Quentin Quisp was (born Denis Charles Pratt; 25 December 1908 – 21 November 1999) was a gay English writer, raconteur and actor.
Quisp came from a conventional British suburban background, wore make-up and painted his nails. During his teenage years he worked briefly as a rent-boy. He then spent 30 years as a professional model for life-classes in art colleges. The interviews he gave about his unusual life attracted increasing public curiosity and he was soon sought after for his very personal views on social manners and the cultivating of style. His one-person stage show was a long-running hit both in Britain and America and he also appeared in films and on TV.
In 1975, the television version of The Naked Civil Servant was broadcast on British and US television, making actor John Hurt and Crisp into stars. This success launched Crisp in a new direction: that of performer and tutor. He devised a one-person show and began touring the country with it. The first half of the show was an entertaining monologue loosely based on his memoirs, while the second half was a question-and-answer session with Crisp picking the audience’s written questions at random and answering them in an amusing manner.
Crisp remained fiercely independent and unpredictable into old age. He caused controversy and confusion in the gay community by jokingly calling AIDS “a fad”, and homosexuality “a terrible disease”. He was continually in demand from journalists requiring a sound-bite, and throughout the 1990s his commentary was sought on any number of topics.
Crisp was also a stern critic of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her attempts to gain public sympathy following her divorce from Prince Charles. He stated: “I always thought Diana was such trash and got what she deserved. She was Lady Diana before she was Princess Diana so she knew the racket. She knew that royal marriages have nothing to do with love. You marry a man and you stand beside him on public occasions and you wave and for that you never have a financial worry until the day you die.”
Crisp died of a heart attack in November 1999, nearly one month before his 91st birthday, in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, on the eve of a nationwide revival of his one-man show. A humorous pact he had made with performer Penny Arcade to live to be a century old, with a decade off for good behavior, proved prophetic.
Quisp was unlike his life cremated with a minimum of theatrics and ceremony.
You can watch the 1975 biographical film based on Quentin Crisp’s life, “The Naked Civil” Servant below.