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Chapman, Graham (1941-1989)  
page: 1  2  

In addition to their collaborative work the Pythons undertook independent projects. Chapman's included co-writing and starring in the pirate spoof Yellowbeard (directed by Mel Damski, 1983), which was not a commercial success.

He continued writing scripts. Among these were some that he co-authored in 1988 with his lover David Sherlock for a comedy/fantasy television series entitled Jake's Journey, loosely based on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, in which Chapman would have starred. The project was never realized.

In 1980 Chapman published a memoir, A Liar's Autobiography, Volume VI, which mixes truth and fiction. Along with fantasy passages are serious discussions of his medical studies, his involvement with Monty Python, his battles with alcohol, and his homosexuality.

Chapman, who was 25 before he realized that he was homosexual, was among the first British entertainers to come out as openly gay, which he did in 1969, soon before the launching of Monty Python's Flying Circus. His openness provoked some hostility from television viewers and critics.

Chapman met his life partner, Sherlock, in 1966 in Ibiza, where the latter was hoping to rekindle a "holiday romance" from the previous year. That plan fizzled, but he and Chapman fell in love and remained together for the next twenty-four years.

Chapman became, in his own words, "an early campaigner for gay liberation." In 1972, he co-founded the publication Gay News, to which he lent his financial support. The inaugural issues of Gay News, England's first national gay liberation newspaper, featured an interview with Chapman and Sherlock.

In the early 1970s Chapman and Sherlock adopted John Tomiczek, a teenage runaway from a large family. Tomiczek, who recognized Chapman from his television acting work, approached him; and Chapman, recognizing that the youth was running a fever, provided for his medical treatment and returned him to his home in Liverpool.

When Tomiczek ran away again, his father eventually surrendered custody of him, and he joined Chapman and Sherlock's household. The couple agreed to adopt him on condition that he finish school. Tomiczek, who died of a heart attack in 1992, eventually became Chapman's manager.

Chapman faced medical challenges of his own. He suffered from alcoholism for several years, but gave up drinking during the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when he realized that the situation had gotten out of hand. In 1977 he entered a hospital to undergo a recovery process and thereafter completely abstained from alcohol.

Chapman was unable to overcome cancer, however. Diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his tonsil in November 1988, he underwent an operation, but the disease had spread to other parts of his body, including his spine. Despite further surgery and radiation therapy, he died on October 4, 1989. Sherlock was at his bedside at the end, and the couple's last words to each other were affirmations of their love.

Chapman's death came the day before the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Only a month earlier he had been able to take a limited part in the troupe's special anniversary program, Parrot Sketch Not Included, which aired later that year.

Susan Schindehette has called Chapman "the most doggedly different member of his era's most unpredictable comedy troupe." A BBC biographical sketch describes him as "the only genuine anarchist within Python, and the most subversive element in a group of subversive elements," adding that "it was his unique outlook on life that coloured some of Python's most surreal, most bizarre and, most importantly, funniest moments."

Linda Rapp

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Until recently, British television embraced lesbians and gays as Them rather than Us, but a more diversified and nuanced approach to all kinds of sexuality is likely to be the case in the future.

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Chapman, Graham, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin with Bob McCabe. The Pythons Autobiography by the Pythons. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003.

"Graham Chapman—Comedy Writer and Actor."

Morgan, David. Monty Python Speaks. New York: Avon Books, 1999.

Perry, George. Life of Python. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983.

Schindehette, Susan. "Mourning Monty Python Lays to Rest Silly, Brave, Unique Graham Chapman." People Weekly 32 (October 30, 1989): 52.

Yoakum, Jim. "Graham Chapman's Journey." Rolling Stone (November 17, 1988): 47, 49.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Chapman, Graham  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 27, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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