Everett Quinton, a staple of New York’s post-1960s downtown theater scene and diligent standard-bearer for the outrageously campy and hilariously melodramatic style of performance known as the Ridiculous, died of glioblastoma January 23 in Brooklyn. He was 71.
His death was confirmed to The New York Times by friend Julia Campanelli speaking on behalf of his sister Mary Ann Quinton.
Making his name in the Off (and Off Off) Broadway theater world initially with his partner in life and art, the actor, playwright and director Charles Ludlam, Quinton would star in numerous productions at the Greenwich Village playhouse of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, founded by Ludlam in 1967.
Quinton and Ludlam met in the mid-1970s and would remain together until Ludlam’s death from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987. Their partnership would produce dozens of glitter-filled, sequined stage comedies that were among the first and most beloved examples of queer theater of the 1970s, ’80s and, with Quinton leading the way after Ludlam’s death, the early ’90s.
Ludlam’s Camille was one of the most celebrated, but the duo’s greatest success arguably came in 1984 with Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep, a penny dreadful parody in which Quinton and Ludlam played a mystery novel’s worth of characters, quick-changing into and out of one style of drag – male or female – after another. Critic Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote that, with the show, “Mr. Ludlam and Mr. Quinton have raised the Ridiculous to the sublime.”
After Ludlam’s death, Quinton took over the leadership of the Ridiculous until closing its Sheridan Square venue, to the lasting sorrow of its faithful devotees, in 1997. Though his closest association would forever be the Ridiculous, Quinton would perform in other spaces, including La MaMa, and even, occasionally, on screen. He had an early role in a 1985 episode of Miami Vice as, per the credits, “Homosexual Pusher” and played a deputy warden in Oliver Stone’s 1994 psycho-epic Natural Born Killers.
His final screen credit came just last year, when he played the character Melvin Funk in Bros, the Billy Eichner film celebrated as the first mainstream gay rom-com playing in cinemas that would dwarf the tiny venues of the Ridiculous, where Quinton had blazed the trail.