Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

ALAN BOWNE (1945–1989)

Jack Turner


BIOGRAPHY

Very little information is available about the life of Alan Bowne. It seems he wanted it that way. Bowne stated in an interview with Kevin Sessums that he came from the Los Angeles area. “I hate it. I grew up in a suburb of the place. Not very good memories” (Sessums 67). His death notice in the December 2, 1989, New York Times stated that survivors (parents and a sister) still lived in Orange County. Apparently he moved to New York sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. “I bummed around. Drug dealer. Movie extra. I worked for a ghost-writing agency” (Seesums 67). According to Jimmy Bohr, who directed several of Bowne’s premieres, Bowne was a very private person, associating mainly with working-class types and living with a working-class family in the outer boroughs of New York City while Beirut was in production. When Sessums interviewed him, he lived in a rented room on 44th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, quite near the center of action of his play Forty-Deuce. Bohr said that he was, for a time, among Robert Maplethorpe’s circle of friends. The notorious photographer did a portrait of Bowne, which appears on the cover of his collected plays. I asked Bohr to what extent the portrait represented the real Alan Bowne. He said, “It’s perfect. It’s all there.” According to his own admission to Sessums, Bowne was bisexual and had had experience with heavy narcotics: “I’m at risk for this disease [AIDS]. I’ve boffed guys. I’ve boffed girls. And I’ve put needles in my arms. I’ve covered the waterfront on this disease” (Sessums 67). In many of his plays, there is a male character of ambiguous sexuality, as well as many gay men—especially hustlers and their clients. Drugs play a major part as well. The photograph in the Sessums article shows an older, scruffier Bowne. Sessums describes him as having the friendly tenacity of a certain type of dog:

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