I Landed a Bit Part in a Real Movie — Thank You, Armistead Maupin

The crew of a documentary about Armistead Maupin crowded into the writing studio of author Barbara Falconer Newhall: assistant Val Castro, sound recordist Mark Whelan, make-up Joel King, director Jennifer Kroot, cinematographer Shane King. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The crew of an upcoming documentary about Armistead Maupin crowded into my writing room for an interview. From left: assistant Val Castro, sound recordist Mark Whelan, make-up Joel King, director Jennifer Kroot, cinematographer Shane King. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Yes, it’s true. I’ll be making a brief appearance in a movie coming out soon. It’s a documentary about my old San Francisco Chronicle pal, Armistead Maupin, the author of the ribald, much-loved “Tales of the City” novels and TV series.

Documentarian Jennifer M. Kroot needed to interview someone who’d been there at the birth of “Tales of the City” and could tell some tales out of school.

I love a good story and I do have a few to tell about Armistead’s struggles to show up at the Chronicle city room on a regular basis and turn in newspaper copy on a tight deadline. Deadlines are a challenge for the best of journalists, but unlike beat reporters who arrive at their keyboards with a fistful of notes and quotes to draw on — facts — Army had to pull his copy out of thin air. He had to make his stuff up.

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin reads from "The Days of Ana Madrigal" at Book Passage, SF Ferry Building

Armistead Maupin at a book signing at Book Passage in San Francisco. Photo by Barbara Newhall

‘Tales of the City’ — Real-Life Stories?

Of course, some of us in the features department — that’s where Armistead was assigned to sit and grind out his copy — suspected, judging by the circles under his eyes on some mornings, that many of the events described in “Tales of the City” had in fact transpired the night before in real-world San Francisco.

The film, titled “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” chronicles Armistead’s evolution from a closeted Southerner with a deeply conservative mentality to the open-hearted author of stories in which a madcap array of people, gay and straight, blue collar and social register, meet and mingle, with hilarious results.

Kroot is the director of “To Be Takei,” which documents the life of “Star Trek’s” George Takei. That film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. She also directed “It Came From Kuchar,” which limns the careers of cult filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar. Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelvam are the producers. Bill Weber is the editor. The project has been receiving financial support through its fiscal sponsor, the International Documentary Association.

The film is nearly completed, and filmmaker Kroot tells me that I have “some great moments” in it. A crew and cast screening is scheduled for February. Armistead is dear to my heart, and I think I’m going to love this movie.

Read about Armistead Maupin’s “journalism” career at “The Man Who Wrote the Quintessential San Francisco Novel on a Newspaper Deadline.”  A story from my time at the San Francisco Chronicle is at “I Can’t Believe I Got in the Water With That 1400-Pound Whale.”



  1. More info: The film is to be the definitive documentary about Armistead Maupin. Other interviewees include: Dick Thieriot, Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Alan Cumming, Amy Tan and Neil Gaiman.

  2. Very exciting, Barbara !

  3. That is absolutely fantastic — I will look forward to seeing this documentary. Thanks for the sneak preview, Barbara!

  4. can’t wait to see you and armistead. i was fortunate to have been at the chronicle with so many talented and interesting people.

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