1921 - 1976

“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”

 – Patrick Dennis

Born Edward Everett Tanner III in Evanston, IL, he was nicknamed Pat before he was born and eventually decided he preferred it to Edward. After service as an ambulance driver during WWII, Dennis returned to the U.S. and, in 1948, married socialite Louise Stickney with whom he had two children. He wrote two novels under the pseudonym “Virginia Rowans” before exploding onto the literary scene with Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade in 1955. The comic masterpiece spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, selling over 2 million copies, prompting Dennis to be declared “the first American writer to popularize High Camp.” Written in a mere 90 days, it is the witty tale of a fictional “Patrick Dennis” recalling his experiences growing up as the ward of his free-spirited aunt. It spawned a sequel as well as reincarnations on stage, film, and as a musical. In 1956, with Auntie Mame, The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story, and Guestward, Ho! all in release, Dennis became the first writer to have three books simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list. His sixteen novels include two parody memoirs – complete with photos – entitled Little Me and First Lady. Throughout his life, Dennis struggled with his bisexuality and Midwestern Presbyterian background. Eventually he became a fixture in the Greenwich Village gay scene, where he squandered millions in royalties with lavish living. When his books went out of print in the 1970s – Dennis, using his real name – found work as a domestic. His employers had no idea the Edward Tanner on their staff was really world-famous author Patrick Dennis. While working as a butler for McDonalds' founder Ray Kroc, Dennis grew ill. In 1976, the man who brought “Mame Dennis Burnside” to life, died from pancreatic cancer. He was 55.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution


Commemorations & Honors

Featured on the New York Times Bestsellers List Simultaneously for Auntie Mame, The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story, and Guestward, Ho! (1956)

Posthumous Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame Inductee (2016)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell