Quentin Crisp is gave a live talk on the main stage in a Prompt Corner event in 1977
"Do U have style?"
Those who saw the film "The Naked Civil Servant" are not likely to have forgotten the extraordinary and compelling performance of John Hurt, nor the total honesty with which the man held fast to the course of his life in the face of ridicule, abuse and worse.
A notable Prompt Corner enterprise was to book that man, Quentin Crisp, to give a talk on Sunday at South London Theatre Centre on the eve of the publication of his new novel.
The demand for tickets was of course far in excess of supply, even for SLTC's main theatre which was booked for the occasion.
The address was described as "A Straight Talk From a Bent Speaker" which is not to say that Mr Crisp had arrived to give us a few well chosen observations on homosexuality. Indeed, the subject only cropped up in question time, when the speaker's own charm and courtesy stood in notable contrast to some of the aggressively self-justifying points put from the floor.
The real subject of the evening was style, which I fancy is going to become SLTC's vogue word. Who has it and whoo hasn't. It could become rather like the U and non-U battles of yesterday.
Who better to tell us about it than Quentin crisp, who variously describes himself as a mail order guru and the oldest teenager in the world? Never try to keep up with the Joneses, he tells us; drag them down to your level. It's cheaper.
One sees what he means, as also when he urges us to swim with the tide, but faster. In advocating search for the self, or for the role one has chosen for oneself, he is careful to distinguish between style and affectation, the latter being mere imposition of something false from outside.
This makes a refreshing change in an age of conformity. Most of us are too self-conscious to display individuality. there is greater security in the crowd.
The oral is clear; pursue what you have, and don't waste time wanting the adman's idea's. One example held up was that of a wrestler of grotesque appearance called the Angel. Another was Andy Warhol, who made himself famous for nothing but being famous.
This lucid and witty address was a personal testament with which we could agree or disagree, but few, I fancy, would have failed to find it stimulating.
Donald Madgwick, The Croydon Advertiser, March 3rd 1977. with permission.