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So we have two important california authors with us on the stage. David Ulin and Armistead Maupin. David is a book critic and former book editor of the LA times. He's the author of The Lost Art of Reading, Why Books Matter in a Distratec Time, Labyrinth in the Myth of Solid Ground, Earthquakes, Prediction and Fault Lines between Reason and Faith. He's also the editor of three anthologies: Another City Writing from LA, Cape Cod Noir, and The Library of America's Writing: Los Angeles where he delves into such authors as Buchowski and Faulkner, Octavio Paz, Joan Didion, David Hockney and Walter Mosely. He teaches both at uC Riverside and USC. David is one of the masterminds behind this conference, and he's also one of the masterminds behind the LA book festival. And in his book The Lost Art of Reading David writes "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little by stepping back from the noise." So please join me in welcoming David, California's literary mastermind and leader of the reader's resistance movement. It's with equal pleasure that I introduce Armistead Maupin. you know that he launched in 1976 the serial that was published in the san francisco chronicle that became Tales of the City. Eight novels, a miniseries, and a musical later he's still churning the books out and this January you'll receive The Days of Anna Madrigal which will come out so we're looking forward to that. In my mind Tales of the City pulled back the curtains to reveal the joy the suffering, the sex, the delight, and the magic that is San francisco and more profoundly revealed the complicated human journey that we're all part of . In talking to Oscar Villalon, the editor of zyzzyva about Armistead's work he said, "He's our Balzac." He's the author of a book that traces the human tragedy and comedy of san francisco, this parade we call san francisco. He's received multiple awards. The Trevor Project's Life award for his efforts in saving young lives. He's the first recipient of Litquake's Barbary Coast Award for his literary contributions to San Francisco. In 2012 he was awarded Lambda's Pioneer Award bestowed on individuals who've broken new ground in LGBT literature and publishing. Please join me in welcoming Armistead Maupin. Thank you Ralph and thank you Armistead for being here and participating in this conversation. My pleasure. So, let's start actually let's start, I'll do the worst thing a book critic can do. let me start by asking you about a book I haven't read. Let's talk about the new novel a little bit. When Maryanne in Autumn came out, you talked about the idea that you had, you were hoping to return to these characters and return to the Tales of the City cycle, but you weren't sure. You were playing around, you weren't sure about how far it was going to go. Obviously I have nothing specific to ask about the book and I don't want to give away anything, but this a signal that Tales of the City is back and here to stay? Uh, this is actually the end. okay, well, I have to throw out all these questions. I return to Tales of the City with Michael Tolliver Lives before Maryanne in Autumn, after having announced that it was the end in 1989 with a novel called Sure of You. I can now confess that I, one of the reasons that I stopped was that I had established that Michael Tolliver, the main gay character, was HIV positive and I didn't want to write one more story where the gay man died at the end. I wanted to leave him happy and brave and living his life to the fullest. But this was at a time where the assumption was that an HIV positive diagnosis was a death sentence. Everyone you knew who got it died. And it wasn't' until the protease inhibitors cocktails came along that I sat around thinking "I'd really like to write a story about a survivor." About someone who has been through the epidemic and is still around and is now middle aged, facing the realites of actual mortality as opposed to the threats of AIDS. So I, and then I realized I had such a man in my repertoire, Michael Tolliver, so I brought him back and i wrote a first person novel. It was the only departure from the normal Tales of the City format of multiple characters intertwining. And all third person. The other books are third person and Michael Tolliver is-- First person. --Is the only first person. Yeah, it's the only first person. There were critics that hated it in places, especially in Britain for some reason, that hated the notion. They said I was being too indulgently autobiographical, which just made me laugh so hard because I was more Dede Halcyon Day than Michael tolliver, ever. More Maryanne for that matter. When people started saying to me "Why did she become such a bitch?" I would get really personal about it. I once got, once between, when I was single I'd say, I was in Paris and did a reading and afterwards I went to the little gay bar around the corner and got very, very drunk on whatever that milky licorice thing is No, anyway, Pernod, I guess. Whatever it was I ended up in bed with two guys, partners-- I know you didn't think this was going to go this way. We can go whichever way it goes. They were both really drunk and they just scared the hell out of me because they veered very sharply to keep going from Princess diana's death tunnel in Paris, the place where she died. They were superstitious about it. We got back to the hotel, had a great jolly romp with each other, and later we're lying there like a bunch of puppies in a basket, and these two guys started talking to each other, in English, but broken English. French broken English. "You ask him." "No, no, no, you ask him." "I don't want to ask him, you ask him. Go ahead." "Alright, I'll ask him. Why did Maryanne become such a bitch?" The single thing that I'd been asked the most in the course of my literary career. This is how you know you've made it as a writer when you get asked that question in that situation. I love I love, yeah, especially in that one. I love the way in which people relate to the characters and I love feeling that connection to them when I'm writing. And even as I was writing, I mean Maryanne sort of redeems herself in Maryanne in Autumn. She goes through some hard times, she's proven to have grown. The latest one, the one that you asked me to talk about, is coming out January 21st, The Days of Anna Madrigal, is the first time I've ever broken out of time. I've always followed real time. And I've been afraid of going into the past. but I thought if I want to tell Anna Madrigal's story, I really have to go back to her boyhood in the brothel in Winnemucca, Nevada, and find out what it was, exactly what it was that made her leave and run away to San Francisco. And so, thank heavenes I live in the days of the internet, because you can just google, you can sit there and write "1930s whorehouse menu" and there it is! And you also know you're giving a charge to the guys from the NSA who are monitoring the-- Yeah, yeah. Oh, I'm far gone on that one. I make reference in the novel to something called a dry bob. it took me the longest time to find out, you'll have to read the book to find out what a dry bob is. I want to cycle back and sort of talk about the whole series. A little bit about the origins and all that, but I just want to say that I agree with Oscar in the sense of it being Balzackian or Dickensian. I know that you've been compared to those writers, in the sense that the whole series together seems, I read it as installments in a single novel, and the novel is really the story of San Francisco over the last, dating back to the mid-1970s. Um, i want to get a sense, I know you started writing it for a smaller paper, the Pacific Sun? Right In marin county before 1976. Can you start about the origins, the idea that you began, and why a newspaper? I had a friend named Patty McGeddican. I think Will Hearst knows Patty. Patty Vallejo McGeddican, who told me when I was writing for the Pacific Sun, sort of a round the town kind of column, it was the San Francisco edition of the Pacific Sun. She said "you really have to go down to the Marina Safeway on a Wednesday night and see this phenomenon that was called social Safeway." Which was straight people cruising each other at the grocery store, specifically at the vegetable bin. The scotsman Alistair Reed who finally directed the Tales of the City miniseries did some very interesting things with zucchinis in that particular scene. But I went down to the marina safeway and there were a lot of the overdressed young women in sort of rhinestone studded brushed denim pant suits, you know, the garb of the day. But I couldn't find anybody that would actually tell a reporter, "yes I'm here to get laid tonight." And so I went home very frustrated and made up a young woman in town named Maryanne Singleton and made it into a little story where at the end of it she meets the guy of her dreams, and he's there with the man of his dreams. And it struck a real nerve with a lot of San franciscans, especially straight single women who were gradually figuring out there wasn't the best shopping to be done for men around here. And, uh, Steve McNamara at the Pacific Sun said "why don't you do this every week and take us to a different place." it was a weekly paper. It was a weekly paper. So I started grabbing everything I knew about, one of them was the baths at that point, I knew a lot about the baths at that point. And other local phenomena, and then the characters started kind of talking to each other. I had always had, even before I wrote tales of the city, I had an address in mind. I had 28 Barbary lane in my head because I always fancied the notion of creating a place that people would come looking for that didn't really exist. Just the way I did with Tara when I was a teenager. I know it's fiction, but where would it be if it were here? And so that caught the eye of Charles McCabe who was the distinguished hard drinking Irish homophobic and curiously sweet columnist at the Chronicle. And he, someone overheard him, I think it was Virginia Westover, who was the society columnist for the Chronicle, saying this would work for the Chronicle because all of us old columnists were, in his words, "a bunch of old farts about to fall off the hooks." I never knew what that meant, but his theory was that it wouldn't compete with any of the other columnists because it was fiction. And the Chronicle was a very column driven newspaper, right? There were signature, a lot of signature voices. Yeah, ever since the day of Scott Newhall they did wacky, crazy things to keep people interested in the newspaper. Treasure hunts in town, and, what was his name? The old queen that told the women, all those misogynist things, somebody remember? Count Marco. He's spinning in his grave right now because I'm calling him an old queen, but that's what he was. He was from Modesto, Count Marco. And so they took it on and, to my horror, they said we'd like you to do it on a daily basis. And, uh, and that we'd like you to write thirty columns before we start so we'll have five weeks worth of a backlog. And I quit the AP, I came here to work for the AP initially, and I was terrible at it because I couldn't just grind out a story really fast. I was, you know, I always wanted to make the story better. So then you're the ideal candidate for a daily fictional column. yeah I was. They sent me on an assignment to cover the king of the gypsies over in Richmond. I went on for years with it. I mean, it was supposed to be just tossed in and I was trying to get it right. There was a guy, I have to tell this story, I don't know why, just revenge, I guess. Um, there was a guy I worked with in the AP office there in Fox Plaza. this is 1972 I guess. And I came in one night to report for my shift and he put his finger in my face and said "I am on to you. I know you're lazy and that you don't work and you don't turn anything out, and I just want you to know I've got your number." Three years ago at an autographing session he came up and asked me to autograph his book. I don't think he remembers the night that he made me feel like a piece of shit, but I did. And I was very gracious. But yeah, it started out, I came rushing in to the, they told me I could write it at home but I kind of liked the idea of working next to Pat Sager, the social columnist, because I could hear what was going on. you could weave it all in, right? You could weave it all in and-- In a second, and get in terrible trouble doing it. And then they started calling me and telling me, some of the Grand Dames of the city, would tell me this story about the woman who was the society kleptomaniac who was invited to all the parties, but they nailed everything down when she came, and one day she was leaving a, you know, a luncheon with the ladies, and a faberge egg fell out of her pantyhose, and they all knew it and they were all talking about it and I fictionalized it and put it in the paper, and my friend Denise Hale later told me, she says, "that was the moment that you struck terror into the hearts of everyone." Well this was the big advantage though, not just the society stuff, but the idea that, it turned out to be, the idea of writing these novels, or this novel on a daily basis in a column for the newspaper so that you could be immediately responsive. I mean one of the early circumstances that you weave into the first book is the whole Anita Bryant issue. You were fortunate I guess by having already made Michael's parents be florida orange growers. It couldn't have worked out better. it couldn't have been any better. It was freakish, it was like a gift from heaven. So I had Michael's mother write him and say I've joined the save our children campaign, and that prompted me to write his response, which to hear people tell it, became the model for thousands of people, gay men, who came out at that particular point, men and women, um, and it was how I told my parents. that's how, they were reading the Chronicle, they were subscribing to the Chronicle, and I've always been able to put things in writing when I have, when a confrontation is involved I'm not good at it. And so, um, that's how, basically, they found out. And how was that, in terms of the response, it's both easy and difficult to remember 1976 and the way, certainly sexuality was dealt with in the culture at large, even in San francisco. What was the response to the idea of the story becoming increasingly politicized, increasingly dealing with sexual identity issues, all that kind of stuff? Well I, always, I tell the story about the managing editor, Gordon Pates, at the Chronicle began to realize there wasn't going to be just this one walk on by a gay man at the Marina Safeway, because I began introducing more and more gay and lesbian characters. He got nervous about it and brought me into his office one day and showed me a chart he had made where he would enter each new Tales of the City character as they appeared and he had one column that said homosexual and the other one said heterosexual. And as the characters appeared they went into the appropriate column, and at no point were the homosexual characters to rise above thirty percent of the population. I don't know how he arrived at thirty percent. I think it's remarkable that he was keeping track. I know. He was probably right at that point, it probably was about thirty percent of the population. But I wrote a column in which Frannie Halcyon, the sort of dipsomaniac society matron from hillsborough, has a long lunch and comes home and passes out in her herb garden and wakes up to find her great dane pleasuring himself on her leg. And I made them put the dog in the heterosexual column. I know it sounds coarse in the retelling of it, but it's actually very funny because Dede thinks her mother's been sexually assaulted and she's given this very PC feminist thing she's trying to be and she says "Mother, it's 1976, these things cannot be swept under the rug. You must tell me who was it? Was it Manuel the gardener?" You know, going down this long list, and her mother won't talk about it at all. At the end of it, when it's all over and Dede's left the room, Frannie reaches down and scratches the dog under his chin and says, it's okay baby. Momma knows you didn't mean it." So this raises a question, too, when you were writing this story for the newspaper, newspapers are notoriously skittish and conservative about language, even, let alone anything smacking of sexuality. How did you get it in? Fighting every day. I'm gonna tell a story about Will Hearst in a minute, this is a few years down the line. It was a negotiation. What do you mean I can't say shit? I said shit last week. Yes, but that was shitkicker, that was part of the word, and this is a shit in the first paragraph. Endless, endlessly, um, something that I had to negotiate. Will and I had, I'd defected to the Examiner in the fifth, thank you very much, Significant Others, which caused a huge flap because at the last minute they found out that the chronicle says the Examiner can't use the name tales of the city, so we had to call it Significant Others. They had to destroy 500,000 copies of the paper because Tales of the city was in the Examiner. I was feeling adventurous, I wanted to, I had admired Will for his, he's done some sassy things in his life. And i thought, um, this might be interesting. Even though it wasn't the newspaper that everybody was reading, but I wanted to see if people might start picking up the examiner. The day I signed on at the Examiner, Warren Hinkle, the legendary eyepateched Warren Hinkle says "come on we're going to celebrate." He took me, the gay man, to the Mitchell Brothers screening room, to the O'"Farrell theater with all the girls lying around half naked on the big, smelly poof things in the middle of the room. Sat there and poured back huge tumblers of bourbon with Jim and Artie Mitchell, one of whom later murdered the other one. And I felt I was in, you know, it was and maybe still is, I don't know, maybe it's not still the wild west, but there was the sense when you were in California that anything could happen and that the material was there for me to use it. It was about that time that I met Robin Williams and I was up at Robin's ranch and this kid, up there for a party, this kid came wandering over from a trailer where he was staying there on the ranch, and turned out to be Zack Leary, timothy Leary's son, and he came up to me and said "Hey, what's blue and creamy?" Ten year old. And the answer was smurf sperm. I decided this would be a perfect thing to put into Tales of the City because I had these ten year old kids with lesbian moms, i was very proud of the fact by the way that they were some of the first lesbian moms in pop culture, really, Dede and Dorothy had these kids. And I thought it was especially funny if the kids were doing things that were going "Oh shit what do we do now?" you know. And so Will saw the newspaper, called me up and said "Army, we can't have smurf sperm in the examiner." and we actually, where are you while I'm talking about you? Hello sir. We negotiated over, I remember him saying, "Don't give me such a hard time, I let you have that JO party last week." And then so we talked about it and he said "What if we say what's blue and makes babies?" So that's what we settled on. But you still got to use-- Women like that, awww. But you still got to use smurf sperm I still got to use smurf sperm. it's got to be the only recorded newspaper editor writer negotiation about smurf sperm. Ever. But we could talk to each other in the best kind of way, a serious outcome of that was that year it was really becoming more and more, people were growing more and more angry in the gay community that the local newspapers would not print the partners of people who were dying of AIDS because they weren't technically biological family members and they weren't married. And so they were being made invisible in the obituaries and all i had to do was say two words to Will about it and he called an editorial meeting and he said make your pitch, and I did, and the Examiner's policy was changed right on the spot from that moment on in 1987. So. So I want to talk about this kind of idea of using the novel or using the fiction as a social force in a certain way. I didn't get on that, did I really? it's alright. i wander. but we, you know we talked, I mentioned the Anita Bryant think, you wrote about the People's Temple, that was a major theme in one of the books. Jon Fielding, who I think is the first character in American literature, certainly, to die fo AIDS. All of these kind of elements, it really opened up a discussion in many ways. I know that was part of your intent, but was that part of your intent going in or as you continued to write this thing did you begin to sort of think differently about how it operated? Well, yeah, I was, yeah, I was became aware of it as soon as the Anita Bryant thing happened and I realized I had the power to write that letter and to tell that story. Wasn't there resistance to--? I had a bit of a showdown with Dick Terry at one point because I had written a column in which, if you remember Anita Bryant, what happened after Anita Bryant, they went ahead and past this heinous thing in south Florida. And was reading things from gay people who were basically saying, well time to go back into the closet. And Michael made a little speech to someone when I came out of the closet I nailed the doors shut. And I found out after the fact that some couple of allies, women, almost always been women by the way over the years, from the people department called me and said that column is being pulled because they think it will upset some people in the Sunset. I don't know what they imagine to be in the Sunset. But the truth was when Michael's life was threatened by the Guillan-Barre syndrome, before there was AIDS, I had people, I remember a woman writing and saying I'm nothing but a middle aged housewife from Moraga with two little machos of my own, but if you kill Michael tolliver I will never subscribe to the chronicle again. So I knew that there was power so I told Dick, I said if you don't run it I'm done and I'm not going to do it anymore. And I sat there for about three hours thinking, you idiot, you know. And he called back and said Alright, go ahead. And then you really had the power. And then I really had the power. I never got rich off of it. The newspaper men in this town are very shrewd about that. But I yeah, I knew what the support was. And you know, to everyone's credit, we were all, the times were moving, we were all on it. it was just a great wave we were riding and we were changing the rules as we went along. Everyone was. And I was thrilled as a writer to be able to do that, to have this fresh material that no one else had. it was extraordinary for me. I was amazed that I had this opportunity to tell a story and be funny about it, to make people care about the characters, to make people care about the non-liberal, one of my favorite things ever was in Significant Others, which I did for the Examiner, was when Budo Manego the old right wing reaganite is up in the bohemian grove, and he passes out in a canoe because his best friend just died of a heart attack while in drag at the grove play, and he drifts down the river and into a women's music festival that's camped and is immediately kidnapped by the women and held hostage. And he's finally rescued by a tough old bull dyke named Mabel who's there with a winnebago and she starts talking about how much she loves the Star Wars program and Reagan and he's looking at her in amazement and says "What are you doing here?" at a women's music festival. And she looks at him and sort of snorts and says, "pussy." And those are my favorite moments when very unlikely people, seemingly unlikely people, collide and find something in common. Well i think this is, this has been true since the beginning. When I think about Anna Madrigal and Edgar Halcyon, who seem to be the most opposite of characters. You can hardly imagine them together, but their story fuels one of the central stories of the first book. That's what I, one of these days if we ever get that musical to Broadway, which I hope we do, everyone agrees that it should be retooled more as Anna's story and that central love story because I am really proud of that, the notion of those two people finding each other and having to tell their own truths before he dies, essentially. I have a moment in the Days of Anna Madrigal, you know he's from Stanford. He tells here at the very beginning when she meets him on the park bench in Washington Square, that he went to this brothel in Winnemucca and then she tells him my mother ran that place, and he remembers the name of the woman. That woman in the brothel plays a major role in The Days of Anna Madrigal. You find out exactly what role she played in Anna's life. So let me ask you this because in Maryanne in Autumn you bring back plot threads from the first Tales o fhte city novel. In this new novel you're bringing back that plot line. How do you keep it all in your head? How do you, how do I was going to say how do you keep it all straight, but I didn't want to-- Yes, alright. You don't have to avoid those things with me, Bob. I worry that I don't, I mean, there have been readers who've written and found discrepancies. I went back and did a little reading this time to make sure I got some timeframe things right. I don't know, I think I've just kind of developed this, I hesitate to call it a computer, but, from the beginning I had to jiggle these daily episodes and then I had to make them into something, and then I had to make sure that the novel was a self contained entity that fed you the right, you know, all the information you needed if this was the first one you ever picked up. I'm really proud of that, I think you can do that with any of the nine novels. but you can read them on their own. But something, there's something in me that says, okay, this person has to come back now. There hasn't been enough of this person. The internet has helped a lot. AFter MaryAnne in Autumn someone would say "where's Brian? I want to know what Brian's doing." And I would go to that. And then I'd do the math and figure out how old they are in relation to my own age, because I've always known that they were exactly my age, or in the case of Michael seven years younger. I don't have a real answer for that and there may be, I think there may be a lot of discrepancies. I don't have charts or anything like that. A whole bunch of stuff in a real computer. Um, once you decided to go back, we talked earlier about returning to Michael to write a survivors' story, but you could have left it at that rather than continuing and writing the subsequent two novels. What kept you there? The other characters were kind of demanding attention. And I also wanted to not leave Maryanne just as I didn't want to leave Michael dead I didn't want to leave her a bitch. I've never felt that way, i don't by the way use that word in real life. But a lot of people have used it with me. And I've never seen her that way, I guess, because there is so much of myself in her. what I did with her was sort of let my own ambition be hers and sort of as a caveat to myself I think. Don't lose touch with the things that brought you here, you know. Um, and so I had to give her a hard time in that novel. I had to give her something really tough to deal with. It's funny because, i still worry about spoilers even after all these years, but as you, people who've read Maryanne in Autumn know, she comes down with uterine cancer and Laura Linney who had become in my mind and the minds of many people the embodiment of Maryanne suddenly announced, and we're very close friends but she kept his kind of close, that she was doing The big C on Showtime, that her character had cancer. And it was quite eerie to feel that those parallel dramas, to watch the show and then realize I was writing about it in my own way. That was one of the great benefits of, one of the great gifts of this adventure has been that the actors who created these roles have become very close friends of mine, and many of them are so close to the mark. I mean, Olympia Dukakis is that kind of an earth mother. She is that person. She gave me pot on my birthday one year. It wasn't something she had around, she sent her assistant out and said get him some nice grass. Did you, did the miniseries affect the way you thought about the characters? Did you begin to sort of either visualize them as those actors, or the portrayals got into the way you thought about how they operated? It was a great help, it was a huge help. I don't know if you've ever felt it, but a lot of writers read their own work and think this is just me me me talking to me me me and I've never had that feeling. You've never? You just, you're trying to disguise the fact that you're pulling something form your own life, from you own heart to invent a seemingly brand new character, but when you hear their voices they're kind of your own. So after the miniseries happened, I could start hearing Laura's voice Olympia's voice, those were the two main ones. Um, but it was very useful to me. I could imagine how they would play the scene. Laura and I are very similar personality-wise. We both were raise to be good little kids by southern parents and we both know how to be gracious on the outside while inside we're thinking this is the biggest idiot I've ever talked to in my life. we all do that, when you put on a friendly face and underneath you're thinking something else. And Maryanne is kind of written that way, you kind of see what she is thinking. So, as a consequence, I guess our friendship was inevitable because we sort of have the same responses to things. yeah it's interesting with Maryanne because I've noticed I think when I first read Sure of You or, well, throughout, but when I first read Sure of You I was sort of shocked by her but then looking back at the earlier books you can see the seeds of it in her behavior, I mean even in the idea that she goes to, comes to San Francisco on a vacation and then decides to stay, and then discards, basically discards Connie, I mean, blows her off entirely. There's always a sort of , call it a little bit of a ruthless streak in her. yeah, there is. Um, I like that about her. She's more fun to write for that reason because, you know, it's all sweetness and light on the outside, and keep in mind I was, I knew when I was writing Sure of You, book six, that I was leaving and so I sort of used it for Maryanne thinking she's leaving. She's getting out of town. She's got this, what she thinks is this great job offer in new York, and she's never been all that happy with her husband, and that kid was Connie's kid to begin with, and she rationalizes deserting her family. It all works out at burning man, you'll be happy to know, Bruce, I, a lot of the Days of Anna Madrigal is set at Burning Man and Winnemucca. I went, again, with my husband Chris this year so I could be sure I remembered correctly what happened last year. And did you? Yes. I just want to ask you a couple more questions and then I want to turn it over, I'm sure we have some questions from the audience. One thing I want to talk about a little bit is the idea, too, that all the characters are tough in the sense that, in a variety of ways, but in Maryanne in Autumn they don't just welcome her back, she has to prove herself, they have long memories, they know what happened. It doesn't just get swept under the rug even though she's sick. And I think that's one of the, you know, when you say it isn't all sweetness and light, there is always that kind of hard edge of reality. The books are funny, but they're also tragic and real in that sense, and I wanted to ask you. Thank you, by the way. I hate being called sentimental because I'm really not. I don't think they're sentimental at all. yeah because it's the way life is. that's the way life is. You don't get to fix everything but you can have these tender little moments of understanding and yet it doesn't, it doesn't tie up. The days of Anna Madrigal doesn't tie up because there is no moment in life when that happens. I try to have a few little resolutions, but it just goes on. Well you said in some interview i read you said you don't write endings. Because the story doesn't end. yeah, I don't. Even when I've departed, two other novels of mine, both of which I'm proud of, Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener, which is sort of a psychological thriller, thank you, there are characters of Tales of the city in there, so I don't quite leave the universe. Gabriel Noone, the writer in the Night lIstener employs an accountant, a bookkeeper, who is Anna Halcyon Wilson, the daughter of Dede Halcyon Day. Which makes Sandra Oh, who played her in the movie the only actor to play two different characters in Tales of the City because she is also Bambi Kanataka, the ruthless newscaster. I only did that so for years I would have Wendy Tokuda and Jan Yanahiro fighting over whether I was writing about either one of them. So the last question I want to ask you is, you know, you wrote it as a serial for the first five books. Sure of You you wrote as a stand alone. did you continue writing it as a serial after you had to, or did you stop writing it as a serial as soon as you could? That might be an economic question or maybe a creative question. And what was the difference once you were not writing it in short installments on a daily deadline, was there a difference ein how you produced it or in your sense of how the process worked, or did you adapt it, was it fairly similar? it was gradual. I knew, by the time I got to Significant Others, which was the last one I did for a newspaper, for the Examiner, I by then I knew how, okay I'm going to stop here and this will work as a daily thing, but I know that five of these will make a longer chapter. And I taught myself to sort of figure out how to do that. The process really, a gradual process, in the very beginning when Harvey Ginsburg called me from harper and Row and said I think there's a novel in this, can you see what you can do? I had just become friends, actually the night before Tales of the City appeared in the Chronicle, I had met Rock Hudson and he stood up rather drunkenly and sweetly, having gone down to the desk at the Fairmont hotel and bough the bulldog edition of th Chronicle and said I have a little reading to do, and he read the first chapter of tales of the city to about six or seven of us guys hanging out there with him. And it actually mentioned McMillan and wife in the column. Very weird. And two years later we'd become good friends and he said "use the palm springs house if you need to get away and write." so I was on the floor of Rock Hudson's living room with all of the chapter,s there were many more than ended up in it, moving them around to try to make them work better, creating surprises that I didn't even know. it was like, you know a puzzle, a wonderful puzzle. And then as I say, as it went along I began to realize how I could make it work for the novel while i was writing on a daily basis. And Sure of You was written strictly as a novel. As are all the subsequent All the subsequent ones. the reason I didn't, to answer your question, is it's really hard work. it's excruciating and terrifying if you're doing it in real time. Well the benefit of being able to response to what's happening in the news is also the terror. You're walking that tightrope where you're basically putting your first draft out into print. Absolutely,. That's what I was doing. But it was there. The immediacy of it was wonderful. If I met a guy one night in a bar in the Castro who was really fascinated by me, and as a sex object apparently, and, long time ago, and it turned out I was wearing weejuns and he was hot for my shoes. He was a weejuns fetishist. We went to his apartment and he had framed pictures of weejuns. Yeah, it was scary as hell. Then I found out that he was the night clerk at the Huntington hotel, which at the time was one of the last hotels in America that would shine your shoes if you left them outside the door at night. And he would cruise the halls at night looking for weejuns. And then he would steal them or he would just I don't know what he did with them, I don't want to know. It's the novelist's job to imagine what he would do with the weejuns. I was going to ask another question, but I think we'll stop. And let's turn it over to some questions from the audience. Guys there's a microphone there which we need you to use because it's for the taping, so if you could stand up and come to that microphone there that's right over there. Yeah, go ahead. I'll call on people or you can all line up. Or you can shout it out and we'll repeat the questions. You can shout it out and we'll repeat the questions. hi guys. Thanks for being here. hi Ben. I want to take a moment to thank Armistead, which I've done before, but when I was coming out of the closet I didn't have It Gets Better, but I had Tales of the city and that worked for me. Thank you. And made a difference to my life and taught me that there was a gay community to come out to and it had an enormous impact on me. Thank you. You know that means more to me than anything. I should just be on the record as saying. That single thing, maybe not just limited to gay people but anybody who felt the freedom to be themselves by reading those books, that has been my reward. I know people who-- I know people moved to San Francisco because of your books and they're not gay. The question I wanted to ask you as a big time reader and as a somewhat OCD reader, particularly I think the first two serials when you turned them into books, you made a lot of changes. And there were plot lines that were developed-- Yeah, I knew you'd come here and haunt me with this. There were plot lines that were developing, things about Edgar Halcyon's son-in-law and if he was still alive. Yeah, someone had a baby in a cat box or something. The sequence with the more mature ladies sex camp where they go up and there were people involved in that that you were obviously developing, and then you turned it into a book, and they vanished. Well, Pinus was still there. I'll admit that I was looking forward to those plot lines. How did you make the transition from the first couple of series to turning them into books and how do you feel about the plot lines you abandoned? I was happy to get a second crack at it because I watched these long form television shows that I love so much right now, and when you watch them jumping the shark in the second or third season I'm completely sympathetic because you run out of new ways to keep people on the hook. And I felt that some of those more extreme plot lines were exactly what I was doing and I had to go back and trust the fact that people cared about these characters. And the more I rooted it in that the better I was. They've become more naturalist as they go along for that very reason, because I didn't feel I had to have the episcopal cannibal cult. I'm a big fan and you mentioned that when you created 28 Barbary lane you wanted people to go find it. About a year ago my boyfriend and I woke up and said Hey, what are we going to do today? And I was like we're going to find Barbary lane and we did, we found it and took a picture. Anyway, A little closer to the mic. She's saying that she and her boyfriend went looking for barbary lane, found Macondry lane and took a picture. And we were just , walked down it and found the rickety old wooden steps and we enjoyed ourselves. My question is you said that you were more like Dede or like Maryanne than you were Michael, but like Michael, you also married a much younger man. How much of each character is autobiographical? Uh, just an honest and direct proportion to how much it might embarrass me, I use a lot of my own life, but a lot of it is made up. So, I find that it infuses it with some sort of reality if you can pull from your own experience. Christopher and I met the way michael and Ben did, he saw, Michael sees Ben on a site for non-ageist personals site for gay men. And then sees him on the street which is exactly what happened to me and chris. I had to do it the old fashioned way by chasing him halfway down the street. By the way the age difference thing came to play in an amusing way when we were in Hollywood this year because Olympia Dukakis was given a star on the walk of fame at the age of 82 and was asked if we'd come down and participate in the ceremony. The person who presented the award to her was Ed Asner, her old friend and liberal kick-ass great guy. Ed Asner who, looks exactly like the guy in Up, you know. And he had a minor role, a cameo role in Tales of the City so I went up and said I'm Armistead Maupin I want to thank you so much for being in our miniseries and this is my husband Christopher Turner. And he turned to christopher and turned back to me and said You've got great taste. And then he turned to Chris and said I want to thank you for getting another senior citizen off the streets. Hi. I loved the casting of characters in the miniseries and I see you did too. And I wanted to know if you had a say in the casting of those characters. First of all, most of the credit goes to a brilliant guy named John Lyons who also cast the Coen brothers movies, Fargo, all those movies. He really knows how to nail you know, the smaller roles even. Just brilliant. And then he went out and got people like McLean Stevenson and Edie Adams and who else? Rod Steiger is in Tales of the city. I suggested Olympia and Laura came to read interestingly enough, Laura came to read for the role of Dede because she said they always hauled her in for the intelligent, but wounded characters. and they were after some young actress who was hot at the moment who we've never even heard of now for Maryanne and it fell through. And they said, we've got to do this and they said we've got to do this, do you think this woman would be good for Maryanne and they sent me the tape and I couldn't believe it. It was just the embodiment, she just utterly understood it. And I was in awe of her from the moment she arrived on the set. She wasn't famous at the time, but, it was just very clear that she was exactly what her gift was. But I stayed out of it for the most part. Iw as a little bit afraid that my specific image of the character might dictate it too much. Jon Fielding is described as sort of a nordic god in Tales of the city and Billy Campbell played him. And i would have hated to miss out on Billy Campbell just because he wasn't blond, you know. thank you. Hi. At a reading for the Night Listener in like 1999 in Portland, Oregon, i stood up and asked you if you would ever be revisiting the Tales of the City characters, and you said um, no, nobody wants to hear from those old, they're old now, who wants to hear from those old people anymore. So I feel a little bit responsible for these later Tales of the city books. Okay, good. I've also adjusted my idea of what old is. I seem to be doing that a lot. The Tales seem to be having such a life after, musicals, radio adaptations, and the miniseries. I saw the musical here at ACT and I wonder how you felt about the musical and what's happening with the musical and other stuff that's going to be coming with Tales and other stuff you might be working on. The problem with the musical with the team is that they've all gone on to do amazing things and they're so busy. i don't think we'll ever get them back together. Jason Moore, our director, did Pitch Perfect and now Pitch Perfect 2, and Jeff Whitty did Bring it On, the cheerleader musical, and now he's just been hired by Gwyneth Paltrow to write a musical about the Gogos. He moved mysteriously to LA this year and I could not figure out why, just confirm New York or move to LA. Well, Gwyneth Paltrow, that's the answer. But anyway, they have great careers and are busy. Jake Shears has been on the road forever. I loved it, I saw it seventeen times, I loved it. I know what was, what needed to be done, we all agreed that, you know, a pederast was not really a good thing in a musical. It works in some odd way because it's all off screen in the book, but it didn't work, the Norman character didn't work. And as I said earlier, it became clearer and clearer that it should have been Anna's show. She's the diva at the center of it and she should have been, it's not about Maryanne coming to town, it's about this amazing earth mother who has this apartment house and these new people who come in. But having said that, I felt so lucky we had Betsy Wolf in the role of Maryanne, she's brilliant, and she's doing everything now. And I thought Wes Taylor who played Michael was just, I thought he was the best Michael yet, really. I really enjoyed reading the whole series, but, there's kind of two parts to it. The original part, and now this part. I'm now looking forward to reading the next novel coming out in january, but I'm also looking forward to, in about 15-20 years, having your husband keep you alive and write the next part of the series. Picturing that, what do yo mean? Like just my head in a big tank? In a large petri dish. Thank you, Bruce, for wanting my husband to keep me alive. If anybody could, he could. Um, you know, it's funny, there is this thing now, you all tell me whether I should do it. There is a new thing at Amazon called Amazon World where you release your material to other writers and they keep the story going. Good? Bad? Scary as hell? Scares me. Fascinating idea. It's a compliment in the sense that people think they know the characters so if someone can keep it going, it's like fan fiction, basically, but written by hopefully by people who can write. I don't think I want to, but I think I want them to die with me. Thank you so much. I found your work by PBS, love the show, then went to your books, and then wanted more, and then they never showed the second one on my local PBS and after writing a note of donation after the first one, wrote them an angry letter when they didn't show them the second one, and that was the beginning of the end of PBS for me. Unfortunately that's true. It was for Jessica Mitford, too. She got up before an audience in Oakland and tore up her PBS card over it. I just, like the biggest compliment in the world. What struck me in the books was basically, it was the first time that it was it was almost a given that, where, gay people were referring to their partners as husbands and wives and it seems, at that time when I read it, that it was a nice idea, and how quickly it's come. It really, you know, from the eighties, or the nineties which is when the show came out, and people were referring, in books at least ,I don't remember if it was in PBS, were referring to men and women as husbands and wives of each other, and how happy I am now it's becoming a reality. Yeah, it's cool, thank you. You know that's still a tough one for some, I mean, not the notion of the marriage, but the nomenclature. Chris and I were recently had the great joy of meeting doctor Ruth Westheimer. yeah, she's charming beyond belief and when I met her I was able to say thank you so much for everything. Because she spoke out about AIDS very early on, she just reduced it to everyone's love life and that's just the way it is. She's lovely, lovely person with an extraordinary history. She was a sniper in the Israeli army. She escaped from the holocaust and became a sniper in the israeli army. She never shot anybody, she said. It's such an image, she's about as tall as Ed Asner, you know. But we were with Alan Cumming and his husband, recently married, they've been together for 12 years, the actor Alan Cumming, he said this is my husband Grant, and she said "Does that make you the wife?" And I heard that from a very distinguished writer from the New Yorker, really educated liberal guy, I heard that same question and it made me realize the biggest struggle for gay folks are these gender strictures that are so built into our society. Is it really that hard to understand that a male spouse is a husband and a female spouse is a wife? But the roles imposed, still, on our society upon heterosexual couples, make it harder for people to understand the concept of a homosexual couple. And i think that people who worry that we're breaking down traditional values are absolutely right. We are, and it's all for the good, especially the women. I'll be fast. I'm a librarian, I'm also a queer fourth generation San Franciscan, so I can't thank you, well, it would take too much time. Thank you. Thank you for that description, too. All fourth generations aren't queer are they? I wish. One third. Um, quick question. Why did you kill Mona? I cried. Keep an eye on that woman, I'm worried about her. Because, um, people die and I had a very personal interest in breast cancer specifically, and the way it takes people out of our lives. My mother died of it. My sister is the only female member of our family going back several generations who hasn't died of this epidemic, which is what it is. I suppose it was the same reason that I killed Jon Fielding, because people have to be made to feel the reality of these things, and sometimes they feel it far more strongly through fictional characters than they do through what's happening around them. So that was largely the reason. Because I loved her, I guess. Hey. Miss, Donna, how are you? Welcome home. Thank you, darling. Anna Madrigal is such a character, and you obviously love her and you say that the story centers around her. Was there an Anna Madrigal in your life? Did you have a transsexual friend or a person that had a secret? Where did that come from? Several transsexual people just fascinated me early on. One was someone named Gordon Langley Hall who moved to Charleston South Carolina in the sixties who was the foster son, the adopted son of Dame Margaret Rutherford from the old Miss Marple movies? He wrote books about famous women and became the toast of charleston society until he started going to Johns Hopkins to the gender reassignment clinic at Johns Hopkins and came back to Charleston and was already dressing as a woman and then fell in love with an AfricanAmerican shrimp boat fisherman. I mean, he, she by that time, had broken every rule in the book and was really shunned by people in Charleston, and wrote several books about it and she died about five years ago and, look it up, Dawn Langley Hall, the obituary in the New York times was one of the most moving things I've ever read because it was a series of apologies from people who said We treated her terribly. We're so ashamed of how we behaved. And I was a naval ensign at the time and I remember reading about it on a printout, I can't even remember what it was called at the time, the communications thing that came out, like a telegraph thing. There was the story in the charleston paper, so she fascinated me and then when I first moved to San Francisco and I was doing freelance work for the Pacific Sun, someone named Kate Marlowe who is still Kenneth Marlowe, a hairdresser on Union Street, was undergoing reassignment surgery, but had to pay for it, very expensive, and hired Sally Rand, the old fan dancer, used to be at the music Box, she was 70 then and still doing her famous fan dance under a three watt blue bulb, and the Benny Goodman orchestra, and they had a party of old farts at California Hall, all dancing to Benny Goodman orchestra and watching Sally Rand perform. And Kate Marlowe, bless her heart, named the event The Ball to End All Balls. Only in San Francisco. Kate Marlowe, by the way, told the story, that she had grown up in a whorehouse in Winnemucca Nevada, and so I lifted that detail and felt actually, later, I thought I really should get in touch with her and let her know that's where that came from. And I found in a thrift shop an old memoir she had written, and she said that her parents were a gangster and his mol in Chicago, so she was a little colorful. and then I imbued it with the spirit of my grandmother who was a suffragist when she was a young woman and a loving, expansive person and just melded the whole thing and thought I want people to love this woman. Thank you, Donna. Well, I want to thank you for talking with me. Thank you, Bob. Thank you all for coming. it was a total pleasure, thank you all so much.