You don't have to know much about San Francisco to be a fan of Armistead Maupin's long-running series, "Tales of the City." Maupin first created his quirky "family" of friends for the San Francisco Chronicle in the mid-1970s.
The group of young eclectic singles Maupin wrote about lived together in a Russian Hill rooming house, presided over by their landlady, Anna Madrigal. Together, they explored love, sexuality, drugs and the euphoria of reinventing themselves far from their hometowns. And their experiences mirrored the changing times around them: from the rise of AIDS to the rise of the Internet.
Long before the Internet era, Maupin's newspaper columns went viral. Readers clipped them and mailed them to friends around the world. As new readers discovered the characters, Maupin's growing fan base demanded more "Tales."
Eventually, he spun his columns into novels, then transformed the novels into a television mini-series starring Olympia Dukakis as the mysterious Mrs. Madrigal, and a young Laura Linney as the naive career girl, Mary Ann. Two years ago, "Tales of the City" debuted on stage, complete with musical numbers.
Despite decades of popular acclaim, Maupin said it's time for him to say a final goodbye to his beloved characters. Maupin's ninth, and last, "Tales of the City" novel was published this winter. "The Days of Anna Madrigal" explores the landlady's youth in a Nevada brothel, as well as the issues that face us all as we grow older.
Maupin himself will turn 70 this year. Two years ago, he and his husband moved from San Francisco to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Maupin said it's time for him to write about something new.
Maupin stepped away from "Tales of the City" once before, more than 20 years ago. Like many gay men in San Francisco, Maupin's character Michael Tolliver had been diagnosed as HIV-positive. Maupin said he wanted to end the series before Michael died of full-blown AIDS. Decades later, after medical research resulted in effective drug treatments for the disease, Maupin decided to revive his character, and the series, in a book called "Michael Tolliver Lives."
This time, though, Maupin is ready to step away for good from "Tales of the City." He said every good work of art has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and Maupin wanted to be the one to create that ending for "Tales."