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Gay History – May 16, 1921: Edward Everett Tanner (aka Patrick Dennis) Author of “Auntie Mame” Is Born

May 16,1921 – Patrick Dennis (pseudonym of Edward Everett Tanner) , the writer who created Auntie Mame was born in Chicago. A gay man, he is the only author to have had three novels on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time. Auntie Mame‘s first edition spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, selling more than 2,000,000 copies in five different languages. The manuscript was turned down by fifteen publishers before being accepted by the Vanguard Press

His novel Auntie Mame: An irreverent escapade (1955) was one of the bestselling American books of the 20th century. In chronological vignettes, the narrator — also named Patrick — recalls his adventures growing up under the wing of his madcap aunt, Mame Dennis. Tanner/Dennis wrote a sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame, in 1958. Dennis based the character of Mame Dennis on his father’s sister, Marion Tanner.

Tanner/Dennis led a double life as a conventional husband and father, and as a closeted gay man. By 1962, having been an alcoholic for many years, he attempted suicide for the third documented time. He was locked in a mental institution where he was subjected to electroshock therapy. After being released he left his wife and children and later life became a well-known participant in Greenwich Village’s gay scene.

In the 1970’s all of his books went out of print. He left writing to become a butler, a job that his friends reported he enjoyed. At one time, he worked for Ray Kroc, the CEO of McDonald’s. Although he was, at long last, using his real name, he was in essence working yet again under a pseudonym; his employers had no inkling that their butler, Tanner, was the world-famous author Patrick Dennis.[

Edward Everett Tanner died from pancreatic cancer in Manhattan at the age of 55, on November 6, 1976.

At the turn of the 21st century there was a resurgence of interest in his work, and subsequently many of his novels are once again available.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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1 thought on “Gay History – May 16, 1921: Edward Everett Tanner (aka Patrick Dennis) Author of “Auntie Mame” Is Born”

  1. … Fun Fact: Dennis was born-&-raised here in Buffalo, NY!?! We’re very Proud of his Accomplishments. Also: He makes a brief “Cameo” appearance in the Roz Russell Version of “Mame, the best Movie about Auntie M!

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