Sunday, 5 July 2020

The swan nonpareil









From The Robb Report:
Every artist must settle on a medium; and although Truman Capote, as a boy, imagined a career in films, by the time he turned 20 he had tied his hopes to a literary career. Style - in language and in life - was a preoccupation for the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, whose aesthetic ideal was the fusion of ambition and taste in what he described as a living work of art. “There are certain women,” he said, “who...are born to be rich. By and large, these persons are artists of an odd variety; money, in astronomical amounts, is their instrument.”

Capote became an eminent connoisseur of such venal virtuosos, whom he playfully called his “swans.” These ladies shared more than friendship with the writer: each possessed striking looks, a flawless fashion sense, and a determination to secure the means to bend the world to her whims. “He...got the sense of what a person wanted to be,” recalled one acquaintance, “and then he helped her to achieve it. It was his way of getting close to her.”

...The swan nonpareil, however, was Barbara “Babe” Paley. “Mrs. P. had only one fault: she was perfect,” Capote noted. The youngest of the three celebrated Cushing sisters of Boston, Paley abandoned her post as an editor at Vogue for the more remunerative position of Mrs. Stanley Mortimer. She filed for divorce when the Standard Oil heir returned from service in World War II a broken man, and thanks to the ministrations of her well-connected sister Betsey Whitney, she displaced the first Mrs. William S. Paley to become the second wife of the broadcasting pioneer.

Capote met Paley in 1955, when one of her guests asked if “Truman” could join them for a weekend on her estate in Jamaica. Expecting the former president of the United States, she agreed. From the moment the impish author boarded the private plane, he and Paley were inseparable.
Barbara "Babe" Cushing Mortimer Paley (5th July 1915 – 6th July 1978)

8 comments:

  1. A friendship that ended with the publication of La Côte Basque, 1965 in Esquire.

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    1. Indeed - "the most public suicide note in history". Jx

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  2. Reading more about her from fashion editors who knew her, she was amazing. Supposedly Paley in later years was frequently verbally abusive, finding ways to put down her conversation, appearance, etc.

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    1. She suffered a terrible time with her husband, and it was Capote's exposé of his philanderings in that article that upset her, and the already rocky marriage, the most. Worse, she was dying of cancer when it was published... Jx

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  3. a fascinating friendship.
    fab photos !

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    1. Babe certainly was photogenic, wasn't she? Jx

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  4. She's so fierce, though! 🖤🤍🖤🤍🖤

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