DIRECTOR: Jennifer Kroot
2017 | USA | 90m
The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin is a celebration of one of San Francisco’s most beloved figures. Discussed topics range from Maupin’s conservative upbringing in North Carolina to the sexual freedom of San Francisco in the ’70s, where Maupin captured the rapidly changing socio-political scene in his Tales of the City newspaper column.
Maupin recounts personal stories such as how he worked for the homophobic politician Jesse Helms, remained a virgin through most of his 20s, and made up for lost time in his 30s with numerous sexual encounters, including one with closeted Hollywood hunk, Rock Hudson.
His columns eventually became the Tales of the City novels, which shared San Francisco’s free-spirited sensation with the world. The novels also touched upon darker subjects, including the onslaught of AIDS, which decimated the city’s LGBT community.
Maupin notes that all of his novels’ main characters (Mary Anne, Mouse, Mona, Mrs. Madrigal) are autobiographical “in one way or another,” and the documentary shows him to be as funny and endearing as each of these ladies.
While the documentary takes a pretty straightforward approach to Maupin’s life, it does include fun clips from the TV episodes of his Tales, as well as Q&A sessions with enraptured audiences. Also in the film sharing their own Maupin tales are his more famous fans including Sir Ian McKellen, Margaret Cho, author Amy Tan, Olympia Dukakis, and Laura Linney, share their own Maupin tales.
As effervescent as his writing, this documentary is as much about Maupin’s life as it is a love letter to the City by the Bay.