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25 September, 2013

truman capote's black & white ball at the plaza

"To this day, that was the biggest party I ever shot," photographer Harry Benson recalls. "Capote's ball was unique. Everyone wanted to be there. People who weren't invited went out of town."(x)

After six years of researching & writing In Cold Blood, Capote wanted to take some time off of writing & instead decided to throw the Party of the Century.

The Paperless Post take on Capote’s invitation, based closely on the original. (x)

"Sitting poolside in Bridgehampton, at the house of his mother's friend Eleanor Friede, Capote worked—with a concentration usually reserved for writing—entering (like one of God's angels) the names of the chosen into a 10-cent black-and-white composition book. Periodically, he would review the list, deleting names as he inserted new ones into the ledger. "The party," Gerald Clarke notes, "was the product of a literary mind"—in this case, a manipulative instrument whose considerable might was applied to assembling a cast of characters and moving them about like so many chess pieces. In his diminutive hands he controlled, or so it seemed, the destinies of an international group of players who could rouse presidents to action, steer the course of a country's economy, determine the silhouettes of millions of women, compose the soundtrack of a generation." (x)

"Inspired by My Fair Lady's breathtaking Ascot scene, costumed by Cecil Beaton entirely in black and white, he would restrict his guests' attire to this most severe of palettes. Capote explained, "I want the party to be united the way you make a painting." Furthermore, all guests would be required to wear masks, and the ladies to carry fans. The masks, according to his scenario, would free guests to dance and mingle as they pleased. At midnight the disguises would be removed. "It was complete autocratic hosting," recalls D. D. Ryan." (x)

“The ballroom had been done up in red, with not a flower in sight—‘the people are the flowers,’ declared Evie Backer, responsible for the interior design. (x)

Lee Radziwill (x)

"The party's jubilant atmosphere was punctuated by the sound of barmen popping open 450 bottles of Taittinger champagne—flowing, according to C. Z. Guest, "like the Mississippi, or the Nile." (

Mia Farrow & Frank Sinatra

"The only other time guest lists were ever published was for state dinners at the White House." As many of the 540 [invitees] soon learned, "having your name on the list became a mark of tremendous status for a few months," Podhoretz continues. "It provoked enormous hostility, admiration, and curiosity. Aferwards I went to Yaddo [the writers' retreat in upstate New York], and all anyone wanted to talk to me about was the party." (x)

Recommended further reading:
A Night to Remember, by Amy Fine Collins
Capote's Swan Dive, by Sam Kashner

Movie recommendation: Infamous (2006), featuring a good many of the society characters
that attended the party such as Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley & Slim Keith

The party to which you were not invited, by Henry Normal
'... was like no other party before.
What a party.
What a party.
Everyone was there.
Well, everyone that is, but you.
It was incredible.
You wouldn't believe what went on.
I mean let's face it if you weren't at that party
then you don't know what PARTY means.
What a party.
You just couldn't imagine a party like that.
There'll never be a party like it again.
Everyone's still talking about it.
Well, everyone, that is, but you.
A party like that can change your life.
I mean any other party
is going to seem drab now in comparison.
I mean, I've been to parties with a capital P
but this was a party with a capital PARTY
know what I mean?
No. I don't suppose you do.
What a party.
A party like that comes once in a lifetime, maybe. Still at least everyone can share the memory
well, everyone that is,...'

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