Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Quentin Crisp

Quentin Crisp

I do not hold with nature, but I would gladly have overcome my revulsion from leaves and blades of grass in the hope of escaping for a while from the oven-like atmosphere of the city. This was not to be. Instead, I was compelled to choose between sitting in my room naked with the door shut, thus forfeiting even the hope of a breeze wafting past me, or leaving the door open and wearing clothes so as not to disgust any fellow inmates of the house who might chance to pass by. I tried both these courses of inaction and, in each case, spent most of Saturday and Sunday flopping about with my hair clinging to my forehead, a pool of sweat accumulating in my navel and testicles hanging down to my knees…

That…uh…vivid recollection comes from Quentin Crisp‘s 1997 book Resident Alien, describing the torments of summer in his (normally) beloved Manhattan, where he spent the last and most visible fifth of his life. So it’s ironic or apposite or surely in some way noteworthy that a very good reason for staying in New York City this summer is inspired by Crisp himself.

The Museum of Arts and Design, in collaboration with Crisp’s estate, is presenting a three-month celebration of one of the wisest and wittiest people to draw breath in the 20th century. Starting this Friday and recurring at weekly intervals until 6 September, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Quentin Crisp will present film screenings, panel discussions and “live acts of style”. The video below, from the famous Q&A sessions which followed Crisp’s onstage monologues, offers a foretaste. “Stay right where you are,” he informs his audience, “and wait for society to form itself around you”.

(click through for more instalments, particularly as this one ends in the middle of an anecdote illustrating Crisp’s conception of wit)


  1. Isn’t the Song “Englishman in New York” by Sting about Crisp?

  2. Indeed! But we mustn’t hold that against poor Quentin…

  3. Pingback: Phantoms of Surrealism | Strange Flowers

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