Armistead Maupin was born on this day in Washington, D.C. in 1944.
Maupin grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He began working as a newspaper reported in Charleston, S.C. before he moved to San Francisco in 1971 to work for the Associated Press. In 1976, he released the first installment of his Tales of the City serials. first in a now-defunct Marin County newspaper and later in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Because installments were published so soon after Maupin wrote them, he was able to incorporate many current events into the serials portrayal of both straight and LGBT life in San Francisco, as well as gauge reader response and modify the story accordingly. At one point Maupin received a letter from a reader who pointed out that one of the characters’ names was an anagram, providing Maupin with one of the more memorable and surprising plot twists in the book.
Real life people such as Jim Jones and a thinly veiled Elizabeth Taylor are mentioned in the story lines. A prominent closeted gay celebrity is represented as “______ ______” throughout the third novel, with sufficient detail available to deduce that it could be Rock Hudson.
Tales of the City was later reworked into the series of books published by HarperCollins (then Harper and Row). The first of Maupin’s novels, entitled Tales of the City, was published in 1978. Five more followed in the 1980s, ending with the last book, Sure of You, in 1989. A seventh novel published in 2007, Michael Tolliver Lives, continues the story of some of the characters. It was followed by an eighth volume, Mary Ann in Autumn, published in 2010 and a ninth and final volume, The Days of Anna Madrigal, in 2014. Maupin was one of the first writers to address the subject of AIDS in his storylines.
Of the autobiographical nature of the characters, he says “I’ve always been all of the characters in one way or another.”
The Tales of the City books have been translated into ten languages, and there are more than six million copies in print. Several of the books have been adapted and broadcast on BBC Radio 4
Maupin married his husband Christopher Turner in Vancouver. During a trip to Australia in 2011, Maupin and his husband were denied the use of a restroom at a saloon in Alice Springs where they were having lunch. The bartender told them to go across the street because their rest room was reserved for “real men.” “So we did what real men do and crossed the street to the visitor’s center where we filed a complaint,” Maupin wrote. “Impressively we received an e-mail apology from the bartender that afternoon. Fair dinkum, mate. Next time don’t [expletive] with the poofters.”
If you have never read it or seen the PBS mini-series based on the books, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series is must reading for all in the LGBT community both old and young. It’s an entertaining and loving throwback to an earlier time that is also historical looking back to an almost forgotten time in LGBT history that has since overshadowed by the AIDS epidemic.
Thank you and Happy Birthday Armisted.