At Capote’s Ball


Truman Capote’s legendary masked ball, at New York City’s Plaza Hotel on November 28, 1966, was a hyped-up media event meticulously masterminded by the self-promoting, social-climbing author of In Cold Blood. [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]. Capote dangled the prized invitations for months, snubbing early supporters like close friend and fellow writer Carson McCullers as he determined who was “in” and who was “out.” In choosing his guest of honor, Capote eschewed his carefully cultivated society friends, the flock of wealthy, elegant, ultra-fashionable society matrons whom Capote called his “swans” (Babe Paley, C. Z. Guest, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, and Marella Agnelli) in favor of “dowdy” Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.

The eventual guest list to so-called Party of the Century tallied 540, and included names like (newlyweds) Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, literary lions Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley, and various international crowned heads, Kennedys, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Whitneys. Halston and Adolfo. designed  the elaborate masks and headdresses. Wanting to keep the party mix interesting and unpredictable, Capote also invited people from the town where the murders from In Cold Blood occurred, publishing types, and even the doorman from the U.N. Plaza, his apartment building, who danced the night away with a woman who didn’t know his pedigree; and Norman Mailer sounded off about Vietnam. Actress Candice Bergen was bored at the ball, and the photographer Elliot Erwitt captured her above.

[The snubbed replied their own superior-than-thou message on the cover of December 1967 Esquire issue. Under the title “We wouldn’t have come even if you had invited us, Truman Capote” pictured a surly-looking group comprising Jimmy Brown, Kim Novak, Tony Curtis, Pat Brown, Ed Sullivan, Pierre Salinger, Lynn Redgrave and Casey Stengel. Inside William F. Buckley dissected the politics of the party one year on.]


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