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R S V P : The Hot Ticket Was to Monette Tribute

October 04, 1994|HILLARY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two hundred lucky guests got tickets--more than that were turned away--when the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation held a benefit celebration of local author Paul Monette on Saturday at the Mt. Olympus home of Dr. Peter Kraus.

A dozen noted authors, playwrights, actors and others read selections from Monette's work and from their own.

The portrait of Monette that emerged during the evening was of a writer capable of wry humor and clear-eyed heroism. One reader after another cited Monette's autobiographical writings as critical to their emergent sense of gay and lesbian identity. Monette's account of his early life and his coming out, "Becoming A Man," won a 1992 National Book Award.

Monette, who has AIDS, accepted the tribute with pleasure that he was able to be there. "It was touch and go for a couple of days," he said, "but we rallied today."

At first Monette had misgivings about the tribute. Winston Wilde, Monette's companion, said: "Paul said (the event) sounded like a funeral where the body was still warm. I said, 'Think of is as a bar mitzvah instead.' "

Actor Tom Hulce was emcee, introducing a line-up of participants that included Tony Kushner, Armistead Maupin, Jackie Goldberg, Sharon Stricker, Joe Keenan, Terry Woolverton and David Marshall Grant. Lesli Klainberg and Monte Bramer presented a trailer for their film-in-progress, "Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer's End."

A high point of the evening was when City Councilwoman Goldberg and writer Stricker, who are celebrating their 15th anniversary together, read Stricker's poem, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair." Inspired by Monette's work, the piece brought a number of the listeners to tears.

Of Monette, Kushner said: "There's a genius that has come out of him since the epidemic. It's one of the most remarkable exultations and transformations in literary history. He's become a writer of genius."

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