My mother is a very accomplished, intelligent, & serious woman, but she always has had a sly interest in show biz & celebrity gossip. She told me the details & intricate ins & outs of the Elizabeth Taylor + Eddie Fisher + Debbie Reynolds divorces & marriages when I was just 5 years old. I appreciated that she explained that one to me. I remember well, being 12 years old & my mother giving me the low down on the infamous “party of the century”- Truman Capote's Black & White Ball.
The now legendary Black & White Masked Ball was a bash that Truman Capote threw at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel on Nov. 28, 1966. The guest of honor was Katharine Graham, president of the Washington Post Co., but no one had any illusions: The purpose of this gala was to celebrate the host, a serious writer, but also a serious celebrity. There had never been much doubt about the celebrity part, from the moment that he styled himself as a male nymphet for his 1st novel's jacket photo; Capote had shown a rare talent for self promotion. What had been in doubt were his literary accomplishments. As he entered his forties, the once promising young writer had produced only a few slim volumes of exquisitely written fiction & journalism. But recently In Cold Blood, a masterpiece in a new genre- the non-fiction novel & a milestone in popular culture, had buried his skeptics, & it was time to celebrate. Capote's plan was to mix & match people: titled aristocrats with intellectuals with ordinary folk from the rural Kansas county where the In Cold Blood murders had occurred. But in this respect, the party seems to have failed. "I've never seen such ghettoizing in all my life," complained Capote's lover- Jack Dunphy. "No group mixed with another group." As for the excluded, on the cover of the next Esquire, under the title "We wouldn't have come even if you had invited us, Truman Capote" was a photo of a surly looking group comprising Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Pat Brown, Ed Sullivan, Pierre Salinger, Lynn Redgrave & Casey Stengel.
From the moment my mother told me about the Black & White Ball, I became fascinated by Truman Capote (at 5’3’’ he was dubbed the Tiny Terror) & I went on to read everything by & about him. I was fascinated by his distinctive, high-pitched voice & odd vocal mannerisms, his offbeat manner of dress & his fabulous stories when he would appear on TV talk shows. I have everything he has written, plus biographies, diaries & books of letters. He is a member of a handful of authors that make up the club: Stephen’s Favorite Writers. He had a long standing rivalry with another of my favorites- Gore Vidal. Their rivalry prompted another member of my club- Tennessee Williams to complain: "You would think they were running neck &neck for some fabulous gold prize." I own a first edition paperback of Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I love all his work, but my very favorite is A Christmas Memory. During the holidays I always re-read it, & I set a copy out, as part of a Christmas tableau, on a table as a holiday ritual.
"All literature is gossip."