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literature

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Kirkwood, James (1924-1989)  
 
page: 1  2  

Kirkwood's last novel, Hit Me With a Rainbow, published in 1980, presents the improbable love affair between a young man and an older movie star. Her entourage includes an openly gay servant.

Kirkwood was a capable writer of popular fiction. If his serviceable American English prose rarely rises to flights of eloquence, it only occasionally stoops to awkward, clumsy passages. In all of his books, Kirkwood displays a tragicomic vision of life marked by a rueful awareness that grace is momentary and accidental. He frequently portrays sexual love as a kind of miracle.

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In two nonfiction books, Kirkwood tackled very different subjects. In American Grotesque (1970), he compares the prosecution by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison of gay businessman and preservationist Clay Shaw for conspiracy to murder John F. Kennedy to the Spanish Inquisition. He writes, warningly, "I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that, yes, it could happen to me. Or to you."

In Diary of a Mad Playwright (1989), Kirkwood recounts the hilarious and harrowing attempt to bring his comic play, Legends, starring Mary Martin and Carol Channing, to Broadway. Here, we may hear his voice at its most natural. Writing about auditioning actors for the part of a male stripper, he wryly observes, "I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, blush, shit, or go blind."

Another play by Kirkwood, UTBU (Unhealthy To Be Unpleasant), opened on Broadway in 1966. Kirkwood also acted in various television shows and films, including Frank Perry's account of the life of Joan Crawford as seen through the eyes of her adopted daughter, Mommie Dearest (1981).

Kirkwood's primary residence was in Key West, Florida. A Chorus Line was still running when he died of AIDS-related cancer on April 21, 1989, in his apartment in New York City.

Greg Varner

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    Bibliography
   

Kirkwood, James. American Grotesque. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.

_____. Diary of a Mad Playwright. New York: Dutton, 1989.

_____. Good Times / Bad Times. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1968.

_____. Hit Me With a Rainbow. New York: Delacorte Press, 1980.

_____. P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. New York: Stein and Day, 1972.

_____. Some Kind of Hero. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.

_____. There Must Be a Pony! New York: Avon Books, 1971.

_____, et al. A Chorus Line. New York: Applause Books, 1995.

Stevens, Gary, and Allan George. The Longest Line. New York: Applause Books, 1995.

Viagas, Robert, et al. On the Line: The Creation of "A Chorus Line." New York: Morrow, 1990.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Varner, Greg  
    Entry Title: Kirkwood, James  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated April 28, 2009  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/kirkwood_j.html  
    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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