Patrick Dennis (May 18, 1921 – November 6, 1976) was an American author. His novel Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade (1955) was one of the bestselling American books of the 20th century. In chronological vignettes "Patrick" recalls his adventures growing up under the wing of his madcap aunt, Mame Dennis. Dennis wrote a sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame, in 1958.
"I write in the first person, but it is all fictional. The public assumes that what seems fictional is fact; so the way for me to be inventive is to seem factual but be fictional." All of Dennis's novels employ to some degree the traditional comic devices of masks, subterfuge and deception.
Patrick Dennis was born Edward Everett Tanner III in Evanston, Illinois. His father nicknamed him "Pat" before he was born, after the Irish heavyweight boxer Pat Sweeney, "a dirty fighter known for kicking his opponents." When he was old enough to say so, he let it be known that he liked "Pat" better than "Edward," and so Pat he became. Pat attended Evanston Township High School where he was popular and excelled in writing and theater.
In 1942, he joined the American Field Service, working as an ambulance driver in North Africa and the Middle East.
On December 30, 1948, Dennis married Louise Stickney, with whom he had two children.
Auntie Mame's first edition spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, selling more than 2,000,000 copies in five different languages. The manuscript was turned down by fifteen publishers before being accepted by the Vanguard Press. Dennis and a friend marketed the book to the booksellers. At the height of its popularity, it was selling more than 1,000 copies a day; throughout 1955 and 1956, it sold between 1,000 and 5,000 a week. In 1956, with Auntie Mame, The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story, and Guestward, Ho!, Dennis became the only writer ever to have three books on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time.
Working with longtime friend, actor and photographer Cris Alexander, Dennis created two parody memoirs, complete with elaborate photographs. The first, Little Me, recounts the escapades through life and love of glamour girl Belle Poitrine "as told to Patrick Dennis." His wife, Louise, appeared as "Pixie Portnoy" in the book's photographic illustrations, which included their children and an employee as well. The second "bio", First Lady (1964), is the life story of Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield, oblivious wife of a robber baron who "stole" the U. S. presidency for thirty days at the turn of the century.
Throughout his life, he struggled with his bisexuality, later becoming a well-known participant in Greenwich Village's gay scene.
Dennis' work fell out of fashion in the 1970s, and all of his books went out of print. In his later years, he left writing to become a butler, a job that his friends reported he enjoyed. At one time, he worked for Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. Although he was at long last using his real name, he was in essence working yet again under a pseudonym; his employers had no inkling that their butler, Tanner, was the world-famous author Patrick Dennis.
He died from pancreatic cancer in Manhattan at the age of 55.
At the turn of the 21st century there was a resurgence of interest in his work, and subsequently many of his novels are once again available. His son, Dr. Michael Tanner, wrote introductions to several reissues of his father's books. Some of Dennis' original manuscripts are held at Yale University, others at Boston University.
The 1956 Broadway play starring Rosalind Russell, and the highly successful 1958 screen adaptation that followed, inspired Jerry Herman's 1966 musical Mame, with Angela Lansbury in the lead. A 1974 film version starred Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur.
Little Me was turned into a musical in 1962, with book by Neil Simon and score by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, and Sid Caesar playing all the male roles. Bob Fosse won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. There have been several revivals of Little Me, most recently in 1998 with Martin Short, who won a Tony Award for Best Actor.
Two of Dennis's novels were transformed into television sitcoms:
House Party (1954), about a supposedly wealthy family who were actually dead broke, was the inspiration for The Pruitts of Southampton (1966–67), starring Phyllis Diller, Grady Sutton, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Richard Deacon. Dennis' book Guestward Ho! (1956) became the sitcom Guestward Ho! (1960–61), about city folk trying to run a dude ranch in New Mexico. The latter sitcom starred Mark Miller, J. Carroll Naish, and Joanne Dru.
Rowans, Virginia (1953). Oh What a Wonderful Wedding! New York: Crowell
Rowans, Virginia (1954). House Party. New York: Crowell
Dennis, Patrick (1955). Auntie Mame. New York: Vanguard Press
Rowans, Virginia (1956). The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story. New York: Crowell
Dennis, Patrick (1956). Guestward, Ho! by Barbara C. Hooton, as indiscreetly confided to Patrick Dennis. New York: Vanguard Press
Erskine, Dorothy, and Patrick Dennis (1957). The Pink Hotel. New York: Putnam
Dennis, Patrick (1958). Around the World with Auntie Mame. New York: New American Library
-- (1961). Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine (as told to Patrick Dennis). New York: E.P. Dutton. ISBN 0-7679-1347-7
Rowans, Virginia (1961). Love and Mrs. Sargent. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy
Dennis, Patrick (1962). Genius. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World
-- (1964). First Lady: My Thirty Days Upstairs at the White House, by Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield, as told to Patrick Dennis. New York: William Morrow
-- (1965). The Joyous Season. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World
-- (1966). Tony. New York: E.P. Dutton
-- (1968). How Firm a Foundation. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-586-03549-4
-- (1971). Paradise. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
-- (1972). 3-D. New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan (published in the UK as Anything You Like in 1974)
Little Me: Patrick Dennis. Grab an LGBT friend or friends, make some room on your schedule, read this book aloud together, and be prepared to laugh your gd heads off at the social climbing/grace falling exploits of one Belle Poitrine and her arch nemesis Maria Montezuma. That's what I did years ago w/ my friend Jon. (By the same author who wrote Auntie Mame.) --Aaron FrickeFurther Readings:
Uncle Mame: The Life Of Patrick Dennis by Eric Myers
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (December 24, 2001)
Amazon: Uncle Mame: The Life Of Patrick Dennis
Under his pseudonyms of Patrick Dennis and Virginia Rowans, Edward Everett (Pat) Tanner III was the author of sixteen novels—most of them best sellers—including the now-classic Little Me and Auntie Mame. Tanner made millions, became the toast of Manhattan society, and had his works adapted into wildly successful plays, musicals, TV shows, and films. But he also spent every cent he made, worked incognito as a butler to the wealthy, and constructed a persona so elaborate that not even his wife and children ever quite knew the real Pat. Based on extensive interviews with coworkers, friends, and relatives, Uncle Mame is a revealing, intimate portrait of the man who brought camp to the American mainstream and even in his lowest moments personified—even in his lowest moments— the glamour and wit he captured on the page.
Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Broadway (September 11, 2001)
Amazon: Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade
Wildly successful when it was first published in 1955, Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame sold over two million copies and stayed put on the New York Times bestseller list for 112 weeks. It was made into a play, a Broadway as well as a Hollywood musical, and a fabulous movie starring Rosalind Russell. Since then, Mame has taken her rightful place in the pantheon of Great and Important People as the world’s most beloved, madcap, devastatingly sophisticated, and glamorous aunt. She is impossible to resist, and this hilarious story of an orphaned ten-year-old boy sent to live with his aunt is as delicious a read in the twenty-first century as it was in the 1950s.
Around the World With Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Broadway; 1 edition (September 16, 2003)
Amazon: Around the World With Auntie Mame
Encore, Encore! The brilliant sequel to the smash bestseller Auntie Mame is back and the reviews are in . . .
Little Me : The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine (as told to Patrick Dennis) by Patrick Dennis
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Broadway (October 15, 2002)
Amazon: Little Me : The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine (as told to Patrick Dennis)
Back in print at last! From the author of Auntie Mame: the bawdy, bestselling, bountifully illustrated autobiography of an imaginary diva whose life is one hilarious mishap after another.
For Belle Poitrine, née Mayble Schlumpfert, all the world's a stage and she's the most important player on it. At once coy and coercive, with a name that means "beautiful bosom" in French, she claws her way from Striver's Row to the silver screen. Recalling Belle's career, which ranged from portraying Anne Boleyn in Oh, Henry to roles in both Sodom and its sequel Gomorrah (not to mention the classic Papaya Paradise), Little Me serves up copious quanitites of husbands, couture, and Pink Lady cocktails, with international adventures and a murder trial to boot.
A runaway bestseller that made its way to Broadway, starring Sid Caesar in 1962 and Martin Short in 1998, Little Me is now reprinted--with all of the 150 historic, hysterical photographs depicting the funniest scenes from Belle's sordid life, including cameo appearances by the author and Rosalind Russell. Considered a collector's item, the first edition of Little Me was like a performance in book form. Now this glittering spoof of celebrity is gloriously reincarnated for connoisseurs of all things chick and cheeky.
But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!: The Amazing History of the World's Favorite Madcap Aunt by R.T. Jordan
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington; 1st Printing April 2004 edition (April 1, 2004)
Amazon: But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame!: The Amazing History of the World's Favorite Madcap Aunt
When the novel Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis was first published in 1955, it became an instant hit and national bestseller. More than forty years later, it was brought back in print in a trade paperback edition and has, again, proven to be a commercial success. ABC is currently planning to air a two-hour special Auntie Mame movie starring Cher, and "Mame" is headed back to Broadway for the 2004 season. Now, industry insider Richard Tyler Jordan - who works as a senior publicist for Disney - provides an engaging and amusing historical look at the makings of this legendary and fictional character, and the impact it had on numerous lives and careers, including such celebrities as Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury, and Lucille Ball. But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame! colourfully chronicles the novel's journey from book to stage to play to film to Broadway musical and then film version of the musical. Filled with gossip and descriptions that bring every character life, But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame! vividly brings to life the character that combines the most interesting features of Tallulah Bankhead, the Duchess of Windsor, Cinderella, and a touch of Princess Diana tossed in for good measure.
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