Quentin Crisp, 90, the flamboyant wit, writer and performer whose extravagant style, eccentric attitudes and flippant aphorisms won him a devoted and admiring following in both his native England and his adopted America, died yesterday in Manchester, England.
Mr. Crisp, who had lived for years in New York's East Village, was back in England to perform his one-man show. He collapsed at lodgings obtained in the Manchester area, where his show was to open tonight.
Celebrity came late to Mr. Crisp, beginning in 1968 with the publication of "The Naked Civil Servant," an autobiography. Its provocative and intriguing title stemmed from Mr. Crisp's stint in Britain as a nude model at an art school run by the government.
Beyond its display of Mr. Crisp's linguistic cleverness and his sense of the absurd, the book was known for its frank and open discussion of the author's homosexuality. A 1975 television film based on the book enhanced Mr. Crisp's status as a cult idol.
Many of his assertions appeared wry, edgy and tinged with double meaning. He said, for example, that "the lie is the basic building block of good manners." But his explanations for coming to this country in 1978 suggest that he genuinely expected to find more tolerance, openness and acceptance.
The one-man show in which he had toured widely was called "An Evening With Quentin Crisp." That is what it was. He appeared alone for two hours on stage.
The first half of the show included his observations on American and British society. In the second half he took questions. He would offer such advice as: "Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. Bring them down to your level." He said it was cheaper that way. Reviewers said the show added to his fame; he preferred to call it notoriety.
He also had played Queen Elizabeth I in a film adaptation of Virginia Woolf's "Orlando," reviewed movies and followed his first autobiographical book with others, including "How to Become a Virgin" and "Resident Alien: The New York Diaries."
Mr. Crisp, who was born in Surrey on Christmas Day in 1908, was originally named Denis Pratt. His struggling family sent him to one of the less prestigious of Britain's private schools. What he learned, he later said, was that he was extremely unpopular.
As a relatively young man, he was said to have adopted a flamboyant lifestyle common among some members of London's homosexual community of the time. This was said to have brought him harassment, persecution and beatings.
He spent many years in a variety of arts-related occupations before the publication of his 1968 book brought him renown.
A man who seemed to take delight in provoking almost everybody, he was sharply criticized by some members of the homosexual community when he expressed the view that being gay might be an illness.
Although he had once told an interviewer that "the main thing is to never, ever work," Mr. Crisp appeared to belie his assertion by making the transatlantic trip to perform. He suffered from heart problems and said in January that "even walking two blocks, I have to pause and lean against the wall."
An interview setting out his wishes for a funeral appeared last week in the Times of London.
"No long faces standing around in the rain, staring down into a hole in the ground while someone drones on about how wonderful I was," he said. "Just drop me into one of those black plastic bags and leave me."