WRITERS ISSUE: Armistead Maupin catches us up on the girls in Mary Ann in Autumn
WRITERS ISSUE Armistead Maupin, a.k.a. "Teddy Bear," a.k.a. "Puff Daddy," is the quick-witted gal behind the enormously successful and era-defining Sex and the City franchise, which began as a column in the late '80s on the Point Reyes Light blog. On the blog, Maupin followed four feisty and racially diverse women (one of them — spoiler alert! — transgender) as they shopped their way through Marin's storied antique marts, dealt cleverly and wordily with various romantic foibles, and danced for cash in their underwear at the EndUp. Eventually, through a series of TV shows and movies, they found their individual ways to Mumbai, where, when last we left them, they were supporting their Christian Louboutin and Blowbuddies addictions by working at a call center as customer support reps for Google AdSense (the basis of the PBS hit mocu-dramedy "The Office.")
At last, Maupin has written a book, Mary Ann in Autumn, which updates us on these beloved, indebted rascals as they make their way back to San Francisco to combat rising income inequality with kicky new 'dos and a Saks spending spree. Now all 57 years old — except for sexpot Samantha, who's 90 and lovin' it — the fearsome foursome faces A Titular Seasonal Metaphor with aplomb. Horse, Maupin's tutu-sporting stand-in, has partnered with a much-younger lover to launch Crabbyhunt.com, a successful online dating site for older gentlemen in search of fresh seafood. Garland Amnia, the "mother hen" of the claque, still dispenses spicy blasts of wry wisdom from within her tea-stained Alexander McQueen kimono. And Samantha continues to be her delighfully obnoxious self, at one point treating herself to a third boob!
But the focus this time is on Mary Ann Lycra Singlet, the white one, who's dumped her hoops-obsessed, unsalaried loser of a babydaddy, Mr. Tumnus, and is frantically rounding up as many gay male friends as she can for cocktails 'n cryin'. And cheesecake. But this is no Golden Girls, just like The Simpsons is not Family Guy is not American Dad. For one thing, these characters live in a city. And city life lets Maupin dish up all the laser-eyed aperçus he's known for: bears are hairy, SFGate.com commenters are mean, Facebook exists, monogamy is a drag but it's what we all want in the end. In the midst of this blizzard of contemporaneity, Prop. 8 will be passed, Labradoodles will be fondled playfully, and one of the major characters will contract cancer — something Maupin already explored in Season 5 of the TV show, but cancer is everywhere.
New characters abound: Carrie, Mary Ann's sex-blogging stepdaughter; Cub, Horse's aforementioned hunky furniture-making lover who looks great throwing heavy things around; Mohammed the Prophet; and Eduardo, the migrant farm worker who picks everyone's vegetables (most of the main characters took up vegetarianism — and yoga, I know crazy — in India.), and is eventually rewarded with armloads of empty Saks shopping bags. There is also a conflicted Mormon who has to eat brownies at Starbucks because he can't drink coffee.
Will new readers "get hooked" on the cultural juggernaut via this book? Even though Mary Ann in Autumn is almost pathologically fixated on aging and death — so gay old school! — I can only hope young readers use it as a portal to click through into the larger Sex and the City message. A personal story: when I was 13 and read the original blog, I was titillated and thunderstuck. I had just come out to my family as bourgeois. (My mother wept for days when she found printouts of an Ann Demeulemeester fall collection under my mattress. "Why can't you just like Abercrombie and Fitch, like normal gay boys," she cried.) Maupin's fantasia seemed realer than real to me. As soon as I could apply for a credit card under a fake name, I ran away to San Francisco to find my true self through binge shopping, relationship drama, shabby chic wall hangings, getaway weekend jaunts to the foothills, and always talking, talking, talking about my Real Problems. Maupin was — and still is — chronicling life as I live it!
Mary Ann in Autumn will be released Nov. 2.