Quentin Crisp gets “The Last Word” – an interview with Phillip Ward

Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burg Vivant

On November 21, 2017, Quentin Crisp’s book, “The Last Word,” will go on sale, eighteen years after his death – to the day. Phillip Ward, author, poet, archivist and curator of the Crisperanto: The Quentin Crisp Archives, co-edited the very personal volume with Crisp and Laurence Watts.

Ward became aware of the bon vivant, raconteur and gay icon watching “The Naked Civil Servant” on television in 1975. Ward said, “While watching the film, never did I realize nor even imagine the significance or the importance Quentin Crisp would be in my life.”

Ward said, “It was February 1986 that I met Quentin Crisp, ‘live and in person.’ I was working as an editor in a production house when my secretary met him while standing in line at the East Village post office and engaged him in conversation. I encouraged her to set up a date for dinner. I would come along! Consequently, I was overwhelmed by his generosity of spirit and kindness—and with his honesty of heart. And despite his spoken adversity toward love and being loved, Quentin exuded unconditional love to those he believed in and trusted. Because of this, I enjoyed an intimate and close friendship with Quentin Crisp.” He added, “One which I cherish daily.”

Ward often escorted Crisp to galleries, movies and restaurants. He said, “We would meet up with fans that had invited him to dinner.”

Their relationship evolved, and Ward became Crisp’s assistant. He attended to many of his needs, especially as the author grew older.

In the early 1990s, Quentin lost the capacity to use his left hand because of illness. Ward said, “I was able to transcribe his voice as quickly as he spoke the words. I became his ‘Left-hand Man’ typing and readying his manuscripts.”

Ward was Quentin Crisp’s assistant, dresser, typist, editor and companion during the 1980s and until Crisp’s death in 1999. He is literary and estate executor of Crisp’s estate.

Ward reiterated, “His language and use of words were jewels for the ears to hear and the eyes to read. Quentin’s gentleness and kindness. He was his cheerleader and lived for himself and shared that self openly and willingly with me, the public and the whole world. Quentin’s love for life and sharing that happiness pulled me into appreciating and loving the person and the persona.”

Following Quentin’s passing, Ward created Crisperanto: The Quentin Crisp Archives from personal effects left to him in Crisp’s will. The archives mission  states, “To preserve and maintain the manuscripts, letters, recordings, artwork by and about, and various artifacts and ephemera related to the life and legend of Quentin Crisp, and to promote his philosophy of individuality, self-acceptance, and tolerance.”

Ward said, “Sharing his history is sharing Quentin to the world daily. His person may no longer walk among us, but his words and image continue to inform and enlighten us through the existence of the archives.”

The cover to “The Last Word” by MB Books, LLC.

Ward went on to explain the theme of “The Last Word.” He said, “The book is Quentin’s valedictory. It is his deepest attempt to tell us what the lessons of his nearly ninety-one years on the planet have been. As usual, he approaches the ‘topics’ of his life—which include old age, sickness and his nearness to death—with unflinching honesty and openness. But in ‘The Last Word’ we get what Quentin almost never permitted himself to share about his life in any other public forum: we get his heart, his untrammeled feelings about what the gift of his life has meant to him. It is a view of Quentin Crisp not shared with the public in his lifetime. It is probably the most personal and most unusual book Quentin ever wrote, and this is what makes it an incalculable gift to the rest of us.”

Ward added, “His message is clear: Accept yourself for who and what you are and be the person you are destined to be without apology. What matters is that you obtain and maintain the courage to be yourself and to construct your individualism in a style that fits your life’s needs and desires. Pinpoint your daydream and pursue it with flare and determination. Understand your sexuality and do not let societal pressures ordain who and what you are on the inside even if you’re outside does not truly reflect your interior self, your true being. ‘Be yourself no matter what they say.’ Live your perpetual daydream as Quentin did. He proved that it does pay off!”

“The Last Word,” debuts on the anniversary of Crisp’s death. Ward said, “I am delighted to finally be able to share ‘The Last Word’ with all of Quentin’s fans throughout the world. Quentin was one of a kind. He was a philosopher, an observer of life, a survivor and a beacon of hope for many. In life, his primary mission was the immediate happiness of those around him. He leaves behind a legacy of great importance to the world’s gay and straight communities of which ‘The Last Word’ is his swansong, and I feel that releasing the book on the anniversary of his passing makes it doubly appropriate. Quentin Crisp’s legacy has reached and touched all and many under a multifaceted rainbow. There is no boundary to his cause, to his action of being one’s ‘self’ at all times and without apology or any gain. Just ‘Be!’  That is what Quentin was and expressed daily: Being himself wholly. I encourage everyone to read Quentin Crisp’s works and hear him on recordings. His philosophy will have some impact on you, whether you invite it or not.”

Ward said, “He was a mentor and a friend, I listened to his wisdom and feel I am a better human for having known him. I miss the whole being of Quentin Crisp.”

Phillip Ward toasting Quentin Crisp with a glass of absinthe at his apartment at 95 Christopher Street in New York City in the mid 90s. – Photograph by Quentin Crisp

“The Last Word” (co-edited by Phillip Ward and Laurence Watts), the third and final installment of Quentin Crisp’s autobiography is available on November 21, 2017. For more information about Quentin Crisp and “The Last Word” go here. In addition to “The Last Word” the Victoria Hollis Gallery is releasing a book of photographs by Martin Fishman titled “Quentin Crisp is Black and White.” It is a photography book with over 150 images of Quentin Crisp at home and in various scenarios. Ward wrote the introduction and selected quotes from Crisp’s book to embellish the pages. Both “The Last Word” and “Quentin Crisp in Black and White” will be released on November 21, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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