Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Tom Wolfe coined the phrase "The Me Generation" and now comes its prophet, or at least its Ann Landers, Quentin Crisp. who preaches the gospel of How to Be Me, whoever Me be.
Crisp is the latest in the "economically viable" one-man shows at Ford's Theater, where he will be chatting through Dec. 10. You may seen his book televised on WJLA, "An Evening With Quetin Crisp: The Naked Civil Servant," wherein a young actor became Crisp's "Me".
A septuagenarian homosexual who never has concealed his sexual proclivities and now makes no apologies about beings 70, London's Crisp muses on his discoveries about life, often sounding like an epicene Eric Hoffer whose beat was not the docks of a great port but the more precious poufs of chancy, choosy Chelsea.
Strolling to the stage from the back of the house, Crisp is dressed in a black velvet suit with white shirt and kerchief and flowing black tie. He carries a black umbrella and when he removes his black, floppy hat, he reveals wavy, blow-dryed white hair. Were his profile on a coin, he might resemble a French king, but it isn't and he's not.
He is someone, he observes, who has become himself by making "a journey to the interior . . . not a pleasant trip finding what your friend call "the trouble with you." This will be, he warns. "like a sermon from a sinful bishop, how to cure you of your freedom. The greatest of all freedom is in England. They never work."
Crisp tried to work though his flagrant persistence on being himself and dressing accordingly made jobs hard to keep. He found his most congenial job in modeling which he did for 35 years, all the while living in a single room in Chelsea but not without thinking about exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it and doing, like Hoffer, a deal of reading. Some of his thoughts:
"Never sweep the place where you live. I didn't for 35 years. After the first four years there never is any more dirt. This sets you free from domestic rituals."
"Never try to keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level.It's cheaper."
"We'd all like to have friends but if we have to listen to what they have to say, the price is ridiculous."
I speak to those who always feel the band is playing in another street."
After an interval, during which his book is for sale and a question box gets filled up at the back of the auditorium. Crisp tackles written topics from the audience. At this he is deft and, I think speaks his mind honestly. Since much of the audience seemed to have moved over from Southeast's Waaay Off Broadway, questions concerned such matters as the Jeremy Thorpe trial's resemblance to that of Oscar Wilde.
"Gay people," Crisp observed, "go about boasting, 'We're ordinary people.' Now ordinary people NEVER go about saying they're ordinary people. Think about that."
In general, desite his bravura, Crisp comes across as thoroughly conservative, bitter only about those who don't do anything for themselves. He also coins a definition which would do credit to a preacher: "Love is the extra effort we make in our dealings with those we do not like."