At the beginning of the documentary The Untold Stories of Armistead Maupin, Armistead Maupin, when asked if he’s a gay writer, states, “No…I’m a writer who happens to be gay. I write about heterosexuals too.” Interestingly, it’s a stock video from the 1980s, and the journalist who asks the question messes up Maupin’s name, and Maupin, who’s sitting comfortably on the couch in embrace with his romantic partner, calmly corrects the journalist.
And that may be an appropriate opening to the documentary, as Maupin may not be a well-known name to a younger Toronto screen-going audience. However, the San Francisco-based author and journalist may be better known to an older gay audience who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s. His “Tales of the Cities“ novels, which were initially serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, were famed for its eclectic mix of characters of various sexualities. They dealt with important topics of the day, including the AIDS crisis and closeted gay celebrities, and were eventually adapted into a TV miniseries that featured Laura Linney, who appears in the documentary.
Cinematographically, the documentary achieves no new ground. It’s essentially a talking-heads documentary about an important figure in the LGBT movement. And he’s an LGBT crusader who has an unlikely background. The documentary will be of interest to history fans and to LGBT people and their allies, for it deals with Maupin’s encounters with historical figures and events; however, the documentary will likely appeal more to fans of the “Tales of the City“ and San Francisco, both of which the documentary strongly reflects.