Truman Capote’s Ashes Will Be Up For Auction in September

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Photo: Wikipedia

If you really loved In Cold Blood and want to take your fandom to a whole new level, your opportunity is knocking: author Truman Capote’s ashes will be sold by Julien’s Auctions in September to the highest bidder.

“I am sure people are going to think this is disrespectful,” said Darren Julien, CEO of the auction house, to Vanity Fair. “But this is a fact: Truman Capote loved the element of shock. He loved publicity. And I’m sure he’s looking down laughing, and saying, ‘That’s something I would have done.’ He was a larger-than-life character.”

The ashes initially went to Joanne Carson, Johnny’s wife, in following the demands of Capote’s last will and testament. Following her death, the remains ended up in the hands of Julien’s, after “The estate didn’t know what to do with them.”

While it’s hardly the way we’d honor one of our favorite authors – a portrait on the wall or a limited edition copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s seems more appropriate – it’s like we always say: to each their own vases full of deceased authors.

Although we’d bet the type of clientele with this kind of disposable income have probably collected enough ashes by now that they should be all set.

‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ on Broadway: Not Your Mother’s Holly Golightly

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With all due respect to Ford Madox Ford, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the saddest story I’ve ever read. Black hats and mid-century New York aside, the story of “living by your own rules…loving on your own terms…and wearing your heart on your sleeve” (as the official Broadway site enthusiastically describes the plot) was never meant to be happy. Expecting it to be, as the heroine Holly Golightly herself might have said, would be tres fou.

The popular Audrey Hepburn / George Peppard movie abandoned gloom in favor of a happy ending but now, thank goodness, with the Sean Mathias directed production that premiered last night, there is finally a play that encompasses the intended pathos of the novella.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is, at least in my mind, always a story about Truman Capote’s fantasy of having a relationship with his mother.

On the book’s release, there was great controversy over who Holly Golightly was modeled after. Capote basically told every woman he knew that she was the inspiration for Holly, but he also contended that anyone who really knew him would recognize the character easily.

Since Truman, like Holly, had few real friends, not many people considered the fact that Holly clearly seems to have been based on the author’s mother. While Holly’s original name was Lula Mae Barnes, his mother’s was Lillie Mae Bart. She was a Southern orphan who, after a brief teenage marriage, left young Truman behind with relatives and fled to New York. Truman claimed his earliest memories were of her having affairs with strange men in hotel rooms. In New York she did have a successful run as a social climber. She changed her name to Nina and married a dashing Cuban businessman who, unfortunately, later ended up in Sing Sing. After she ran out of money, she committed suicide.

His lover later recounted Truman waiting to take a bus home—he could only afford a bus—to attend her funeral, plaintively saying, “She didn’t have to do it. She didn’t have to die. I’ve got money.”

If that’s true, it’s an autobiographical tale—and a terribly sad one.

Truman always said he wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly. I don’t think that’s because she would have made a good Holly—she wouldn’t, even in the much cheerier movie version there is a certain toughness to Holly that the actress could never have summoned—but because Marilyn Monroe also understood what it was to be motherless. She might not have embraced the character, but would have understood the themes of the story perfectly.

The novella works very well because it plays so closely upon the themes of loneliness and the desire to belong that Capote experienced throughout his life. The movie works very well because Audrey Hepburn looks dishy in a black dress, and because Henry Mancini composes lovely music.

The play works well—very well—because it is true to the original theme.

Emilia Clarke is playing a very different character than the one Audrey Hepburn made her own. Hepburn’s Holly charmed the viewer, Clarke—and Capote’s—Holly is faceted; she charms one minute and then repulses the next. She is astonishing in her ability to seem utterly warm and convivial with Fred (Cory Michael Smith), and then convincingly turn on him, telling him that he’s an intellectual snob, or she finds his stories boring, or has no desire to support him.  

Much of the play, and the novella, hinges upon Fred’s unsuccessful attempts to convince Holly that she should feel some manner of connection or loyalty to him, a goal in which he never quite succeeds. She is not, as Hepburn’s Golightly, simply playing at being a wild thing. She is truly feral, and giving everyone around her sound practical advice when she tells them, “If you try to love a wild thing, you’ll just end up looking at the sky.”

She also has an utterly insane voice, which is fitting if you assume that this is a character desperately trying not to be from any one particular place. And she is naked in a tub at one point. You’ll see much more skin on any episode of Game of Thrones, but if you are the kind of person who looks for nudity at the theater, well, it is there.

Cory Michael Smith, similarly, is not playing a dashing George Peppard character although, mercifully, neither is he channeling Truman Capote directly. (There are moments in the play, such as sending out a deliberately provocative picture of himself to go along with his stories, that are pulled straight from Capote’s life). He plays Fred as a fresh-faced young lad excited to be in the city. You are left wondering why Fred remains so desperate for Holly’s approval. If the character is heterosexual it’s enough simply to say that he desires Holly. However, having him, accurately, played as a homosexual demands a greater explanation as to why he remains so devoted to a woman who so frequently turns on him. There is something about Smith’s entirely likeable performance that seems, perhaps, not quite damaged enough to answer this question.

“Abandonment was the theme of the evening,” Fred says at one point in the play, when Holly has, only recently, abandoned him. “Oh, were you abandoned? By who?” she replies.

So: abandonment and its lasting impact are the theme of the evening and that of the play. You should expect to hear many women, all from Dubuque, leaving the theater and murmuring forlornly that it was not a happy play.

It may be best to combat that reaction by not expecting it to be a happy play. It is not a love story. It is a story about longing for love. And it plays that out perfectly.

Jennifer Ashley Wright is Editor in Chief of The Gloss. Follow her on Twitter.

Cats on Broadway Get A Whole New Meaning With Adorable Audition

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Last week, BlackBook Senior Editor Tyler Coates, who also mans the Cats beat so no one else has to, informed us about a special production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary musical featuring more than 3,000 performers. But what about a New York theatre outing for those lovers of the stage who are feline-friendly, but find the idea of a megaproduction of Cats utterly terrifying? Thanks to the newly revived Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’re in luck.

The NYT (ON IT!) sent an intrepid reporter to visit the auditions of two rescue cats competing for the role of Holly Golightly’s cat in the show. The ginger Vito Vincent is levelheaded and curls gently into the male lead’s arms. His competition, Monty, is a bit more of a diva—leaping off stage mid-scene, ignoring the commands of his trainer and carrying himself like he owns the place. Please. Get a few more credits under your belt before you have that kind of attitude, Monty.

While Monty steals much of the screen time, Vito would be more of a traditional casting decision, with a coloring closer to that of Orangey, who played the role alongside Audrey Hepburn in the film. Orangey also won two Patsy awards, the animal kingdom equivalent of the Oscar, so, you know, the bar’s pretty high, cats. You’ve gotta earn that kitty EGOT. Watch Vito and Monty act their tails off below.

[via Jezebel]

Capote vs. Brando: Kids Are Alright

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The most famous rule in all of filmmaking: Never work with kids or animals. But hell, I’m a maverick. And I can see Russia from my house.

The best thing about working with kids is that they don’t know the meaning of the word “pressure” — it hasn’t come up in their vocabulary lessons yet. And let’s face it — re-creating Truman Capote’s iconic interview of Marlon Brando is a lot of pressure. Adult actors, limited by what they’ve seen and what they know, would have broken out their best Brando impressions or tried their damnedest to rip off a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance. And nine out of ten of them would have collapsed under the weight of it all.

So for this installment of Icon Redux, we went younger. Much younger. Makes sense, if you think about it; there’s something indisputably childlike about Brando’s ramblings. We made some phone calls, sifted through some résumés, and dug up two kids well on their way to stardom who, thankfully, had no clue who Marlon Brando and Truman Capote were. They had seen nothing, knew nothing, had nothing in their own minds to live up to. Their innocence was refreshing. And their credentials were amazing.

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At six years old, Tyler Christopher Backer showed up at the NYCastings office fresh off a glowing review in the New York Times for his role in New York City Opera’s Madama Butterfly. And Spencer Harrison Hall had been Don Draper’s son on the Emmy-winning Mad Men before the series moved to Los Angeles. Spencer stayed east: “I don’t move for productions,” he said. “Productions move for me.” Okay, he didn’t say that.

Plus, they’re adorable. You just want to pinch their cute little cheeks, shake them violently, and yell, “Run! Run, as fast and as far as you can before the Hollywood machine sinks its talons into you and you end up staring at the ceiling during your third stint in rehab wondering what the hell it was you started doing when you were six!”

Sorry. Let me just brush that chip off my shoulder there …

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Okay, let’s bring the class back into this joint: Ahhh, Columbus Circle. There may not have been a more Brando-like place in all of New York to recreate this interview, which originally took place in a hotel in Kyoto, Japan during the filming of Sayonara in 1957. 6 Columbus is the Circle’s newest, hippest hotel, and like Brando at the height of his physical prowess, the hotel is an incredible site to behold, with a 1960s mod aesthetic tinged by a certain Zen minimalism (Brando had pretty firmly thrown himself onto the “Path to Enlightenment” by the time of the interview). The altitude, insulated windows, dark wood, and soft sunlight of the penthouse where we were shooting cast a hypnotic peace over those damn cars driving the endless loop of Columbus Circle 12 stories below, ignoring lane lines and traffic lights, blaring their horns and bullying the park-bound carriages as the horses drawing them pause to whinny and shit. Taken as a whole, Columbus Circle is a warring dichotomy, a gorgeous fuzzy blanket covering an omnipresent, pulsating chaos.

It’s Brando’s Zen incubating his ever-growing madness.

Of course, madness is a relative term. Some say two kids in a hotel penthouse surrounded by art and furniture more expensive than the entire production budget is madness.

But I call it maverick-ism. And where’s Russia? There it is!

Photos: Philip Buiser. Eyewear provided by Morgenthal-Frederic, NYC. Casting space provided by NYCastings.com.

Icon Redux: Truman Capote vs. Marlon Brando

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Welcome to the second installment of Icon Redux — the video series from BlackBook and Two Penguins Productions that recasts famous (or infamous) moments in pop culture using contemporary performers and settings. Here, we re-create a seminal 1957 interview between twin eccentrics Marlon Brando and Truman Capote, where the rambling Brando refuses to let the normally loquacious Capote get a word in edgewise. The trick — in our version, set in a penthouse suite at Manhattan’s 6 Columbus hotel, Brando and Capote are portrayed by child actors Tyler Christopher Backer and Spencer Harrison Hall, respectively. Enjoy, and be sure to check out the screen tests for Capote and Brando (and the “Japanese girl”) and the behind-the-scenes commentary, plus the first installment of Icon Redux: James Dean.

Coming Next Week: Marlon Brando vs. Truman Capote

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As promised by our screen test — next week, we’ll debut the second installment of Icon Redux, our original video series that recasts classic, iconic moments with breaking new talent. In this case, very new talent — the charming young fellows pictured here will reincarnate a famous interview given by Marlon Brando to Truman Capote. Instead of a suite at Kyoto hotel in 1957, our version takes place in a New York hotel penthouse in 2008, as rendered by the artistes at Two Penguins Productions. Watch for it Wednesday.

Coming Soon: Truman Capote Interviews Marlon Brando

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For the next installment of Icon Redux by BlackBook and Two Penguins Productions, we’ll be re-creating a famous interview between eccentric wordsmith Truman Capote and legendary actor Marlon Brando — as portrayed by children. As a teaser, enjoy this collection of screen tests, where our aspiring junior thespians do Brando’s famous “STELLLLLAAAAA!” yell from A Streetcar Named Desire.

A Streetcar Named Desire Tickets

Industry Insiders: Elaine Kaufman, Legendary

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New York legend Elaine Kaufman of Elaine’s gets inside a writer’s mind, grabs lunch with the New Yorker boys, and throws a bash for a Swedish dance troupe.

Point of Origin: I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I was a frisky kid, you know? I was always game, always interested, you know, curious. Curiosity, that was it. I didn’t like school. I thought it was dumb. Of course, I had a lot of cousins and all that stuff who were teachers and I had older brothers and sisters who were always involved in the literary world. My parents worked and used to drop me off at the library, so I was always brought up around a lot of books, and it fit in, because it was a part my particular character. I couldn’t ask for better education. Books. I understood what they were talking about, and I was compassionate. It was more fun at the library than school. It was intelligence — this person talked about this subject; the other person talked about that, and I put people together who were interested in the same things. Even as a child, I was gregarious, so it was a fit.

Occupations: It’s not as if I wasn’t like this all my life. I just worked, every day. This kind of work seemed to suit me better than other people’s educations. Restaurants. I knew some people: Elizabeth McKee, one of the great agents. I got lucky in meeting Ted Purdy, her husband, a record editor and wonderful man, famous in his day, who knew so much about publishing, and he sat and talked. He became a major player in the literary world, and informed me about a lot. I knew how to put people together; and eventually, Elaine’s was born. I opened the new place in 1963. How does that happen? It opens. They came here and talked, listened to James Jones and George Plimpton and that fed that. Truman Capote came in with the woman writer he’d known since he was a child, Harper Lee. He knew all of the southern writers, and their minds. Bruce Jay Friedman was here the other day and he was waiting for somebody, but in the meantime a couple of young writers were here, and I introduced him to them.It’s almost impossible to drop the name of a major player in the art, film, and literary world who hasn’t been here — and one of your waiters is a playwright.

Any non-industry projects in the works? Well, we do a lot of fundraisers here. And, I’m a big art collector, and have been for a long, long time … and so I follow that field, too. I mean, the art in my apartment is endless with paintings. [At Elaine’s, she’s surrounded by some of her favorites.] Here is this Samuel Johnson poster that Jack Richardson had done for me, here (on the wall over Table One). Yeah, and Sven Lukin, Jack Youngerman, all those kind of guys; they were all on to new things. Julian Schnabel was the new boy in that area, innovative. Emile de Antonio was an innovator in finding the art, and he was in here all the time. Jamie Wyeth was here a lot before he moved out of New York.

Favorite Hangouts: Every day, I do Lunch at PJ Clarke’s. A bunch of us meet over there. We all knew Danny (the late maitre d’), the guys from the New Yorker, all of us. The food’s okay, but we still go there for Danny.

Industry Icons: [She smiles as icons do.]

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Jim Brady, Jolly Gibson, Stewart Woods, a piece of work. The Clarkes — Mary Higgins and her daughter, Carol — we all go out once in awhile. They don’t mind to come to the parties, and it’s more fun here than at the [annual] Oscar bash. We have a great time with the sports figures: we just did a birthday party for Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez and Lou Pinella, and George [Steinbrenner] comes in with friends. There are some dear, sweet guys.

What are you doing tonight? We have the whole Swedish dance troupe coming in tonight, so adorable, so cute!