Posted by: nastypen | June 17, 2007

A Stately Homo’s Lesson for Father’s Day

Today is father’s day and I celebrate it with a film review/recalling. It’s a film that I saw in my dad’s huge stash of VHS tapes in Hong Kong. My father was a cineaste. He and I may not be alike but he and I both enjoy a good film.

It was the late 90s and I was bored and I decided to scrounge for a good film in my father’s modest but substantial film library and saw he has a copy of The Naked Civil Servant. At that time, I did not know who Quentin Crisp was. The title just got me. I popped it in the VHS and I was astounded that my father owned such a title.

I mean, my dad could be the gruff homophobe and there I was watching the film adaptation of the autobiography of Quentin Crisp, One of England’s “stately homos.”

I don’t know for sure if my dad saw his only son in that character. But I remember Dad calling me Beau Brummel when I was young. For the uninitiated, Beau Brummel is the most famous “dandy” in England’s era of the Regency. Brummel dressed to kill and he is known for his style and scathing wit.

I was quite pleased that dad knew of my potential.

So, Quentin Crisp is not Beau Brummel, though. Brummel rubbed shoulders with the elite. Crisp just wanted to carry on with his life adamant not to hide his fabulousness in a state of judgemental and self-righteous prosecutions.

This film just made my day. I remember being so exhilirated by the viewing experience.

It’s like daddy knew what I was going through via the cruel yet vastly interesting life of Crisp.

This is an adaptation of Crisp’s autobiography with the same title. This was not a film shown on cinema. It was a made for TV movie in the United Kingdom back in the mid 70s. The lead was played with a deft hand by John Hurt (you will remember him as the guy from which his stomach violently burst out an alien embryo in Ridley Scott‘s Alien).

Hurt won several accolades in portraying the quirky yet quintessential outsider to British polite society.

Apart from the great acting of Hurt, the star of the movie are the one-liners Crisp wrote in his observations about growing up queer and flamboyant in a conservative environment.

Observe the wit of Crisp:

Sexual intercourse is a poor substitute for masturbation.

Sex is the last refuge of the miserable.

Any film, even the worst, is better than real life.

Health consists of having the same diseases as one’s neighbors.

Love you, Quentin Crisp! If anything, this movie taught me…inspired me not to really give a shit about what other people think of me. Crisp never bowed to the pressures of society. and he paid for it with violence and state-run retribution on people who are different.

I know several homosexuals out there can relate to the fear of Quentin’s face as he is surrounded by “roughs” or bullies taunting him:

i hate bullies.

Why can’t they just leave us alone? Crisp could have gone the safe way, take down his flamboyance a notch or four, get a haircut, wear drab clothes, get married, have kids, have affairs with boys…all in the name of discreet living. He did not.

Early on, he made it a point to show the world of his cause. He will not run and hide. He is made this way and will not let society’s myopic outlook shape him. He may well be one of the world’s first out and about advocates for the gay culture.

And I am forever thankful for him.

The movie is amazing in its quiet way to showcase the cruelty of the status quo. The cast of friends Crisp grew old with are not the usual bunch of bored housewives discussing about the latest sale nor the boring men talking about their jobs.

One of the people that Crisp is quite fond of is a lady friend he met in Art School. Check out the dichotomy of this shot; Crisp with flaming red hair and the girl with conservative frock and a crucifix:

Ms. yin and Ms. yang

I believe this is his fag hag. Nemcy, that is you. Bring out your crucifix, girl! We’re having tea!

The entire movie not only revolves around the great acting and direction, but the script! What a great script. It does justice to Crisp’s florid yet curt narratives. Now, why is it called the Naked Civil Servant? I don’t want to spoil anything, except that this came about by an occupation that landed on Crisp’s…er…lap.

I love Crisp’s honesty and wry humor. When World War II was declared, he joined the army. Just to see the military men’s reaction of Crisp sauntering in for a check-up in his unglamourous knickers is enough for a laugh fest.

at ease, bitch!!!!

Why did he join the army? Was it for patriotism? Was it to score with the military men? No. and No. His reasons and justifications for an army life are so funny that it caught the officers unaware and were left with gaping jaws. So, was he accepted? I think that goes without saying.
Comedy here is not the slapstick kind, but good old dry humor which is my favorite.

But, obviously, this film is hardly the comedic knee-slapper. It offers an insight to how it is stand up for your own identity. This film is inspiring not just for homosexuals, per se, but for the many of those who feel slighted and marginalized by the constrictions of a society that looks unkindly to those who are different.

An added trivia, Quentin Crisp is the inspiration for the hit song by the Police Englishman in New York. Sting summarizes beautifully Crisp’s life in the song’s stanzas:

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than a license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If, manners maketh man as someone said
Then hes the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

“A gentleman will walk but never run.” True. And Quentin Crisp had such a fabulous walk, too.

If there is one scene that I truly love in this movie is the one of his roommate castigating him for his “activities.” As his roommate lashed out a litany of “don’t do this,” Crisp was doing this:

ho-hum.....

Yup. That is so me. Leave me alone with my creature comforts. I’m not doing anything to you. I am not paying attention to your morality and leave me alone. I’m enjoying a good book.

The real Quentin Crisp died 20 days after my dad died in 1999. I was still reeling from the shock of my father’s death and the gay icon who showed me it’s ok to be different followed suit. I never faltered from their lessons.

My sister and I wonder why this film is part of my dad’s collection. I mean, my dad loves films like “Patton” and “The Godfather” and such. But, why this, too? Perhaps, he sought to understand his son? I will have to ask him when I meet him someday. Recently, my sister laughed at me being a teacher for a public school. “You’re going to be a Naked Civil Servant, too!” she giggled. I smiled. I’d be honored to have such a life. I hope I have the bravery to fight and stand for who I am.

Before my dad died, I remember him staring at me one afternoon as I was drawing. I looked at him and smiled. He smiled back, leaned forward and said “Chong, you’re a man. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. Don’t let anyone say otherwise.”

I won’t, daddy, happy father’s day.

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Responses

  1. Chong, this post made me realize how much I miss your dad. Thank you for letting me meet him and letting me know him. At the most miserable part of my life, he was the one who made me brave just by giving me a little book of quotes and an owl clock. He even gave me a ticket to Boracay to be on a holiday with your family. I will never forgive the person who caused me to forego spending more time to get to know your dad more.
    Anyway, I didn’t cry when my grandfather died. I have never cried at any relative’s death but I cried at your dad’s funeral. His gestures meant more to me than he would ever know.
    And I think, if your Dad could see you now, he would be so proud of the kind of man you have become. You are someone who will never be impressed with money and you are someone who would never stoop to patay gutom practices. It’s a plus that you’re also fashionable. You’re a man whom your dad would be so proud to call son. I know it.
    Besides, I will never forget how you and he unwittingly shared a toothbrush and he just laughed when you pointed it out to him. I thought then that you are so lucky to have a dad like that. Also, I remember your thesis with some drawings of a man teaching reading a story to his little boy and your dad simply beamed with pride when he saw that the man and the boy in the picture resembled you and him.
    So, remember, Chong, never be scared. You’re your dad’s son. You can take on anything. Have patience and just keep at it. For starters, you already have excellent genes going for you. 🙂

  2. Faye is lucky to meet and spent some time with your Dad, Jose! Plus went to Boracay pa.. wow!

    Faye said it all. She’s right that you shouldn’t be scared… just go on. Stick to what you believe in 😉

    And as for the cross… don’t be surprised if I did bring out the cross and wear it around my neck! Wahahaha!!!

  3. nice entry! happy father’s day!
    your relation with your dad is too colourful and dramatic for me to compare my relation with tatay.

  4. Nemcy di nga ako nakapunta Boracay eh. Basta kwento ko sa yo soon kung bakit. Hehehe.

  5. happy father’s day chong! Your dad was indeed a “good man”. And so is his son.

  6. oo man ka nga, pero weird ka

  7. Belinda, salamat sa observation kahit na stating the obvious ka. hahaha. If being weird means to be different then let me cite what Coco Chanel said “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

  8. Hmmm. Feeble mind alert! Feeble mind alert! Run! Contamination threat! Ahhhhhhhhhkkkk!

  9. Hi, you don’t know me, but i am a regular reader of your blog. I am also a friend of the two Jeromes.

    Anyway, this article really hit me for being honest (your blog entries are all best examples of honesty!), and that it made me miss my mother, too, who i lost to cancer only last February.

    You are lucky to have such a dad – sensitive, understanding. If I am teary-eyed after reading this entry, it’s because I am thankful that there are people like you who still appreciate their parents and the lessons they have imparted to us when they were living.

    Keep up the spirit.

  10. thanks, Dylan, for your kind words….I lurk in your blog, too. And about the lessons our parents teach us….well…. this is just one tiny way of mine to show gratitude. thanks again and good luck sa mga super pasyal mo.

  11. Okay, I confess, I lurk on this blog too. 🙂 I just find it amusing that we are contemporaries of Batch 95 (You were in Sacred Heart, I was from San Carlos). We both know two people, Larry Ypil and Kristine Banzon.

    Let me guess… you were also involved in your school’s publication?


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