Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City has been capturing the vast majority of my attention this past week. Even though it was on KQED in the early 90s I have never seen it before.
I recently was eating with some friends at Zazie and the they immediately noticed Armistead himself enjoying his brunch on the scenic patio with none other than Judd from the Real World San Francisco. You gotta love this city, right? Jesus.
Armistead apparently does, cause he's written a bunch of books all about it and its various inhabitants. They made this miniseries based on the books. I love it! It is just chock full of one scandal after another. It's kinda like a 70s SF and with both gay and straight main characters version of Melrose Place....or maybe I just think that cause everyone is pretty good looking and they mostly live in the same building complex on Barbary Lane. Oh yeah -- there's tons of drug use in every episode. This must have been "cutting edge" when it was on, with all the drugs and the bare butts and boobs and gay lifestyles....No wonder it was on PBS. Whatever, I love the interconnectedness of all the characters and how parts of each person's story unfold slowly and tantalizingly.
There's tons of references to the Bay Area in general, and it's also fun to watch and try to identify where they are in each episode. Once they were at the Castro Theater, once at Mt. Tam, then to Alamo Square Park and then off to party at the Endup! I'm a nerd like that. It's entertaining for me.
Anyway, the characters are your semi-typical assortment of the haves and the have nots....There's the uber rich but unhappy Halcyons, who own a successful panty hose business, and there's Mary Ann (played by Laura Linney) and Mona who work for the company and both live on Barbary Lane. Mary Ann has recently arrived to SF and she's a real square. Mona is her opposite, the kind of free spirit hippie like "wild haired" gal you'd expect someone to write in an SF series. Does anyone else think Chloe Webb, who plays Mona, looks like that lady who had all the plastic surgery to look like a tiger or whatever? Maybe its just me.
Oh yeah, and Olympia Dukakis plays the mysterious pothead landlady Anna Madrigal. Then there's the Halcyon's daughter De De who sleeps with the delivery guy --she's acting out cause she is unhappily married to male slut Beauchamp. Oh, the drama! And there's Mona's best friend Michael "Mouse" who looks just like Brian Boitano to me so of course I love him. Mouse loves dancing in his tighty whities. There's a strange freak balding guy with glasses named Norman who lives up at the top of the complex. I can't describe too much about the plots without potentially wrecking the show for the uninitiated. Every last character in this series has something to hide, some kind of delicious secret.
There's a bunch of fun-to-spot guest appearances by actors like Robert Downey Sr, Ian MacKellen, Parker Posey, Jeaneane Garafolo, Rod Steiger and....Country Joe....
Despite the fact that the show was shot in the 90s, it's supposed to take place in the 70s and it makes me wish I had lived in SF in the days of rotary phones and bath houses and CHEAP HOUSING!! The kind of people portrayed on the show would never be living on Barbary Lane now, let's just say that.
I will be watching More Tales From the City next! Can't wait!