Amusements and Thrills Podcasts Writers and Artists

Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball: The Absurd Story of a Marvelous Party

PODCAST Your ticket to Truman Capote’s celebrity-filled party at the Plaza.

This month FX is debuting a new series created by Ryan Murphy — called Feud: Capote and the Swans — regarding writer Truman Capote‘s relationship with several famed New York society women.

And it’s such a New York story that listeners have asked if we’re going to record a tie-in show to that series. Well, here it is! Tom and Greg recorded this show back in November of 2016 but, likely, most of you haven’t heard this one.

Capote in 1959 / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection.

Capote is a true New York character, a Southern boy who wielded his immense writing talents to secure a place within Manhattan high society. Elegant, witty, compact, gay — Capote was a fixture of swanky nightclubs and arm candy to wealthy, well-connected women.

One project would entirely change his life — the completion of the classic In Cold Blood, a ‘non-fiction novel’ about a horrible murder in Kansas. Retreating from his many years of research, Truman decided to throw a party.

But this wasn’t ANY party. This soiree — a masquerade ball at the Plaza Hotel — would have the greatest assemblage of famous folks ever gathered for something so entirely frivolous. An invite to the ball was the true golden ticket, coveted by every celebrity and social climber in America.

Come with us as we give you a tour of the planning of the Black and White Ball and a few glamorous details from that strange, glorious evening.

FEATURING: Harper Lee, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Halston, Katharine Graham and a cast of thousands (well, or just 540)

Truman Capote in 1945


From the unusual book jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms, 1948


Babe Paley with Truman Capote in Capri, early 1960s

Courtesy the Red List
Courtesy the Red List

Capote in Kansas, at the grave of the Clutter family, their murder being the inspiration for his book In Cold Blood.

1967, Holcomb, Kansas, USA --- Author Truman Capote poses at the grave of the murdered Clutter family, made famous in his novel and in the film . --- Image by © Bob Adelman/Corbis
1967, Holcomb, Kansas, USA — Author Truman Capote poses at the grave of the murdered Clutter family, made famous in his novel and in the film.  — Image by © Bob Adelman/Corbis

Just a few days before the party, this is what New York City looked like — draped in a toxic smog.


Truman Capote with his guest of honor — Katharine Graham


Graham is on the left and Capote is front and center, but the real action is Lauren Bacall and Jerome Robbins at right.

Mrs. Jason Robards Jr. dancing with Jerome Robbins at Truman Capote's party *** Local Caption *** Lauren Bacall;Jerome Robbins;

©Lawrence Fried or photo by Lawrence Fried. 

Supermodel Penelope Tree looks a little bit like Batgirl here.


Andy Warhol came to the party without a mask.


Norman Mailer and an unidentified guest.


One of the most talked about couples of the evening — Frank Sinatra and his new bride (with a new haircut) Mia Farrow.

Conde Nast Archive / Corbis / East News.
Photo courtesy ©Lawrence Fried
Photo by Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos - East News.
Photo by Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos – East News.


Two other New York cultural icon — who happened to be invited to Capote’s dance:

Some context on the New York ball/society scene, courtesy The Gilded Gentleman


Truman Capote / Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Truman Capote / In Cold Blood
Truman Capote / Other Voices, Other Rooms
Truman Capote / “La Côte Basque 1965” and Answered Prayers
Deborah Davis / Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball
George Plimpton / “Was Truman Capote’s Black-and-White Ball the Greatest Party Ever?” Esquire 1991
Guy Trebay / “50 Years Ago, Truman Capote Hosted the Best Party Ever,” New York Times, 2016
Ralph Voss / Truman Capote and the Legacy of “In Cold Blood”

7 replies on “Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball: The Absurd Story of a Marvelous Party”

Truman was an iconoclast, and this Ball was his and his mother’s victory over the most narcissistic New York elites. He started here, making fun of them, and “Answered Prayers” was an important coda, although it took forever to write. Bravo to you both on an excellent episode. It is a compelling story of what happened to NYC in the last days of its political and historical dominance. Please listen again and again.

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