,
the old man wrote,
wherever one of these
men met success,
there was a self-effacing
and goodly lady by his side.
Back then, I was still
too young to realize
that there would
never be a lady by my side.
I felt only this
shapeless longing,
an oddly grown up ennui
born of alienation and silence.
Some little boys have
this feeling very early on.
Sooner or later, though,
no matter where
in the world we live,
we must join the diaspora
venturing beyond
our biological family
to find our logical one,
the one that actually
makes sense for us.
So maybe I was beginning to
understand something on those
Sunday afternoons
in the cemetery.
Maybe I sensed that my true
genealogy lay somewhere beyond
these gates
with another family.
That would be scary,
wouldn't it,
to know that my long held
dream of family,
the one laid out by my father,
came with a closing time
far more final than 6:00 p.m.
[unidentified female] Possibly
do you mind signing this?
[Armistead] No. No. No.
That's is what I do.
[Armistead] This is for Nadine.
-[unidentified female]
And Olin.
-[Armistead] And Olin?
[unidentified female]
Yeah. Thank you.
[unidentified female]
I'm so happy to hear that
you're writing your memoir.
We've waited
with baited breath.
[unidentified male] When
that shit coming out?
[Armistead] Seventeen.
I'm just delivering it
[Laura Linney]
Typical of anything that
Armistead is involved with,
Tales of the City is a classic.
And like a classic,
you can pick it up
at any time of your life
and get something different
from it that's just as powerful
and just as meaningful.
And you laugh, and you cry,
and you... you feel close.
You feel intimate.
And that's something
that everyone craves.
[Ian McKellen] Initially,
he was writing for
a San Francisco audience,
his neighbors, his friends,
people he might meet
at a party, or on the street,
or at a bar.
Just San Francisco people.
Oh, no, then when
he publishes a book.
Well, America
discovered it, and...
and then we
discovered it in Europe.
[Ian McKellen] And when
Armistead arrives in London for
a book reading,
he's a Rockstar.
And the audience is very
varied in age and sexualities.
The quirkiness of his writing,
the honesty of it, is something
that just hooks people
and... but all sorts of people.
He loves the world but he
does find it hilariously funny.
[drag queen]
How are you, honey?
[Armistead] Hey, darling.
I'm good.
Books in the Castro, who knew?
[Armistead] I know. Really.
Do people read?
I guess they do.
They read you.
[Armistead] I'm so proud
[inaudible/fades off]
[upbeat music playing]
[unidentified male]
Every morning,
a half a million people
buy the
San Francisco Chronicle.
For a lot of them, the most
important part of this paper
is the inside back page.
That's where you
read Tales of the City.
It also has made a local
celebrity out of its author,
Armistead Maupin.
[Armistead] Not long after I
arrived in San Francisco,
I was writing feature pieces
for a Marin County weekly
called the Pacific Sun.
And what I wanted to do
more than anything was just
whacky stories around town.
A woman friend of mine told me
that I really should go down to
the Marin Safeway and check
out the hetero cruising scene
on Wednesday nights.
So, I went down there,
and sure enough, there
were all these over-dressed
young women and men
kind of cruising
the vegetable aisle.
And I tried to find somebody to
admit that they had put on that
rhinestone studded, brushed
denim pantsuit purposefully
in order to get picked up.
And there was... nobody
would tell me that they
were there for that purpose.
So, I went home completely
frustrated and thought
I'm going
to have to do kind of a
fictionalized version of this.
And I invented a new girl in
town named Mary Ann Singleton.
And at the end of her search
after meeting
a couple of jerks,
she meets the man of
her dreams and he's there
with the man of his dreams.
And the story completely
struck a nerve, especially with
straight women in San Francisco
who are figuring out why there
were so many attractive but
unresponsive men in town.
And the editors at the
Pacific Sun said why don't
you do this every week?
Why don't you follow
her somewhere else?
And so I did for about five
weeks, and it was called
The Serial back then.
While The Serial was appearing,
one of the people
reading it was
Charles McCabe,
who was a senior
columnist at The Chronicle.
And Charles was a brilliant
essayist, very misogynistic,
totally homophobic, but really
liked me, and loved the column.
And he said, I was just
vulgar enough to make it
work in The Chronicle.
And so I asked him if he would
get me an interview with
the editor and publisher
at the time, and
I assured him that I
could write this
thing on a daily basis.
I lied.
[Armistead] I basically lied.
I was panicked.
I thought how on earth
am I going to do this.
And then I got the job.
[upbeat music playing]
[Richard Thieriot]
The Chronicle
was thought of as sort of a
colorful paper, and was trying
to fit what we thought was a
more colorful and vibrant city,
and we had a sense that that's
sort of what most of
our readers wanted.
[Armistead] The day
after I got the job,
I danced down Polk Street.
I actually jumped up in the air
and clicked my heels together,
because I knew that I had
landed on something that was
going to make me famous.
I knew it then, because
I had this subject matter
that wasn't being covered.
[unidentified male] I came out
to visit San Francisco and saw
everyone loving everyone else,
and saw so much openness, and
I just knew I had to be here.
[unidentified female]
We decided that we
had to have more freedom
to be ourselves and we
came to San Francisco.
[Armistead] There was a huge
influx of LGBT people
in the City,
and they weren't
being written about.
[Richard Thieriot]
While it was fiction,
and therefore, not norm
for daily newspaper, that it
would be one of the ways that
you could represent a lifestyle
going on in the City
at the time
that you couldn't if you were
going to restrict yourself to
purely, you know,
normal reporting.
[Armistead] The managing
editor of The Chronicle
was very
nervous about printing
fiction in a newspaper.
So, it had to have
the fictional aspect
in the title and it also
had to indicate that it
was about San Francisco.
And so they sent me five
possibilities, and among those
was Tales of the City.
And I looked at it and thought,
ooh, that's got kind of a
Dickensian ring and so I
said, that's the one I want.
[Frances McDormand] Mary Ann
Singleton was 25 years old when
she saw San Francisco
for the first time.
She came to the City alone
for an eight-day vacation.
On the fifth night, she drank
three Irish coffees
at the Buena Vista,
realized that her mood
ring was blue, and decided to
phone her mother in Cleveland.
[Armistead] Mary Ann was
in many ways, my alter ego,
because I was
the new girl in town, too.
I was looking at this
strange new world in a state of
perplexity, and
wonder, and fear.
She maybe judges people
a little bit too much,
the way I can do
in front of a pleasant faade,
but I'm thinking what an idiot.
Michael Toliver is a romantic,
gay man with a big slut side.
That's me.
I was having fun.
I was really having my
adolescence, and yet,
in each of
our little gay boy hearts,
there was this thought that
you could also be in love.
And I poured a lot of
my grandmother into the
character of Mrs. Madrigal.
My grandmother was
a suffragist who made
speeches all over England.
She read my palm when
I was a little boy.
She was a
wonderful air, fairy,
almost seemingly
psychic old lady.
She was really very dear to me.
I think the
greatest influence on me.
And I told my grandmother just
before she died
at the age of 97,
that I had put her spirit into
one of the characters and I was
so glad to be able to do that.
[Frances McDormand reading]
[Laura Linney] Yes.
[Olympia Dukakis] Good.
You're one of us then.
Welcome to 28 Barbary Lane.
[Laura Linney] Thank you.
[Olympia Dukakis]
Yes, you should.
[upbeat violin music playing]
[Armistead] I was born while
my father was a skipper of a
minesweeper in
the South Pacific.
He actually found out about
my birth through semaphore.
It was something like baby boy
born, mother and son
doing fine.
So, I didn't see my
father for a year and a half.
I was the great great
grandson of a Confederate
general who died at Antietam.
His name was
Lawrence O'Brien Branch.
He was a
U.S. Congressman before
he served in the Confederacy,
and actually made a speech on
the floor of Congress in which
he says that
he will die for the
right to take his property to
the new territories
because they
were passing laws that said
that slaves could
not be brought
to places like New Mexico.
And he said this was socialist
Europeans imposing
themselves on our...
our country and
our sense of property.
And... and he did die for it.
So, we were always told that
we were Southern aristocracy.
We lived in a suburban ranch
house that looked
kind of like a
Howard Johnson's, but
we were very aware that,
you know, we had good blood.
[Jane Maupin Yates] All our
Southern heritage was based
around the Civil War, the
Confederacy, going to
the right church,
and making your debut,
which I was somewhat
forced to do,
saying yes, ma'am, and
yes, sir, and we were very much
in that Southern tradition.
We were taught to be
gentlemen and Southern belles.
My father was a lawyer
and I can remember going
down to visit him downtown.
And they had
colored water fountains
and white water fountains.
My father had quite a difficult
time with... with civil rights
and anything that
went against what the type
of world he had lived in.
[Armistead] I suppose you could
say he was a white supremacist.
Everything about his
life indicated that.
I remember going to
the beach one time with
our maid and her daughter.
She must have
been ten or eleven.
And I got mad at her because
she had taken my steam shovel
and I called her the N word.
And my mother grabbed me by the
arm and jerked me away
and said,
"You do not say that word ever.
You've hurt her feelings."
And I said, "But daddy
says it all the time."
"That doesn't matter.
He's your father."
She stood up for him, and
protected him, but privately
told her children not
to behave that way.
[Jane Maupin Yates] My mother
was a beautiful, gracious,
gentle soul and very loving.
She was the buffer I think for
us with my father, who,
on the other hand, never showed
a lot of affection to us.
I think we knew he loved us,
but I was always forever,
for years trying to get his
approval and love.
And that's sort of
the way he setup his
relationship with his children.
Armistead is my oldest brother.
He is five years older than
me, and then there's
a middle brother,
Tony, who is
two years older than me.
I call my brother Teddy,
and I've been calling him
that since I can remember.
He is Armistead
Jones Maupin, Jr.
Our father was Big Armistead.
When he was a teenager,
my mother was always
suggesting why
don't you go ask Mary Jane out
for a date or
someone like that.
And so I never sort of saw him
as a mover and a shaker as...
as you know
in the dating scene.
[instrumental music playing]
[Armistead] During the period
where I was waiting
for Tales to begin,
I actually met Rock Hudson.
He was visiting San Francisco
and invited us up to
his suite at
the Fairmont Hotel.
And he said, "I have a
little reading to do."
And he produced the bulldog
edition of The Chronicle, which
was the early edition that
appeared the night before.
So, he stood up, a little
drunkenly, and read the first
chapter of Tales of the City,
which includes a moment where
Mary Ann's mother tells her you
have to leave
there immediately.
I was watching
McMillan & Wife and there was
a serial killer on the loose.
[Rock Hudson] Pick me up.
I'll be downstairs.
[Armistead] He meant it to be
charming and I was charmed.
And the next day he
and his partner invited me
to dinner in San Francisco.
Do you want me to go on?
[Jennifer Kroot] I was
just going to ask...
Oh, how sexy
are we going to get here?
-[Jennifer Kroot] Oh,
we're going there.
-All right.
The first time it was at a
little French restaurant.
They got quite drunk and when
the evening was over, Tom said,
"I'm just going to
go back to the room."
And Rock and I caught
a cable car up the hill
heading up to the Fairmont.
And by the time
we got up to the
Diplomat Suite, Rock and I were
sitting across the room from
each other and he said
at one point,
"Well, I
should be over there or
you should be over here."
Which was about as
dreamy as something could be.
Although I was completely
and utterly terrified.
And I just did not perform well
at all and it was
very touching,
because apparently, it
happened to him all the time.
And he sat next to me and
put his arm around me and said,
"You know I'm just
a regular guy."
And I said, "No, you're not.
And I'm Doris Day."
[Rock Hudson] Don't take your
bedroom problems out on me.
[Doris Day] I have
no bedroom problems.
There's nothing in my
bedroom that bothers me.
[Rock Hudson]
Oh, that's too bad.
[Armistead] There was a
second time and there was
once with him and his partner.
Oh, and there was a time
after a gallery opening.
I just eventually stopped
trying to get together
with him because
I was coming out of the
closet and he was firmly in it.
And I ended up
writing about him
in Further Tales of the City,
but I put blanks
where his name would be.
[unidentified narrator reading]
[beep beep]
[unidentified male]
Good evening,
ladies and gentlemen.
We are proud to
present Armistead Maupin.
-[Armistead] Thank you.
Drunken bears,
there's nothing like it.
I grew up in Raleigh in
the South, and had a very...
Okay, you can clap
for it if you want.
You know there are a lot...
you know,
so many things to still
love about the
South except possibly the
-people and the politicians.
But I grew up trying
to please my daddy.
He was all I'd ever had in
terms of a moral compass.
And so, everything he said I
thought, well, it must be true,
because he says it.
And I was actually
embracing conservatism.
By the time I was 16 years old,
I remember being interviewed by
the Raleigh paper and I said,
"We young conservatives are
going to make a
difference when we grow up."
[announcer] This is Viewpoint,
the daily editorial expression
of WRAL Television
voiced by Jesse Helms.
Michigan's very liberal senior
United States Senator...
-[woman screaming]
[Armistead] I flunked
out of law school.
So, I thumbed home to
Raleigh and told my father
I didn't want to be a lawyer.
And he said,
"We'll get you a job."
So, he talked to a friend of
his, and he said,
"Well, you can
come down and work for him at
the TV station,
and write news."
And so, Jesse Helms gave
me my first writing job.
He thought I was the
hope of the future.
The only fucking thing
he's ever been right about.
That man's legacy
was in the hatred he
spewed his entire life.
I was sent out one day by Jesse
Helms to cover a Klan rally.
And I interviewed
the Imperial Wizard.
And at the time, Dean Rusk, who
was the Secretary of State,
had a daughter who had married
an African American man.
And I asked the Imperial
Wizard what he
thought about it.
And he said, "Well, what else
would you expect from a man
who's a practicing homosexual?"
And I went back to the station
and told Jesse this
scoop I had gotten,
and Jesse went white.
Whiter than he normally was and
said, "That is absolutely the
worst thing you can
say about anybody."
And I took it on.
I heard it.
I knew it was
nothing that you could be.
But Jesse was the first
person that just spelled out
what an awful thing it was.
[Jesse Helms] Many homosexuals
average 16 different sex
partners every month.
[Armistead] The reason I
am embraced conservatism was
I was terrified of who I was.
And so you keep the
lid on, and you want the
lid on for everybody
else, and they all have to
march in that straight line.
[helicopter whirring]
I volunteered for Vietnam,
because I think
I still had some
manhood issues going on and
I wanted to go to the war.
My mother said I had a Lawrence
of Arabia complex,
which was a lot closer
than she knew.
[Armistead] And I found myself
volunteering for more and more
rigorous places because I need
to write home colorful stories
to my father to show that I
was fighting for my country.
And I ended up in a
little place on the Cambodian
border called Chau Doc.
[airplane whirring]
[Bob Olynger]
I met Armistead in
November of December of 1969.
I was kind of shocked in some
ways, because, while I hadn't
been trained for a lot of the
things I had to do on the boats
when I got there, especially
going out in the weeds and
laying up ambushes and all that
type of thing, Armistead came
out from Saigon, where he was
serving as a protocol officer
and he hadn't been
trained for anything that was
out where we were either.
He went out and learned what he
was going, and went up and down
the canals, and I admired
him for all that, because
it can get pretty dangerous.
You're asked to go and do it,
and you do it,
and you remember it,
and you should be
proud of it at times.
Maybe you don't agree
with why you're there,
but you... you're there.
[crowd] Hell no, we won't go.
Hell no, we won't go.
Hell no, we won't go.
[John Kerry] We cannot consider
ourselves America's best men
when we are ashamed of
and hated what we were called
on to do in Southeast Asia.
[Armistead] I had
a friend call me.
He asked me if I would come to
Washington and do
press releases
for John Kerry, who at that
time, was organizing
the Vietnam
Veterans Against the War.
I didn't feel the way Mr. Kerry
did, and as a result, I got
pretty angry and
wanted to do something.
So, I wrote a letter to
Admiral Zumwalt
and asked if the
government would help out with
a project in which Vietnamese
veterans could
return to Vietnam
to help the Vietnamese people.
Ten of us went back to
Vietnam on a humanitarian
project and built houses.
It looked like a bad motel,
really, when we were done.
We had no skill at all.
But at the end of it, the
White House called
and said that
President Nixon wants to
see me in the Oval Office.
We showed up at the White House
and were ushered in to meet
Richard Nixon, and I
was immediately aware
of how insecure he was.
[President Nixon] The fact
that you served there and were
willing to go back and help the
people there, of course, really
demonstrates so
clearly what it's all about.
I have never seen a figure as
spectacular as the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese
women are actually...
[Armistead] They're so
sexy in their little o di.
You know they fly out
when they ride their bicycles,
and it's real...
And I thought
oh, my god, the...
He picked the queer to
say this to, you know.
[Armistead] My father
was over the moon.
You know, I had
worked for Jesse Helms.
I had met Nixon.
Nixon had invited me back.
I was doing everything,
everything that I needed to do
to make him happy.
He was very, very proud of me.
And he hadn't...
he still didn't know
the main truth about me.
[Neil Gaiman] The
first time I met Armistead,
we talked about the strangeness
of writing fiction that
is being read as you go along.
I was doing Sandman and you
were doing in
The Chronicle that sort
of Dickensian thing of
writing serial fictions.
Did things ever happen that
surprised you when you realized
how well you had set
things up without...
[Armistead] All the time.
[Neil Gaiman] ...realizing
what you were doing?
[Armistead] All the time.
The coolest things
I have ever done have
just come out of the moment.
We've both been
conscious of keeping
an audience with a story.
When they hired me, they said,
"We need six weeks' worth."
So, that was 30
episodes, 30 chapters.
Pretty soon, I got confident
enough, that I just goofed off,
and I just ate up
my whole backlog.
So, I would have
to come in and think
you have to write something.
This woman was coming over to
my desk and saying, "Write."
[Barbara Falconer Newhall] What
was amazing about Armistead was
that he would come in in the
morning, no notebook, no notes,
no help, and he's sit down at a
desk that was bare of anything,
at an IBM Selectric typewriter,
which is unforgiving.
What impressed me is actually
how good he was at getting that
copy out in a short
time five days a week.
I kind of identified
with Mary Ann Singleton.
I'm a straight laced,
middle class,
Midwestern person.
So, I was really fascinated by
this world that was opening up
to me and to all of The
Chronicle's readers too.
And I think I've
repressed a lot of what...
of the stories in there,
because you know I suppose
part of me didn't
quite approve.
[unidentified female reading]
[Richard Thieriot] I
remember that in that column,
two men woke up
in bed together.
The morphing from just being
a... a sort of interesting,
unusual, somewhat controversial
column aimed at the colorful
youth of San Francisco, it
did slowly morph into obviously
being a largely
gay themed column.
But it happened slowly and
I'm sure a lot of people were
picking up on it
way before I was.
The managing editor
of The Chronicle, who was sort
of in charge of handling
Tales, got very nervous when he
realized that Michael Toliver
was going to be a regular
character, and that
other gay characters,
and lesbians were showing up.
So, he actually created
a chart in his office.
And when characters were
introduced, he would put them
into the appropriate column.
And the theory was that it
should at no time be more than
30% homosexual.
It annoyed me so
much, that I had a quota.
His fiction
is almost a Trojan horse.
It smuggles in all sorts of
things and all sorts of things
under the guise of
being a fantastic story
about people
you're interested in.
[Armistead] My intention with
Anna Madrigal from the very
beginning, was that
she be transgender.
I'd made the mistake of telling
or maybe not the mistake when I
look back on it, but
I told the editors and
they were pretty horrified.
And they said, "Well,
you cannot say anything
about that for a while."
Their fear actually served me,
because I could
develop her as a
character, and make her a woman
of mystery, and have people
curious about her
at the same time that
they're learning to love her.
So, that by the time that I did
tell her story,
they would be onboard,
and that's exactly
what happened.
We all
did it stealth back then.
No one was way, way out.
I was just starting
to come way, way out.
We were mostly all like
Anna Madrigal in those days.
We wanted to be respectable.
We wanted people not to know
except who wanted them to know.
I wasn't like that.
I just said, "Fuck it.
Here, this is me.
Not a man.
Not a woman."
I moved to San Francisco
in '88, started immediately
reading the books then.
I thought look at this, a
transsexual who isn't a serial
killer, isn't a rapist, isn't
some kind of terrible pervert,
is just a nice person.
And they're just weren't
that many role models.
I think there
were a lot of young,
gay men and
women and trans people who...
who had nothing to hang onto,
who had no story.
And Armistead did it.
He gave them a sense of
hope, and joy, and security.
What I wanted out of
literature and what I had never
found in literature was a story
that would
incorporate everyone,
that would place my
life in the context
of the rest of the world.
So that gay people,
and straight people,
and in between people
would fit together all on
one large canvas and function
lovingly with each other.
[Barbara Falconer Newhall]
And I'm sure that
there was a lot of
nervousness on the part of the
management as to just how far
Army was going with his stories
and of course they... they were
concerned about readership.
They didn't want anybody
cancelling their subscriptions
because of something
offensive in the paper.
[Armistead reading]
"Down with the gay
life in quotes."
They still say that.
Why do you call it
gay when it's not gay?
Well, it is gay.
It's very gay in
every sense of the world.
[continues reading]
You know when people get really
angry and start flinging Jesus
at you, that you've... you're
speaking some truth.
[continues reading]
I loved that one.
Loved that one.
This just tells me
that they were into it.
I lured them into a world
they didn't want
to think about.
The idea that he was doing
this in a newspaper in
a... in what they call
a family newspaper,
that is not
just groundbreaking.
That takes chutzpa and,
you know, testicles
the size of asteroids.
[Christopher Turner] I first
became interested
in photography
when I was in my
early twenties.
I was a model in Milan
and... and London as well.
And just working with all
these amazing photographers,
sort of got me interested.
And I was always a little shy
on the other side
of the camera.
It was sort of a
stretch, which is one of
the reasons I wanted to do it.
And it also interested me
because it was a way to combine
very technical stuff as
well as creative work.
[Armistead] Darling.
[Neil Gaiman] Armistead
and Chris, they're like some
kind of strange storybook
couple, in that each of them
is the other one's ideal.
It's like Armistead was being
written by a beneficent creator
with a plan, who started off
going okay, you are going to be
this repressed right-wing kid
from North Carolina but just
stick through the story, and
at the end, you will get your
happily ever after.
[Armistead] The way that
Chris and I met was sort of a
combination of the
old and the new.
My housekeeper had been on
this website called DaddyHunt.
It was just for
older men in general, who
were finding each other on it.
And I noticed in the personals
there this young guy who the
most beautiful blue-eyed gaze.
He was gorgeous.
My younger friends were saying,
"Oh, my God, he's really hot."
And I said, "Forget it.
He only likes them over 45."
The way he tells it,
is that he stumbled
over my profile and was sort of
stopped by it and
printed out my photo,
and put it on his desk,
and but never really had any
intention of
contacting me through the site.
And then one day,
I was walking through
the Castro and I saw him,
and we... our eyes... we...
we did the little cruisy thing.
You were coming this way.
[Christopher Turner] Uh-huh.
And I
was going that way.
And we did the
old-fashioned stop and twirl.
And I just turned around
and went back to him and said
perfect line, just
remembered, it's so good,
"Didn't I see you
on a website?"
And I said, "Which one?"
And he said, ""
Which thrilled me because
at the time,
this was like right after
I had launched the site.
Well, it turned out
he owned the website.
And that some of the
captions appreciating
older men had been his.
[Christopher Turner] When I
started DaddyHunt, a lot of it
for me was
a political statement,
because I had always been
attracted to older men, but
I felt like a lot of the gay
community was very ageist.
The original tagline was
wiser, stronger, hotter.
I really wanted to emphasize
that there were qualities of
getting older that...
that should be respected.
The disparity
between the two of us that
a lot of people don't
understand is not an issue,
because we understand it.
We understand what we have.
He has made me feel
more confident in my body
than I have ever been myself.
I've started to own
this, for instance.
A lot of guys like
that, amazingly.
[Christopher Turner]
Pretty much since day one,
Armistead and I
acknowledged that we wanted
to have an open relationship.
I think part of it was
from past experience in other
relationships, realizing that
not only the relationships that
I had been in, but many
friends that I witness who are
supposedly monogamous, aren't.
You know, and I just felt
like it would be better to
be able to be honest about it.
[Armistead] You know,
I resist the term
open relationship,
because it looks to me
like a Facebook
announcement like there's an
enormous breeze blowing
through your relationship.
As a young man,
I... it used to bother me.
I came with all the fool's,
romantic, heterosexual,
it will be one person forever.
And somewhere inside
of me, I knew that that
was a tough thing to pull off.
Some people do, and
I'm happy for them.
I don't think there is one way
to be married, whether it be
you're gay or straight.
What we both
wanted was fidelity.
The notion that this person
is with you no matter what.
And that if you love
that person enough,
you can give the freedom
to let them explore
a little on the side,
or sometimes with you.
That's another aspect of it.
It's very nice.
So, I think we've accomplished
something that makes
me feel more loved than ever.
And I hope he feels
that way about it.
I had know that I was attracted
to men ever since
I was 12 years old,
but I didn't do anything
about it until I was about 25.
So, I had a long, long
period there where I...
[Steve Berry] Gestation period.
Gestation period where I had
no sex with anyone really.
I'm a... I'm what they
call a perfect Kinsey 6.
I've never had
sex with a woman,
but and I waited a long time
before I had sex
with a man I was--
[Steve Berry] A few
drag queens though.
[Armistead] Never.
I'd like to tell you about
the first time I had sex.
I hope yours was
better than mine was.
Oh, my God.
I didn't have sex with anybody
until I was about 25 years old.
And I was living in Charleston,
South Carolina, and I'm sure it
was the last time I was ever in
a dark park in all innocence.
I had gone down there to sit
on a bench, and look at the
moonlight on the water, and
enjoy the scenery, and a man
walked up to me and said,
"Have you got the time?"
And I said, "No, I don't.
I'm sorry."
And he said, "Have
you got a light?"
And I said, "No."
Finally, I said,
"Listen, I don't think
I'm what you're looking for."
I knew what he was up to.
And he apologized and
kind of scurried away.
And... and I sat there on the
bench for a while and I thought
what are you fucking up to?
You're exactly what
he's looking for.
I hurried back into
the park where this guy
was hitting on another guy.
I interrupted them
while they were...
"I'm so sorry I was
so rude back there.
Would you like to
come to my house?
It's right over there.
And like we could
have a drink."
So, I snatched this guy away
from this
completely dumbfounded
man and we went back to my
little carriage house, and it
took less than five minutes.
I'm pretty sure I got a dick in
my mouth, and that he did, too.
And I could just picture
in that particular moment
Peggy Lee in
the corner of the
room singing the song that
was so popular that summer.
What was it?
"Is that all there is?"
Thank you, very much.
It was 1969.
That was the
summer of the moonshot.
That was the
summer of Stonewall.
Sort of appropriate, really,
that I negotiated to lose my
virginity on the spot
where the first shots
of the Civil War were fired.
But the next morning
something amazing happened.
I realized I'd passed
this point of no return that
I had dreaded my whole life.
You know, so what if it wasn't
the best thing in the world?
There might be other
people who came to that park.
And maybe I could get it right.
And it wasn't so much the death
of innocence as a kind of brand
new, adolescence that made
me feel like a reborn person.
[unidentified male] What
about life in San Francisco?
Does a straight
person need to be aware?
What's happened in
San Francisco is that the 15%
or 10% of the population that
is gay, is open about it.
People have learned to
accept, learned to get over the
stereotypes, learned to get
over their prejudice,
and it's a
healthy atmosphere
that's taking place.
[upbeat music playing]
I met
Armistead in the early '70s.
He had that Southern
manner and he was so polite,
and he was just funny.
You know, so you just felt
as if he had the world
in his hands.
But he had not come
out at that time.
I took him all
over San Francisco.
You know, it's been a
Wild West for so long.
And you just would walk out
the door and you'd smell people
smoking dope, and there
would be music everywhere.
You just felt great.
I mean I didn't always feel
great, because I overdid it a
little bit, more than I
should have most of the time,
but it was a wonderful time.
[Armistead] I saw San Francisco
on my way to and from Vietnam.
When I processed
out of the Navy
out on Treasure Island, I had a
mix of feelings,
because part of
me wanted to stay in the Navy.
I loved it.
I loved the uniforms, and
the camaraderie, and the men.
But I knew if I actually acted
on what I was feeling, that I
would be in big trouble.
And I remember looking over at
this white city there on the
edge of the water and
wondering if I could
live there.
And it wasn't until the
Associated Press offered me a
gig in San Francisco,
that I knew I
had the opportunity to do that.
So, I leapt at it.
I remember telling a guy that I
had actually picked up in the
park in Charleston that I
was moving to San Francisco,
and he said, "Oh, my God.
You'll love it there.
They've got 50 gay bars."
And I said, rather
primly, I'm sure, "Oh, I would
never go into one of those."
Of course, I was in one of
those on my
first night in town.
I went down to the
Rendezvous on Sutter Street.
And there were guys in there
slow dancing to Streisand.
I think it was "People."
It was a horrifying
sight to me.
My first good friend in
town was a red-headed woman.
And I decided I was going to
tell her that I was gay because
I wanted a new life and I
didn't see any reason to be
lying now that I was in town.
And so I went over to her
house, and I was drunk by
that time from about
three mai tais
and said,
"I have something to tell you."
And I hemmed, and hawed,
and she came over and...
and... and sort
of took my hands in hers and
looked up at me
and said, "What?
What is it?"
And I said, "I'm homosexual."
And she looked at me for
a moment and then said...
"Oh, big fucking deal.
We... you know we love you.
Who cares?
And half of San
Francisco is gay."
[Armistead] Sophisticated
straight people
in San Francisco
were more comfortable with
my sexuality than I was.
Because I was still proudly
hanging the picture of me
shaking hands with Richard
Nixon, and I would pick up guys
down on Polk Street and bring
them back to the house,
and they
would see
the picture of me with
Nixon, and they would, you know
look a little bit disgusted
and horrified as if they'd just
found out they were... had
gone home with Jeffrey Dahmer.
It was... it... it... and
I... and I took that on.
I mean I think I... you know,
I think I'm still, part of me,
the... my whole life I've
been trying to please people,
and... and then I got here
and I thought nobody is happy
with my life the way it was.
Nobody is happy with it.
I was the one that changed.
I came out.
I finally became myself as a
person and my heart opened up.
The sexual aspect of it,
I can't minimize that.
There was just something
amazing about, you know,
I could... I would
go to the baths, and I would
have sex, and the very process
of you know lying in someone's
arms and cuddling, it opened my
heart to such an extent,
that I started just taking the
world in in a different way.
Some of those guys that I'd
lie with were of another color,
another race.
You know, everything I'd ever
been taught, was falling away,
and I just realized what it was
to be with another human being,
what human feelings were.
And that made me
examine all the
little prejudices that I'd been
given when I was growing up.
It wasn't just racist stuff.
It was my family telling me
that I was better than anybody
because it was in my
bloodline, you know.
This nonsense.
And it made me into a writer.
That's what it did,
among other things.
It made me into a writer.
[instrumental music playing]
My grandmother and I were once,
when I was like 14 years old,
were walking to a garden party
in Raleigh, and there was a
woman ahead of us that was all
just femmed out to the nines.
Pink, and
perfumed, and powdered,
and little spike heels, and...
And my grandmother turned to
me with this sort of sly little
smile on her face and said,
"Any women who is all woman,
or any
man who is all man,
is a complete monster
unfit for human company."
And that's always been my rule
for writing characters,
you know.
We're all a mix
of these things.
I try to find the part of us
that isn't black, or white, or
male, or female,
or any of those things
but human, the part...
the part that comes
from the heart.
And that is simply the
function of the writer.
In my novel Maybe the Moon,
it's told from
the viewpoint of a
heterosexual, Jewish, dwarf
actress working in Hollywood.
[clears throat] Okay.
"When you're my size and not
being tormented by elevator
buttons, water fountains
and ATMs, you spend your life
accommodating the
sensibilities of
'normal people'..."
[continues reading]
"You do it if you want to
belong to the human race."
Maybe the Moon is a novel about
a friendship between a gay man
and a woman who's
a little person.
The little person Armistead was
friends with that the book is
inspired by was the
woman inside the E.T. costume.
What I remember about it was
just how much I understood and
related to the
little woman's voice.
She wasn't a victim
and I really loved that.
She was dignified, and smart,
and just had a normal life, and
there wasn't anything
mysterious, or kooky, or
fantastical, you know.
I was the only little person in
my entire family, in my entire
surrounding and
I was always the
black sheep in that sense, and
it was very difficult for me.
And it was very isolating.
So, I couldn't wrap my head
around how this normal size,
white, gay man, how could he
possibly walk in my shoes?
I'm like a 3'10," you
know, gimpy Mexican.
But I just can't help believing
he can relate to just being
different and not by choice.
By the end of the
book, my self-worth went
from like here to here.
It was... it... it was
life changing, really.
It was just nice.
It was the first time
in my life that I felt
someone out there understands.
[instrumental music playing]
[doorbell chiming]
In 1976 I had just
moved to San Francisco and it
seems as though Tales of the
City started the week that we
moved there, and was our guide
to San Francisco,
and everything
that was going on and
what we were discovering.
[Neil Gaiman] If you make your
list of the major characters
beginning with Ann
Madrigal, and going down,
you will miss one of them.
And that character
is San Francisco.
[instrumental music continues]
[Armistead] We are here at
Macondray Lane, which was the
inspiration for Barbary Lane.
Actually, the steps were the...
were the inspiration to me
because when I was living
in the neighborhood,
I saw them one day
and wondered what was up there.
I was just fascinated by the
idea of this little city street
and I just made
my way up the steps
into this little wonderland.
It was sort of a
combination of an English
village story
and an urban tale.
[instrumental music playing]
Oh, there's one over there.
[music continues]
I still think this is the most
special place on earth,
so to be
associated with it, is
just... it's a great joy.
[music continues]
I started writing Tales
in 1976.
So, I had two full years
of writing five days a week,
800 words a day.
It was agonizing but
kind of exhilarating, too.
[phone ringing]
I was contacted by an editor in
New York and he asked me
to send
him Xeroxed copies of the
columns, because he thought
there was a novel there.
The miniseries
didn't happen until 1993.
[Laura Linney] I think
everyone quite wrongly thought
that she wasn't very smart.
And really what she
was is she was a new
person in a strange land.
And that anybody can relate to.
She arrived there
and just didn't know
what any of the rules were.
So, she was
awkward, and overwhelmed,
and excited, but not dumb.
[Mary Ann] Hello?
And that's fun to play.
[Mary Ann] Hello?
[Anna Madrigal] Hello.
I'm Mrs. Madrigal,
as in medieval.
[Olympia Dukakis] The research
on Anna Madrigal was really
interesting, because I don't
know, shit all anything here.
And I...
Alan Poul was the producer,
and I called him up and I said,
"I've got to talk to a
transgendered individual."
So, he found someone
and invited them to
my apartment, and I open
the door and there's this guy
6'3" - somebody who had been a
guy - 6'3",
who was now a woman.
But the initial look was much
more masculine,
you... you know.
And his hands were
like basketball.
People who play basketball.
I mean, it was like... but the
voice was soft, and sweet, and
dear, and it was like, okay.
She looked at me and I
said, "Tell me, what was it
that you wanted so much?"
And what this woman said to me
was, "All my life,
I yearned for
the friendship of women."
Now, I didn't know what she
was going to say, but that one
really... I mean I,
even now, it's like...
I thought...
I don't know what...
I expected something sexual.
I didn't expect
something so deeply
human, something that was
about people's
feelings, and people's....
it shows you how stupid was.
Now, I know what it is to
want the friendship of women.
And I want her to be my friend.
That's what I had learned.
And so you see the old dame
does have a past after all.
[Mary Ann] Oh, I'm
prying, aren't I?
I hope
it means we're friends.
[Alan Poul] Tales of the City
broke the kiss barrier,
which is
funny, because it
was a big barrier.
I mean, you forget that
man-on-man kissing,
which is now
regularly featured on
every Shondra Rhimes show,
in a much more explicit
way than it ever was with...
with Mouse and
John, was a big taboo.
Even showing two men in bed
together with the implication
that they had had sex in that
bed, was a really difficult
thing to do on television.
You cheated.
[Alan Poul] The show was
also a gigantic success.
In many PBS markets,
it was the highest rated
drama series they've ever had.
In other markets, it was second
only to Upstairs Downstairs.
And in San Francisco,
we beat the networks,
which doesn't happen with PBS.
Coming off the heels of the
great success of
Tales of the City,
they went into
pledge drive mode.
Give us money so that we
can continue to bring you
wonderful programming like
Tales of the city.
"Something from my garden
as a welcome from us all,
Anna Madrigal."
[instrumental music playing]
[Mary Hart] Hi, everybody.
I'm Mary Hart.
And I'm John Tesh.
Nude scenes, sexy
romance, graphic language,
gay lovers, narcotics.
We are talking
X-rated movie, right?
It's a miniseries right in Mr.
Roger's Neighborhood on PBS.
[Alan Poul] There was already
a huge amount of momentum
certainly within
the Republican Party that
American public funds
should not be spent on material
that is controversial, should
not be spent on material that
some people might object to,
should not be spent
on material that can't
survive in the marketplace.
The question
is whether or tax dollars,
tax payers are going
to be forced to
help pay for one homosexual to
have anal intercourse
with another homosexual and
to put that into a movie.
Donald Wildmon and
the American Family Association
very famously put together
this little 12-minute
trailer of
highlights from
Tales of the City.
There was men kissing.
They itemized how many
times somebody was naked.
There was
an underwear contest.
I remember they went and they
counted every swear word.
[Mona] Beats the shit
out of Tarot cards.
I forgot one of
the most important ones, drugs.
I don't know how many times
they must have had to
watch the thing in order to
get all that information.
[gavel banging]
[Alan Poul] They delivered it
to every member of Congress.
And the idea that anybody in
the U.S. Congress or anywhere
else could watch it
with a straight face,
is kind of astonishing.
And the PBS lowered the boom.
The shit hit the fan.
It was... it was amazing.
What the hell is
going on when the taxpayers are
required to fund
such garbage as that?
This was the time
when Jesse Helms was talking
about defunding
both the NEA and PBS.
So, I was in the thick
of things with... with...
with my old boss.
All the genuine
commitments that PBS had given
to producing the second series,
were immediately reversed.
We've got to understand
that all of us become
a part of what we condone.
I still am disappointed
that that happened,
because I think they
would have made them all.
I think they would have
done the whole series.
And... and they didn't.
Is everything
alright, Mrs. Madrigal?
Nave as it may sound,
we felt we had made a
beautiful, loving show about
family and about everybody's
right to search for love.
And there was
nothing salacious in it.
So, the idea that this was
so incendiary is difficult to
grasp, because when you look
at now, you see it for...
for what... for what it was
and for what it was
always intended to be,
which is a valentine.
It's a different
world we're living in now.
Oh, my God.
And on network
television, I get surprised.
I... you know, I don't want to
come off, you know... you know,
all, you know, uptight, but
the line between actor
and sex worker is a very
fuzzy one today.
It really is.
Can I tell you something?
Of course.
I think it might
be cool with me if you...
You want me to fuck you?
[Jonathan Groff]
I met Armistead
while we were shooting Looking.
I'd heard about the
legend of Tales of the City.
Just as like a young, gay man
wanting to...
wanting to sort of
like dive in to this world
that I'd heard about before,
because I was
in the closet from
like 19 to 23 with a boyfriend
who was my roommate.
And in the moment
of doing it, I...
I felt... fine.
It... everything was
and I had it all figured out.
I was doing a show on Broadway
called Spring Awakening,
where I
was playing a straight,
romantic male lead.
And I never lied and said
that I was straight,
but I always kind
of like dodged the bullet.
And it really wasn't until I
came out, that I understood how
suffocated I was when
I was in the closet.
It's like once you're out,
you're like, oh, my God,
I can't beli...
It's like taking a... like a
deep breath for the first time
and you didn't
realize that you were ho...
Well, for me, I didn't
realize that I was holding
my breath all that time.
[newscaster] Actor Rock Hudson
is in a hospital in Paris
this morning.
One report is that
he has liver cancer.
Another that he has AIDS.
But none of this
has been confirmed.
He was brought to the American
Hospital's emergency
room Sunday
night, complaining
he was exhausted.
This morning he met
with his secretary.
He looks wonderful, I must say.
[Armistead] Because I was no
longer in contact with Rock,
I was as confounded as anybody
else when I heard he had AIDS.
All my friends were public
about it when they got sick.
When he showed upon Doris Day's
pet show looking really bad,
there was all that speculation.
And the people around him
were still saying,
"Oh, he has anorexia, he's been
on a watermelon diet."
Just the worst kind of lying
and obfuscation that was...
it was way too late for it.
Anybody who'd
been through the whole
process of AIDS, knew it was.
Randy Shiltz, the first openly
gay reporter and The Chronicle
and a friend of
mine called up and said,
"Are you willing to
talk about Rock?"
So, I said, "Yes, of
course, he was gay.
Everybody in Hollywood knew it.
This should not be a scandal."
So, I talked about it publicly.
I was the first person
to do it.
Meaning I...
officially, I outed him.
The guy that had introduced me
to Rock called me up sobbing at
night and said, "How could you
do that to that beautiful man?"
A political columnist in the...
in the local gay paper said,
"How can you call
yourself a friend and do that?"
You were supposed to keep the
secret, and I knew that the
secret was what
was poisoning us.
Sometimes the truth just has to
be told and there are systems
that have enslaved us all.
And the biggest
one is the closet.
[Amy Tan] Armistead's come on
the side of outing many people.
People who said it's
my personal life,
and I don't think it
enters into my work, and he
thinks it's important,
yes, that
they need to acknowledge that.
His belief is that when you do
not talk about that,
and you are
part of a community, a cultural
group that is stigmatized by
people being silent, you have a
responsibility, if you belong,
to acknowledge you belong.
Especially with somebody like
Rock Hudson whose status in
Hollywood had so much influence
on how people perceived who was
appropriate as a movie star.
So, yes, he was, in
Armistead's mind, the person
who really had to come out.
[Kate Bornstein]
I don't agree with that.
I will do that if I find
out that someone has been
homophobic, and
acting homophobically,
and speaking and
writing homophobically,
and they're closed,
phht, I'll fucking out them.
Hell, yeah.
But for a person
just to go on... No.
No, no.
Why on earth would you say
something about the person?
Armistead's response, I...
I supported
because if people are going to
be gay to their friends and to
some strangers, is it then the
responsibility of those friends
and strangers to
lie on their behalf?
I should tell you
about a moment in my life
that Armistead participated in.
It would be, I suppose,
the mid to late '80s.
I was doing a solo show
in San Francisco, and...
and met up with
Armistead and his
partner at the time, Terry.
And I said, not
entirely out of the blue,
"Do you think I
should come out?"
And he and Terry looked at each
other, and smiled, and... and
nodded vigorously, and I... I
think at that point,
it was a time when very
few people in public life
were... were out.
And his first reaction was,
"Well, you'll feel better about
yourself if you come out."
Which was true.
"And it will be very good
for a lot of other people who
don't feel able to come
out to... to see someone
in public life doing it."
And I think that was
the appeal to him.
And it was just a few
months later that I came out.
I don't think I would have
done with the assurance, and
confidence, and need perhaps,
even, unless I'd had that
crucial evening with Armistead
and Terry in San Francisco.
So, I think of
Ter... Terry and Armistead
as my godfathers, really.
Changed my life for the better.
[instrumental music playing]
I met Armistead, I think I was
probably about seven years old.
And I can't... I can't
remember if we had met or not.
I just remember seeing him.
He had done a signing at my
family's bookstore,
which was on
Polk and California, which
was called Paperback Traffic.
The bookstore
also was very gay,
and so it was the perfect place
for a signing of
Tales of the City.
Just a very, very big deal that
he was there,
because Tales of the City
really is all
about that neighborhood.
It was a pretty exciting
time just in San Francisco,
because this was before AIDS.
[unidentified male]
If this thing that gay men
are getting in the States,
it's a severe
immune deficiency.
[continues reading]
When I think about
AIDS, it's really like the...
my whole world disappeared.
My family lost their business.
They... they couldn't... they
couldn't keep it open, because
there was no customers,
because everybody died.
The... all the employees,
you know,
a lot of them are gone,
and it's really... it's hard to
separate what happened in...
in my life from what
happened in the books.
[Alan Cumming reading]
[Armistead] I had had so many
valiant friends
who had died of AIDS,
people who were openly
gay, who were talking about
their illness in the face
of the most
extraordinary... mistreatment.
And their parents were
throwing them out, you know.
They were dying and their
parents were rejecting them.
John Fielding was the first
character in fiction anywhere
who had died of AIDS.
It was the only way I could
cope with it to... to take my
own... the pain I was feeling
about the death of my friends
and make other people feel it.
[Michael] Uh-oh.
You have a hicky.
Right here on your neck.
[Armistead] There was a huge
outcry, and a lot of gay people
wrote me and said, "How dare
you spoil our light morning
entertainment with
your political agenda?"
They didn't get it.
It would be impossible to write
about San Francisco
in that period
and not bring it up.
It would be
kind of insulting in
a way to all of the people who
were living with it
and living through it.
And so, why not tell that deep
and heartbreaking
story of AIDS?
[Alan Cumming reading]
[Armistead] I had a two-week
period where I was certain that
I had AIDS, because it took two
weeks for the test
to come back.
And I remember going to
my doctor and wanting some
assurance that I didn't, and he
started trembling and said,
"I don't even know
whether I have it."
None of us did.
We all lived with the
assumption that we had it
and that we were going to die.
And that's one of the reasons
why I ended
Tales of the City in 1989,
because I had established
Michael Toliver
as a gay character
who is HIV positive
and I didn't want to continue
the tradition of killing
off the gay man at the end.
[unidentified male] I don't
know how much time I have left,
whether it's two years,
or five, or fifty,
[continues reading]
[Armistead] Everyone I
have loved since the epidemic
started has been HIV positive.
I knew Chris was
positive when I met him.
And both my partner
at the time, Terry,
and my best friend Steve
were diagnosed at
roughly the same time.
Steve and I tried to have a
little romance, but we weren't
made for each other in
that way, but we were so made
for each other as friends.
He taught me everything I knew
at the time about Bette Davis,
Busby Berkeley, and
Bette Midler, the holy B's.
And he was 15 years
younger than I was,
and didn't even remember
these people, but he was one of
those gay men
who knew our lore.
And I just adored him.
[unidentified male] What made
you realize that you were gay?
A big man.
Will you shut up?
[laughter] I have to
keep him under control.
Steve loved those old
Busby Berkeley songs.
So, I was always
playing "Let's Face the Music
and Dance", you know.
"There may be trouble ahead."
I'll cry if I
repeat the rest of it.
"But... but while there's music
and moonlight, and love, and
romance, let's face
the music and dance."
And there were a lot of
gay men who were doing...
doing that at the time.
["Let's Face the
Music and Dance" playing]
There may be trouble ahead
But while there's moonlight
And music and love
And romance
Let's face the music
And dance
[Armistead] Steve was a
wonderfully open person who
made no secret of having AIDS,
because he felt that it would
make life easier for people
who came after him.
A day doesn't go by in
which I don't feel the
impact of AIDS in some way.
I've lived with a man that I've
loved for the past ten years,
and we've known
from the very beginning
that he was HIV positive.
Maybe part of me thought that I
would be the one that would be
sticking it out with
Terry till the end.
They called it a
cocktail divorce.
It's what happens when the
HIV medications come along and
someone who's
thought he's going
to die, no longer thinks he's
going to die and the first
thing he wants
to do is breakup.
So, when the cocktail came
along, and he had that choice,
I didn't see that coming.
It was a hard time.
It was a very, very
hard time for me.
Probably one of the
hardest of my life.
But you have to get through...
you know everybody who
has ever been through a
breakup, knows that is.
Finding your way
back to yourself again.
Olympia and Laura were terrific
during that period in my life,
because I was very fragile.
I think I must have
been crying a fair amount
on the phone with them.
[Laura Linney]
My first marriage
had just ended and Armistead
flew to Hartford and then
in a great sort of Southern
tradition, we were
just with each other.
And... and it strengthens
your spine when you're feeling
confused, and heartbroken, and
in grief, that
life is changing in a way that
you didn't expect.
And we sort of
clung to each other
during that period of time.
And... and... and then,
after... I think it was...
I think it was
after that,
Armistead invited me
to... to be with him during the
San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.
And he was one of the
grand marshals, and so I was...
I got to be his
lady in waiting.
And I found the original Mary
Ann Singleton dress,
the striped one,
and I wore that, and we
were in the back
of the car sitting,
and we were
both brokenhearted.
I was brokenhearted.
Armistead was brokenhearted.
We were really
vulnerable, you know, sad,
mopey people at the time.
And I remember there
were people screaming
our names in adoration.
Mary Ann!
And Armistead started
to laugh, and he laughed,
and laughed, and laughed.
And the journalist from
The Chronicle took
a picture at that
exact moment, and that's the
photo that they ran
the next day,
was that moment of... of us
both just in disbelief that we
were so brokenhearted and yet,
at the same time,
being so feted
in a community of people
who were so loving,
who had so much love
to give to us.
You can tell by the applause,
we're here with
the grand marshal, Armistead
Maupin, and one of the stars
from Tales of the City,
of course, Laura Linney.
How... how's the
parade going for you?
Oh, it's just heaven.
This is the best seat in town.
You get to see everything.
[news reporter] A lot of fun
and feeling a lot of love.
[Armistead] Absolutely.
It's the best feeling
in the world, really.
My father had left out big
chunks of the family history.
His father killed himself,
I think with a shotgun,
in his home while
his family was there.
It was never talked about.
I wrote a novel about it,
finally, in 2000.
And I guess the knowledge of
that at 15 on my part, made me
start looking at my father in a
different way,
and realized that
maybe so much of this anger,
so much of his
political posturing,
and I figured that it may have
come from that moment where he
had to suddenly be
the man of the family.
And he was pissed off.
I would... I would
have been pissed off.
And I always
worried that my... my father
would do the same himself.
[man reading]
I lived in terror
of that, actually.
And I suppose I let him
get away with a lot of stuff,
and maybe my mother did, too.
She knew that about him, too.
In some ways he was
just a big baby crying.
I was up in New York
and we were shooting
the Night Listener, and
there's a character in
there that is sort of him.
[John Cullum] I'd be
careful if I was you.
[Robin Williams] Why?
[John Cullum] Well, folks
could talk, that's all.
[Robin Williams] About what?
Use your damn head.
Just because you're shut down,
doesn't mean we all have to be.
What kind
of new age crap is that?
And my sister
called and said, appar...
"You should get home.
He's not doing well."
Chris, my husband,
tells me that
my response to that initially
was, um... fuck him,
I can't take it.
[Christopher Turner] I remember
saying to Armistead that you
know it's... that he
would regret it if we
didn't at least make the trip.
You know, what could it hurt to
just go and you know see him
while he was on his deathbed.
And so, we went down
and daddy fell in love with
Chris, this man 30 years my
junior, and Chris drove us
around town, and to any locales
that my father wanted to go to.
His house on Hillsboro
Street, the one where my
grandfather killed himself.
And we went out to
the cemetery, which
had been an old family ritual.
[Christopher Turner] For me,
it was significant, because my
father is very conservative,
and I knew that it was
a big stretch
for him to be accepting
me and us as a couple.
And I remember before we left,
when... as we were
saying goodbye,
you know, his dad said to me,
you know,
"You take care of that boy."
[Armistead] And now, that's
a 90-year-old man telling a
30-year-old man to take
care of a 60-year-old man.
He mellowed towards
the end, and he did
tell me he was proud of me.
He just wasn't proud of
the part that I thought
of as central to my life.
Many homosexuals
have become active in the
defense of what
they call gay rights.
Nowhere is that defense
under greater attack
than in Miami, Florida.
[news reporter] Anita
Bryant was once known
as an orange juice saleswoman.
Not anymore.
She has been selling her
Save Our Children group.
And I know
that there is hope for the
homosexuals, that if they're
willing to turn from sin,
the same as any individual,
that... that they can be
the same as there
can be an ex-murderer, or an
ex-thief, or an ex-anybody.
[Jane Maupin Yates] During the
time that Anita Bryant
was doing
her anti-gay campaign in
Florida, and Teddy took her on,
Newsweek decided
they were going
to do an article about him, and
it was going to... gay
author, Armistead Maupin.
And he didn't want his
father to find out that way.
So, that's when he
wrote the letter.
My own coming
out letter to my parents,
I published in The Chronicle
as the letter of one of the
characters in my serial.
And so, that my... my literary
life and my personal life
were running concurrently.
Okay. Okay.
This is the letter,
The Letter to Mama
that Michael writes.
He says, "Dear Mama..."
[continues reading]
"I have friends who think I'm
foolish to write this letter.
I hope they're wrong.
I hope their doubts are based
on parents who
loved and trusted
them less than mine do.
I hope, especially,
that you'll see this
as an act of love on my part,
a sign of my continuing need
to share my life with you."
"I wouldn't
have written I guess if
you hadn't told me
about your involvement in the
Save Our Children campaign.
That, more than anything, made
it clear that my responsibility
was to tell you the truth.
That your own
child is homosexual."
"No, mama, I wasn't recruited.
No seasoned homosexual
ever served as my mentor,
but you know what?
I wish someone had.
I wish someone older than me,
and wiser than the people in
Orlando had taken me aside and
said, 'It's all right, kid,
you can grow up to be a doctor,
or a teacher just
like everyone else.
You're not crazy,
or sick, or evil.
You can succeed and be happy
and find peace with friends,
all kinds of friends,
who don't give a damn
who you go to bed with.
Most of all, though,
you can love and be loved
without hating
yourself for it.'"
"I know this may
be hard for you to believe,
but San Francisco is full
of men and women,
both straight and gay,
who don't consider
sexuality in measuring the
worth of another human being.
These aren't
radicals or weirdos, mama.
They are shop clerks, and
bankers, and little old ladies,
and people who nod
and smile at you when you
meet them on the bus."
"And their
message is so simple.
Yes, you are a person.
Yes, I like you.
Yes, it's all right for
you to like me, too."
"All I know is this,
if you and papa are responsible
for the way I am, then I
thank you with all my heart.
For it's the light and
the joy of my life."
[Gay Men's
Chorus performance]
There's not much else
I can say
Except that I'm the same
Micheal you've always known
You just know me better now
"Please don't feel you have
to answer this right away.
It's enough for me to know that
I no longer have to lie to the
people who taught me
to value the truth."
"Mary Ann sends her love.
Everything is fine
at 28 Barbary Lane.
Your loving son, Michael."
[Armistead] I wanted a
response from my own parents,
which I didn't get.
My mother was dying
of cancer at the time.
It was how I came out to them.
They were subscribing to
The Chronicle and
I knew when they
got to that, they
would know it was me.
It was just too
close for comfort.
But my father wrote me a very
terse little letter
on his legal pad
that said, "Any extra
stress on your mother is only
going to make her die faster."
Not nice.
[instrumental music playing]
I, a few years back,
coined a phrase.
I refer to the
logical family as opposed
to your biological family.
It's clearer and clearer
as I get older,
that sometimes people
who... that you share
blood with are not coming
along with you on the ride.
And it's time to stop punishing
yourself about that and just
realize where the real love,
and support,
and unconditional love
is coming from in your life.
[Amanda Palmer]
In this new crazy culture
that we live in that has
gotten so far away from our old
school tribal village culture,
we move into the world feeling
alienated, and isolated, and
fucked up, and...and with
a sense of not belonging.
You grow up somewhere.
It doesn't fit.
It doesn't make sense.
You don't feel real.
You don't feel accepted.
And then you get to part
two of your life where you
find that place
that you belong.
When Armistead described
logical family to me,
and I said,
"Oh, you mean that thing that
we've all been doing
all our lives?"
And he went, "Yeah."
[Jewelle Gomez] So many of us
feel alienated from the people
who brought us into the world.
It can make you feel really
isolated, desperate,
unmoored in
ways that you just
don't... sometimes you just
don't know are happening.
So, the idea of logical family,
I think really gives people an
option to say I choose you.
[Kate Bornstein]
I call it extended family
and that's what we do.
My role in most of the extended
family is auntie or granny.
[Armistead] More and more these
days, people are aware that
that's what they need to get
through life, people who,
of like mind, who
love and support you.
I would say that
Armistead has told stories that
make you want to
tell your story.
He made characters
who were like people you know,
and you wanted
to tell them in turn what
you hadn't been able to say,
or what your back story was.
Tell me again
about those Gatsby eyes.
[Amy Tan] He allowed people
to be truthful, and
to know why it was
important to be
truthful beyond themselves.
[instrumental music playing]
[Armistead] My career has
had a very slow unfolding,
and the story I've told has
kept ongoing for 40 years,
and people are finding it.
A writer's life has ups and
downs, and there's not a whole
lot of money flow
going on right now.
It was a real lesson for me to
move into our current
ground level flat in a
Victorian house in the Castro.
I don't mind being back in a
sort of Mary Ann Singleton
situation where I can
hear the people going up
the steps to the flat above.
[Laura Linney]
Have a good weekend?
[Armistead] I've had
a hard time distinguishing
between yearning
for my own youth and yearning
for the old San Francisco.
This is still
the most beautiful
place in the world to me,
and where I want to be.
It still has an
enchanted feel to it.
Times change.
[instrumental music continues]
Herb Caen, who was the great
columnist when
I was a young man
here, was always grumping about
how things were so much better
back in the '30s and '40s.
Well, you were young
then, Herb, and you know, and I
was young in the '70s and '80s.
And they were
lovely, but here we are, and
I'm fucking lucky to be alive.
That's what I
keep coming back to.
I'm so lucky to be alive.
I don't have friends who could
be here with me,
and have the luxury of griping
about the Google bus.
They are long gone.
And so, I try to
live my life for them.
[Armistead] It was so
cool to see Donna there.
[Christopher Turner] Let
me show you this window.
-Have you seen this?
-[Armistead] Oh, no.
[Christopher Turner]
It's great.
[Armistead] Now,
that's just so great.
[Christopher Turner]
Stay visible.
Should we...
Go get a Dapper Dog?
[Christopher Turner]
Dapper Dog.
-A little sustenance...
-[Armistead] Yeah.
-[Christopher Turner]
...after your show.
-[Armistead] Yeah.
-[Christopher Turner]
That was great.
-[Armistead] Oh, thanks, baby.
[instrumental music continues]