SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A groundbreaking series of novels which feature LGBTQ themes and a San Francisco landmark are getting renewed interest during Pride month with the debut of a new miniseries on Netflix.

Tales of the City is a series of nine novels which was adapted for television in the UK, on PBS, and also on Showtime. Now, Netflix has come out with a new 10-part reboot – set to air on June 7.

“This is the queerest thing that’s ever happened … and I’m proud of that so I think it works nicely for “Pride.” laughed author Armistead Maupin.

Situated on Russian Hill in San Francisco, Macondray Lane served as inspiration for “Barbary Lane” – the fictional address in Tales of the City with its eccentric, pot-smoking landlady Mrs. Madrigal and her colorful tenants, who all play a central role in the iconic stories written by the legendary author Armistead Maupin.

Macondray Lane contains a cobblestone pedestrian lane, a koi pond overseen by a Buddha, and beautiful trees. It is a safe haven and refuge from the harsher realties of city life. The idyllic enclave was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Maupin and one of the series stars, Murray Bartlett, sat down with KPIX 5 to spill the tea.

With this reboot, they said, expect a modern twist: the cherished characters we’ve all loved are joined by a more contemporary diverse cast. In addition, the writers were all queer.

“There are new stories to be told, you know? There’s a new generation coming through with new perspectives and new experiences. Part of that family that exists in Tales of the City.” remarked Bartlett.

“Mrs. Madrigal says at one point in the series, ‘You don’t have to keep up dear, you just have to keep open,'” commented Maupin, with a smile.

Part 1 premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April.

On the red carpet before the sold-out movie began, many of the big stars lined up for photos and to chat with the press. Among them, Zosia Mamet, who told KPIX 5 that viewers of the reboot will find common ground.

“I feel like Tales happens to be about the LBGTQ community, but really it’s just stories about people,” remarked Mamet.

In 1974, Maupin began to write tales as a newspaper serial. By then, Pride parades in San Francisco were underway and flourishing. Ground zero for the party was the city’s Castro District. But soon, it also became ground zero for the Bay Area’s AIDS epidemic.

AIDS left a lasting mark on the gay community – a fact not lost in this new reboot. An upcoming scene left the cast weeping on the set.

“Basically the discussion between the people who remember AIDS and have almost buried the pain from that, and not expressed it and a generation that doesn’t remember it at all,” noted Maupin. “We did learn from all that pain as a community and we need to tell younger people what we learned and how does that work.”

“Also, being part of an epidemic that was largely ignored at the time, and knowing what that’s like,” added Bartlett. “It’s very important to remember those things that have happened in the past and be sort of mindful  that we don’t let them happen again.”


Another lesson from the series: that home is a feeling, and that it’s okay to go out and find what Maupin defined as “your logical family.”

“If we begin with families that don’t accept and love us and have provisional love, we have to go out and find our own tribe,” said Maupin. “And Barbary Lane presents that; people who have done that very thing. I’ve done it in my life and I can vouch for its effectiveness.”


The day after our interview, Maupin relocated to London with his husband, Christopher Turner. KPIX 5 asked him how his beloved San Francisco had changed over the years.

He did not want to trash the city, but noted with influx of new tech billionaires and the growing populations of homeless, his San Francisco has become unaffordable for anyone with artistic dreams.

“If there is a big tech crash of some sort, there may be hope yet,” joked the author.

When Maupin lived in the city near Macondray Lane, he rented a little shack for $175 a month. Times have changed. One home on Macondray Lane just sold for over $4.5 million.

 

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