Armistead Maupin says don't try to keep up, just keep open

The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Armistead Maupin says don’t try to keep up, just keep open

  • Armistead Maupin, 77, who lives in London, is best known for his 1970s column 
  • Writer says he spoke to himself through his character Mrs Madrigal
  • Says let go of what you think is a secret; other people will see themselves in you 

Armistead Maupin, 77, is famous for his 1970s Tales Of The City newspaper column. Turned into a nine-novel series, the tales were adapted for TV in 1998, and again by Netflix. He lives in London with his husband, photographer and yoga teacher Christopher Turner.

I’m married to a wonderful man, 28 years my junior. It was his idea to swap San Francisco for London. He lived here in the 1990s, when modelling in Europe.

It’s so important to stay curious in old age. In Tales Of The City, my character Mrs Madrigal says: ‘You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open.’ That was me talking to myself.

My mother was terribly wrong about what my life would be like. I came out as gay to her 40 years ago.

Armistead Maupin, 77, (pictured) who lives in London, says let go of what you think is your worst secret, other people will seem themselves in you

She said I might be happy when young with my sexual escapades, but was sure to be unhappy when older. And everyone knows old gay people are miserable. I’m so happy to have proved her wrong.

When I was growing up in America, homosexuality was a crime, a sin and a mental illness. A triple whammy.

My mother said to me: ‘I don’t want it to hurt your career.’

I told her: ‘I think it is my career.’ The fact that later I was famous for the very thing that had caused me panic, and that being honest would make a difference to others (and myself), was a revelation.

So that is my great lesson. Let go of what you think is your worst secret; other people will see themselves in you.

One of my proudest achievements is having encouraged Sir Ian McKellen to come out publicly. I said: ‘You’ll feel so much better about yourself.’

And he said: ‘OK, you’ve talked me into it. The next time the opportunity arises, I’m going to do it.’

I thought: ‘This isn’t going to happen, he’s just being charming.’ But he did it — and became a brilliant activist.

As a young gay man, I was told I’d live a half-life, a life without women. But I have many female friends. [Actress] Laura Linney even named her son after me.

Now I’m this age I don’t have the energy for hypocrites and bores. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who are pure in heart.

An Evening with Armistead Maupin is at Bristol St George’s Hall, October 26; myticket.co.uk 

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