Quentin Crisp (Quentin Crisp)

Quentin Crisp

Author, actor, social wit, gay icon. The British author was born Denis Charles Pratt on Christmas Day in Sutton, Surrey, England, the son of Charles and Frances Phillips Pratt. Quentin Crisp was an intelligent, scholarly boy who at the age of fourteen won a scholarship to Denstone College and went on to study journalism at King‚s College London. He left journalism school mid-way through his program to study art. Crisp claimed that because he was overtly effeminate even as a boy, his childhood was marred by a great deal of ridicule, bullying and physical attacks. In 1930, at the age of twenty-two, the young Denis left home for good and moved to London. In London, he changed his name to Quentin Crisp and became known for the effeminate appearance he cultivated. During his first years in the capital city, he worked a number of jobs including, by his own account, as a male prostitute. At the beginning of World War II, he attempted to enlist in the British army but was rejected for “sexual perversion.” In 1942, he began to work as a nude model for artists, an occupation which he maintained until well into the 1970’s. By the early 1960s, Crisp had become a writer and a well-known figure in London‚s Bohemian arts and culture scene. After a radio appearance in 1964, a British publishing house tapped Crisp to write his autobiography. The Naked Civil Servant appeared in 1968. After the volume was turned into a British made-for-TV movie in 1975, starring John Hurt as the author, Crisp became an internationally-known gay icon. Eventually, he developed a one-man show based on the autobiography and toured the United Kingdom and the United States, selling out shows on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1981, Crisp moved to New York City. There he developed many friendships because of two particular eccentricities: he kept his phone number publicly listed, speaking with anyone who called him, and he frequently accepted dinner invitations from strangers — as long as they agreed to pay for dinner. He lived the rest of his life in NYC, continuing to write and appearing in numerous productions for stage, television and film. Crisp gained a new generation of fans when 1980s pop singers Sting and Boy George cited him as inspiration for their art. In his old age, Crisp was famously known for playing the role of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1992 film Orlando, based on a novel by Virginia Woolf. Crisp died on November 21, 1999, one month short of his ninety-first birthday, in Manchester, England, where he was appearing in a revival of his one-man show, The Naked Civil Servant. His body was cremated in England and his ashes flown back to the United States, where they were spread down Broadway in his beloved New York City. (bio by: Kathy Riley Williams)

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  • December, 25, 1908
  • United Kingdom
  • Sutton, Surrey, England


  • November, 11, 1999
  • United Kingdom
  • Manchester, England

Cause of Death

  • heart attack


  • Cremated

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