The ornately attired writer and raconteur, who referred to himself as "the stateliest homo in England", was found dead in Manchester on the eve of a one-man show that was to tour the country. Friends said he was in poor health.
Born Denis Pratt in Sutton, south London, he jettisoned bourgeois convention and embraced the theatrical side of his sexuality. Later generations of gay men revered him for appearing in public bejewelled and frilled in an age when homosexual ostentation was taboo. Crisp, who found sudden and belated fame in 1968 with the publication of his autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, emigrated to New York at the age of 72 and had made his home for the last 18 years in Manhattan.
Last week he told The Independent's New York correspondent, David Usborne, that he was now so ill that he "longed" for death.
He confessed that modern gay culture was not entirely to his taste. "When I was young, you never mentioned it," he said. "Now you never talk about anything else."
However, he said he still took his make-up seriously, spending about an hour and a half on it every morning, as people expected it of him.
He may be remembered, like Oscar Wilde, for putting his talent into his work, but his genius into his life.