Partner Gordon Merrick
Hydra, Idra 180 40, Grecia
Rampart St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka
Charles Gerald Hulse (born March 26, 1929) is a writer who lives and works in Galle, in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. Hulse is the author of several works of fiction, the first of which, entitled In Tall Cotton, was published in 1987. Hulse is a former dancer and theatre personality whose hospitality is legendary.
Born in Arkansas to Clarence W. Hulse (b. 1906) and May D. Hulse (b. 1906), Hulse graduated from high school at the age of 15 in San Francisco. He enrolled to study at the Doris Aaron Academy of Dance on Haight Street, not far from his childhood home. He had become captivated by the photographs of beautiful dancers that were displayed by the Doris Aaron Academy in their street-front windows on his way to grammar school, and successfully petitioned his mother for permission to enroll with the school. Upon graduation Hulse accepted his first job as a dancer, at the glamorous Copacobana nightclub on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Hulse spent the three years between 1950 and 1953, during the Korean War, serving as a junior officer in the United States Air Force. In 1953 he travelled to New York City, where he was cast in the role of the interpreter in The King And I as a replacement for the up-coming National Tour. Now free from active service, Hulse went on tour for 15 months with the company, with Yul Brynner playing the king.
After Hulse left production he moved to Paris with a contract to work as a cabaret dancer at the Lido on the Champs-Elysees. It was here that he met Gordon Merrick for the first time, although they were not to begin living together until the following year.
In 1956, Hulse returned to the United States, where he lived in Marin County and taught creative dance at a school for intellectually impaired children. He then spent several months in Sausalito, a picturesque seaside town not far from San Francisco. In 1960 Hulse made the decision to quit the States to join Merrick in Paris, where they shared an apartment in the 7th arrondissement. While on vacation visiting the Greek island of Hydra that year, Hulse bought a house on the island which was to become his home for the next twenty years. At the time, Merrick was working on his fifth novel, and Hulse and Merrick spent the years between 1960 and 1980 travelling mainly between Paris, Hydra and Galle.
While on Hydra, Hulse and Merrick were hosts to socialites, intellectuals and artists from all over the world. During his theatre career, and here, Hulse came to know people, such as Charles Laughton, Jules Dassin, Melina Mercouri, Jacqueline Onassis, Leonard Cohen and others.
Hulse restored and furnished the house on Hydra, which was admired was photographed extensively for various international magazines. In 1974 the couple bought land in Sri Lanka. Six years later they quit Greece permanently and moved to Galle, a town in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, as the local tourism industry on Hydra had made the island too crowded for their tastes. Hulse and Merrick bought a house at 25 Rampart Street within the precinct of Galle’s 17th century fortress. Here, Hulse worked on interior design, and began to write. By this time, Merrick had already published several books and was a celebrity. Hulse helped Merrick to prepare manuscripts for publication and the two travelled together frequently during this period.
Hulse’s first novel, In Tall Cotton, was published by Lyle Stewart in 1987. The novel is about survival during the dreadful depression of the ‘30’s, and tells the story of a young boy coming to terms with his sexuality and the death of his beloved brother. Carlton ‘Totsy’ Woods and his family crisscross the United States by car, staying with relatives, picking cotton, exchanging stories and having new and, for the protagonist, sometimes confusing experiences.
The novel is the first in a remarkable series of semi-autobiographical works by Hulse. When the cotton is tall it is time to harvest: a period of prosperity is nigh. In keeping with its title, the novel is fundamentally a story of hope rendered with great humour and flourish; a warm and humane work with remarkable insights for today’s reader into life in the West and Mid-west during the years of the Great Depression. Publishers Weekly called In Tall Cotton a “masterpiece,” and Leonard Cohen described the book as “an American boyhood, beautifully told.”
Hulse's talents as an interior designer were influenced by his peripetatic life in two significant ways. As recounted in his 1987 novel, the adolescent Hulse traversed the United States with his family. He and his mother took great pleasure in decorating their temporary quarters, making the best of sometimes straitened circumstances. Hulse remains a great traveller to date, and the beauty of Iran, Greece, Bali and Italy, have influenced his design work.