Truman Capote and the Autograph Hunter

capote.jpgThe film Capote gives an insightful portrait of a complex man with serious foibles and a great gift for writing.  Amongst his weaknesses was a penchant for invention that sometimes resulted in him telling the same story differently.  Although Gore Vidal is a little less generous: 

“He was a pathological liar. He couldn’t tell the truth about anything, and he’d make it up as he went along. He always wore dark glasses, and his eyes would drop behind the dark glasses, and he would seem to be looking down at his nose, and then as he got more and more frenzied—the lies really very frenzied, they were orgasmic—you would start to see the eyes begin to roll up to see if you’d fallen for what he was saying.” (


Ironically and notwithstanding their mutual antipathy, both Vidal and Capote contributed to the increasing visibility of gay literature in America through novels such as “Other Voices, Other Rooms” (Capote) and “The City and the Pillar” (Vidal).

 The tale below appeared in an interview with Playboy (1984) and features Tennessee Williams.  In his book Music for Chameleons, however, it appears with Capote himself as the owner of the bon mot.  Which is true?  It probably doesn’t matter too much.  It is still an entertaining story.

 …I was staying with Tennessee in Key West.  We were in a terrifically crowded bar – there were probably 300 people in it, both gays and straights.  A husband and wife were sitting at a little table in the corner, and they were both quite drunk.  She had on a pair of slacks and a halter-top, and she approached our table and held out an eyebrow pencil.  She wanted me to autograph her belly button.I just laughed and said, “Oh no, leave me alone.”“How can you be so cruel?” Tennessee said to me, and, as everybody in the place watched, he took the eyebrow pencil and wrote my name around her navel.  When she got back to her table, her husband was furious.  Before we knew it, he had grabbed the eyebrow pencil out of her hand and walked over to where we were sitting, whereupon he unzipped his pants and pulled out is cock and said – to me –“Since you’re autographing everything today, would you mind autographing mine?”I had never heard a place with 300 people in it go so quiet.  I didn’t know what to say – I just looked at him.Then Tennessee reached up and took the eyebrow pencil out of the stranger’s hand.  “I don’t know if there is room for Truman to autograph it, “ he said, giving me a wink, “but I’ll initial it.”  It brought down the house.


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Filed under Capote, sex, Writers

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