glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

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.

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

  <previous page   page: 1  2    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Literature

   Related Entries
literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Although largely invisible to the general public, a large body of twentieth-century gay male literature by American authors was published prior to Stonewall, some of it positive but most of it tinged with misery or bleakness as the price of being published and disseminated.

literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

After Stonewall, gay male literature became focused as a movement, aided by the development of gay newspapers, magazines, and quarterlies and the founding of serious gay and lesbian bookstores.

arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

The musical has been a significant aspect of American gay male culture, manifesting itself both in diva worship and, more recently, in the presentation of openly gay characters and shows written by gay writers primarily for gay audiences.

arts >> Bennett, Michael

Bisexual choreographer and director Michael Bennett, winner of eight Tony Awards, developed a fluid, cinematic style of choreography and staging.

arts >> Epperson, John

Talented actor and writer John Epperson has had an extremely successful career performing as the glamorous and hilarious drag diva Lypsinka, among other characters.

literature >> Holleran, Andrew

The pseudonymous Andrew Holleran has placed his homosexuality at the center of his commercially and critically successful novels.

literature >> Kramer, Larry

Controversial playwright, novelist, and essayist Larry Kramer has been a pioneer in the gay political response to AIDS in America.

social sciences >> Shaw, Clay

Because of his vulnerability as a homosexual, Clay Shaw was falsely accused and tried for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison to further the latter's political ambitions.

literature >> White, Edmund

One of the most prominent and highly acclaimed figures of contemporary gay literature, Edmund White works in many distinct categories of fiction and nonfiction.


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  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.