Proust Questionee: Thom Cardwell

The "godfather to every gay party boy in town" answers some deep, probing questions.

In this month’s Philadelphia magazine, executive editor (and new G Philly editor) Michael Callahan profiles Philly’s “Rainbow Coalition,” or the “who’s who in the city’s A-gay universe.” So I thought it’d be fun to reach out to some of them to see if they’d answer the famous Proust Questionaire. First up: Thom Cardwell, the scarf-slinging developmental director at the Philadelphia Cinema Alliance and publisher/editor-at-large at Here’s what he had to say about living, sex and his eclectic fashion sense.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? I treasure and pursue a secret intellectual life. But being truly in (unconditional) love is the greatest happiness. What is the trait you most dislike in yourself? Procrastination. What is the trait you most dislike in others? Rigidity. What is your greatest extravagance? My library. I’ve been collecting [books] for decades. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Monogamy. What do you consider the most underrated vice? Vanity. Which person, living or dead, do you most admire? Gertrude Stein. She was a power lesbian in a world of men. Which words or phrases do you overuse? “Ab Fab,” “This n That,” “Cool,” “By the way,” “Cheers!,” “Congrats,” My best, “BRAVO” and an occupational hazard phrase, “Off the Record!” What is the quality you most like in a man? Someone who is truly masculine and brainy with a sweet, tender side to him. That’s sexy! What do you dislike about your appearance? My height and weight. I’d like to be taller, maybe 5-foot-11-inches, and thinner, back to a 32-inch waist. What do you love about your appearance? I have been blessed with good skin, few wrinkles, no crows feet and I’m still soft-to-the-touch all over. What or who is the greatest love of your life? All the men with whom I’ve had affairs, intimate friendships and other meaningful relationships, including three husbands … and my current one of 20 years. When and where were you happiest? In the 1960s in America — despite all the turmoil and tragedy — because of all the genuine hope [I had] for the future — for blacks, gays, women, people of color and, yes, even the middle class. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Being a hopeless romantic. Which talent would you most like to have? The ability to speak several languages. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? The creation of myself as a worthy (and fashionable) human being. Oscar Wilde said, “You should either make a work of art or be a work of art.” I’m still a “work in progress.” How am I doing? If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A vampire or a bat. But not a vampire bat! What is your most treasured possession? The jewelry that I wear every day — talismans, if you will, of people I’ve loved but lost. What do you value most in your friends? Longevity. Who is your favorite drag queen? I’ve seen real “drag wars,” so I’ll pass on this question. I don’t want to be eaten alive by the many drag queens I know! How would you like to die? In my sleep, after a delicious meal, a wonderful night of dancing and incredible sex. What is your motto? I’ve two: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” (Rose Tremain) and “Living well is the best revenge.” (Calvin Tomkins).

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