Armistead Maupin's not San Francisco's native son,, but he might as well be. No one else could capture what it's like to live in such a wonderful city with all its beauty and flaws. From his days writing for the Chronicle, people wanted to read what happened next at 28 Barbury Lane. Will Mary Ann Singleton ever find true love? What was the secret Mrs. Madrigal was keeping? And boy, Brian Hawkins is a hound, but darned cute, isn't he?
I love his writing; he can make his characters so real. The other day I was walking in Lafayette where a new colonic place opened up. Yes, only in California can you see a colonic place in the suburbs. And then I saw they also had isolation tanks. Isolation tanks! Of course I thought of the third Tales novel when Mary Ann and Brian are in separate isolation tanks, then Brian looked in on Mary Ann. They ended up sharing a tank and he admits that he could've slept with a old fling, but decided against it. The intimacy shared in the tank isn't just physical.
In his latest novel Maupin mentioned Café Gratitude. And I thought oh wow! I've been to Café Gratitude! And the dive bar Shawna waits for her boyfriend at? I know that bar! I've walked by it so many times! You have to understand that sometimes when San Francisco is written about it's the tourist approach; oh look, there's the Golden Gate Bridge! Let's ride a cable car! But Maupin knew that we loved other details: getting an Irish coffee from the Buena Vista, buying a Steiff bear from FAO Schwartz.
When he first ended Tales I thought "No!!!!" But then he came out with the sublime Maybe The Moon. It was semi based on a friend of his, Tamara de Treux. Not only did she have a great name, she was a part of celluoid history: being a small person, she wore the ET costume. When she died in 1990, Maupin told her story in a novel. ET became Mr. Woods, and Tamara became Candace Roth. However he also wrote about how gays are treated in Hollywood—before Ellen, before Jim Parsons, before Neil Patrick Harris, before Portia de Rossi, before Alan Cumming. I'm not saying that it's perfect, but it was better to stay in the closet than be out. Maupin explored the suits we all put on and hide behind. And the fact the suits can destroy you if you let them.
Yet he couldn't stay away from 28 Barbary Lane; he returned there for two novels and several miniseries and a muscial that debuted last year.
However, we are to lose Armistead Maupin. He and his husband are moving to Santa Fe. As my friend Lilly-Marie said, "Did he ask our permission to do this?" He didn't, but I guess he doesn't need it. One wants to say to him but does Santa Fe have Coit Tower? The beautiful fog? Herb Caen Way? What will we do without him. One has to hope he can visit. And have gossip.
Au revoir, Mr. Maupin. Our hearts are breaking as you leave.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries