My recent posts related to this era of my life jogged this funny memory. Back when i was starting out in new york and working random jobs as I worked on my advertising portfolio, i had one job that involved moving corporate files. these days you could move them all on one terabyte drive. and carry it in your bag. but not back then, thankfully.
we took files from one building in lower mid-town manhattan and delivered them to another, newer, building in the lower west side. the fastest route took us through the west village. the gay capital of manhattan.
one afternoon, as we sped in our van to the lower west side in the pouring summer rain, we came to a red light. And there, right in front of us, was the legendarily flamboyant English gay writer Quentin Crisp. He was dressed as you’d expect and a small japanese assistant held an umbrella over his hatted head as he inched his way across the street.
I couldn’t help but spew out his name in sheer surprise. ‘That’s Quentin Crisp!” i said to my puzzled Jamaican and Puerto Rican co-workers. i was the only white guy on the crew. They looked at me like I was Quentin Crisp. A) How did i know who this foppish effeminate-looking old white guy was? and B) Who the f**k was he?
So i did my best to explain. Instantly regretting ever uttering his name. It was the longest and gayest red light of my life.
Finally it looked liked Mr. Crisp had cleared the walkway and the light was about to turn green. When suddenly Ronnie, the driver, rolled down his window and screamed “YO, QUENTIN CRIPS, YOU F**KIN’ FA**OT!!!”.
I was mortified. And immediately felt sorry for this elderly literary icon who’d been the subject of homophobic abuse his entire life. But the funny part was that Quentin Crisp not only wasn’t offended, he positively beamed back at us. He was delighted. He looked genuinely happy at being recognized by this uncouth denizen of the South Bronx. He still had it! He was still famous. By god, being Quentin Crisp still meant something in this godforsaken town.
We’d accidentally made his day. And then we sped off. I sighed a deep sigh of relief. Only in New York.