Truman Capote's Bash: Dancing the Night Away

Katharine Graham with Truman Copote
Katharine Graham with Truman Copote (The Washington Post)
Sunday, June 4, 2006

In Party of the Century (Wiley, $24.95), Deborah Davis tells of the now legendary Black and White Ball. Truman Capote threw the bash at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel on Nov. 28, 1966. Its 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 celebrity. There had never been much doubt about the celebrity part -- from the moment that he styled himself as a male nymphet for his first novel's jacket photo, Capote had shown a rare talent for self-promotion. What had been in doubt was the literary prowess. As he entered his forties, the once-promising young writer had produced only a few slim volumes of exquisitely written fiction and journalism. But recently In Cold Blood -- a masterpiece in the literature of fact -- had routed the skeptics, and it was time to celebrate. Capote's plan, notes Davis, was to mix and match people: titled aristocrats with intellectuals with ordinary Joes 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, the book reproduces the cover of a subsequent Esquire issue. Under the rubric "We wouldn't have come even if you had invited us, Truman Capote" is pictured a surly-looking group comprising Jimmy Brown, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Pat Brown, Ed Sullivan, Pierre Salinger, Lynn Redgrave and Casey Stengel.

-- Dennis Drabelle

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