DANSE MACABRE

After the success of his novel IN COLD BLOOD, Truman Capote decided to throw a party. More in his element amongst the glitter of celebrities than at the keys of his typewriter, the magnificent gnome was a party animal if there ever was one.  But unlike the typical soiree of the flowery 60s, where the ridiculously rich and superficially famous would gather to celebrate themselves while condemning each other, Capote proclaimed to the media that his would be the “Party of the Century“…aka the “Black and White Ball” (a masked ball)…in other words, a rather typical soiree of the flowery 60s with a dash of Fellini thrown in.

The party (or ball) was held at New York’s Plaza Hotel on November 28, 1966 and was (ostensibly) in honor of Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham. Capote spent months searching through names listed on the Creme de la Creme Registry of the Milky Way and invited them. The dwindling Vanderbilts and the opportunistic Rockefellers were invited and attended. Frank Sinatra and “child bride” Mia Farrow, newly married/ soon to be divorced  were there, along with the fictional genius Norman Mailer, on the prowl for yet another venue to fuel his obnoxiousness. These were only some of the various icons of the era in attendance at Capote’s Holly Golightly Playroom.

In spite of Capote’s inspired ambitions, his Party of the Century was quite possibly the Bore of the Millennium; the Black & White-laced elegance of the Ball more like a comatose shade of Gray.

And what about the so-called “Party of the Century,” Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball in 1966 New York, which mimicked the bals masqués of Louis XIV? It was the ultimate name-dropping event; nothing gave bragging rights like being one of 540 guests chosen by Capote with Byzantine cunning and cruelty.  But stripped of its hype, the party was less the century’s festive climax than a relic from a fading age — a swan song for the uptight ‘50s rather than a harbinger of the raucous ‘60s — and was looked on with bemusement by those who would really shape the century as a waste of time and money.

Deborah Davis’ new book, “The Party of the Century,” while propounding the event’s popular acclaim also belies its mythical nostalgia. Guests, initially or later, when they sobered up, described the mood as being “flat and self-conscious.” While Capote gaily fluttered through his star-studded exhibition, with breathless squeals of “Aren’t we having the most wonderful time?,” many were longing for a most wonderful time elsewhere and contriving a hasty yet debonair departure.

Candice Bergen reported wandering about by herself, bored, and left early; Andy Warhol evidently watched on with perplexity, paralyzed by the fact that he had not been allowed to bring a friend. The Rat Pack invitees were attending wilder parties any day of the week, so Frank Sinatra and his entourage finally moved on to a nearby bar, ignoring Capote’s plaintive pleas for him to stay. Guests soon started following suit. The last people to leave were Capote’s In Cold Blood friends from Kansas City.

In the words of Capote, “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Unfortunately, TC was caught in that “third act” for decades, playing the fool to his own bedeviled genius.

Mr & Mrs Sinatra

Tallulah Bankhead

Source: The Smart Set

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2 comments on “DANSE MACABRE

  1. Brook says:

    the late Truman Capote…a magnificent writer. *Thank you* for including my review of Capote’s ” “The Grass Harp.”

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