How Truman Capote and Andy Warhol’s Advanced Friendship Marked Them Each ‹ Literary Hub

Featured picture: The Andy Warhol Basis for the Visible Arts, Inc.

“her eyes, squinty and vibrant inexperienced…
voice—boy husky
pencil-thin, bony kneed legs”


“fiery dutchboy hair
joel top
worn brown shorts and a yellow polo shirt”

These are just a few strains from a complete sheet of notes that an artwork scholar named Andrew Warhola wrote, in a knock-kneed cursive he’d simply invented, in regards to the characters in a brand new novel he’d simply learn referred to as Different Voices, Different Rooms. A twenty-three-year-old Truman Capote had revealed it early in 1948, seeing it acquired with each acclaim and disgust—however all the time with shock.

The New York Instances stated Capote was “fascinated by decadence and…evil, or maybe solely by weak spot…” and that his guide was “full of sibilant whispering,” hinting broadly at its gay themes.

The very particular, complicated friendship captured by Roth had its roots in the place they each got here from.

Andy Warhol’s notes on Capote’s novel mark the primary intersection between two of probably the most daringly homosexual creators in postwar America.

Rob Roth’s WARHOLCAPOTE, based mostly on phrases really spoken by the 2 males, is about within the Seventies and ’80s, towards the top of their shut connection and never too lengthy earlier than their premature deaths. However the very particular, complicated friendship captured by Roth had its roots in the place they each got here from.

When Capote’s guide appeared, Warhol was all of 19, a junior in faculty in his native Pittsburgh. He was additionally simply popping out as homosexual, in a metropolis whose judges quickly declared homosexuals to be “society’s best menace” after which tasked a police “morals” squad with eliminating it. (Two homosexual males have been shot inside weeks of the squad’s creation; a whole bunch of others have been quickly arrested or blackmailed by the cops.)

How might Warhol not have been floored by a guide that was about as overtly queer as any writing of its period may very well be? Its thirteen-year-old hero, Joel Knox, will get described by Capote as defying mainstream notions “of what a ‘actual’ boy ought to appear like…He was too fairly, too delicate and fair-skinned; every of his options was formed with a delicate accuracy, and a girlish tenderness softened his eyes.”

He might have been speaking about Warhol at that age. “Go on residence and lower out paper dolls, sissy-britches,” says a playmate to Joel. That’s simply what Warhol had performed when a childhood strep an infection had left him bedridden with spasms for 3 summers working.

One pan described the guide as “lavender eyewash” and stated it was proof of the disintegration of American tradition. For Warhol and sure others, the injuries that such phrases meant to inflict on Capote got here with as a lot glory as disgrace: They have been the stigmata of that second in homosexual tradition. Like all such markers of martyrdom, they stand as an indication of some form of victory over your tormentors.

A up to date of Warhol and Capote’s remembered how, surrounded in faculty by “truculent” veterans on the G.I. Invoice, the campus aesthetes discovered one another via Capote’s new guide: “To stroll with Capote in your grasp was as distinctive, and as dissenting from the world’s values, as a monk’s behavior.”

Within the twenty-first century, it’s nearly not possible to totally perceive what it meant to be homosexual in postwar America, when each Warhol and Capote got here of age, and got here out. Two years after Different Voices appeared, the US Senate produced a report referred to as Employment of Homosexuals and Different Intercourse Perverts in Authorities that included, amongst its different lies and brutalities, the assertion that “one gay can pollute a Authorities workplace.” The Lavender Scare that adopted stole the livelihoods of numerous homosexual People. And but Warhol and Capote dared to construct their inventive personas, and lots of of their creations, round limp wrists and levitating loafers.

In a tremendous watershed for queer tradition, Gore Vidal revealed a novel of homosexual life only a week earlier than Capote’s, and it was much more clearly and polemically “out.” However with prose as spare and “muscular” as any straight creator’s, the novel comes nearer to arguing for the potential normalcy of homosexual life—for its robust wrists and wise sneakers—than for the virtues of its distinctive tradition. Warhol and Capote have been nearly distinctive in accepting, and in serving to to create, a homosexual tradition and artwork that may very well be proudly different. You’ll be able to really feel that in nearly each phrase they utter in Roth’s play; you too can really feel how hard-won that acceptance was, even for the 2 males who did the accepting.

Eighteen months after the looks of Different Voices Warhol moved to Capote’s New York, the place his curiosity within the author was correct obsession.

For Warhol and sure others, the injuries that such phrases meant to inflict on Capote got here with as a lot glory as disgrace.

“I began getting these letters from anyone who referred to as himself Andy Warhol. They have been, you understand, fan letters,” Capote recalled. “However not answering these Warhol letters didn’t appear to faze him in any respect. I grew to become Andy’s Shirley Temple. After some time I started getting letters from him daily!” That just about squares with every kind of information that doc Warhol’s crush. Capote’s agent wrote to the younger artist asking him to cease with the notes however was clearly extra amused than distressed by his antics: “[Capote] stated he’d been receiving some inane notes from one Warhol and thinks you should be barely insane. So in fact I advised him you have been.”

For all his annoyance, Capote will need to have taken a sure satisfaction in having a stalker of his very personal, and one who was greater than a bit above common, culture-wise. By the summer season of 1952, Warhol had already scored his first New York solo present, in a velvet-draped gallery well-known for its daring modernism—and for the camp antics of its proprietor, a former ballet dancer. The exhibition was referred to as Fifteen Drawings Primarily based on the Writings of Truman Capote, and Capote himself was impressed sufficient by its photographs to think about them illustrating new editions of Different Voices.

For a lot of the Fifties, Warhol and Capote orbited one another at some slight distance—they may very well be seen eating on the gay-owned and decidedly camp Café Nicholson, if not on the identical desk then in the identical eating room.

The duo obtained nearer within the fall of 1966. That’s when Capote celebrated the success of his blockbuster true-crime novel, In Chilly Blood, with a masked ball on the Plaza Lodge, at which Warhol was among the many movie star visitors. Within the years that had handed because the two males’s first encounters, their standing had evened out. If Capote was an undoubted literary star, Warhol had at the least equal standing within the artwork world, and past, because the madcap capo of New York’s underground scene.

However the place Warhol’s fame had liberated him to make artwork that capitalized on his avowedly homosexual persona—the movie Blow Job was one in every of his most (in)well-known works of that period—the fairly “straight” narrative of In Chilly Blood adopted Vidal’s lead in divorcing Capote’s writing from his persona, which continued to experience queerness. It’s important to marvel if the inventive hole between Different Voices and In Chilly Blood helped stymie Capote’s additional development as an artist—he achieved little or no afterward, whereas Warhol’s output by no means flagged.

In 1972, Warhol and Capote ultimately grew to become true mates, after they have been introduced collectively by Capote’s pal Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy’s sibling and thus a former “First Sister of the USA.” She was renting the lavish compound that Warhol’s inventive success had allowed him to purchase out on the tip of Lengthy Island, the place Capote additionally favored to summer season. Earlier than lengthy, Warhol was suggesting to his new buddy that the 2 do some form of “sisters act.”

Though it doesn’t appear that Capote and Warhol ever had a romance, they went on to perform like a basic pair of homosexual exes—loving however usually catty as properly, full of information, but in addition reservations, about one another’s previous and habits. That’s the couple that’s so completely captured in Roth’s play.

Warhol, not like Capote, had discovered a approach to reconcile who he was and what he made.

It does appear to disclose a reversal, nonetheless, of the roles they’d performed in 1948. We come to see Warhol because the mannequin for some form of profitable integration into the broader tradition. Capote appears extra at sea.

That may very well be as a result of Warhol, not like Capote, had discovered a approach to reconcile who he was and what he made. He had used the automated outsider standing he had all the time had as a homosexual man to energy probably the most avant-garde artwork he might think about, which by definition needed to be far out of the mainstream. Even when he gave the impression to be courting the middle, he was nearly all the time busy working the margins. Capote, however, had by no means managed that form of reconciliation. His most profitable creations—not a lot Different Voices as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Chilly Blood—spoke instantly and simply to a mass viewers and have been meant to.

In Roth’s true-life play—a parallel, in some methods, to Capote’s true-crime novel—you get the sense that Capote is annoyed by conflicting needs: to be really accepted deep into the mainstream whereas additionally preserving his homosexual outsiderism. However that didn’t grow to be an possibility in American tradition till properly after he’d been felled by the medication and booze that his terminal angst pressured on him. Whereas Roth’s Warhol comes throughout as having a sure emotional ease that truly foreshadowed—as a result of it helped trigger—the hard-won ease of homosexual tradition within the twenty-first century.

“I simply assume all the pieces goes to end up for the worst and if it doesn’t that’s simply a lot gravy,” Capote says to Warhol towards the center of the play. “I imply, my life is so beleaguered and your life is so un-beleaguered.”

After which, at its finish: “When God does give one a present, no matter it might be, composing or writing, for no matter pleasure it might convey, it is also a really painful factor to dwell with. It’s a really excruciating life.”


(pgs. 34-37)

You recognize the plot subsequent to Marilyn in Forest Garden
is accessible for $25,000.

Let’s purchase it, and so they can put us all collectively.

We may be well-known. We will share it. It is going to be 12
and a half, okay, and we may be cremated. You’ll be able to
have one half part, okay?

Marilyn Monroe was anyone I knew actual properly over
a 10-year interval. And I used to be very, very keen on
Marilyn. However I actually mounted outdated Marilyn as soon as.

Why? What did—

Nicely, she was actually awfully depending on me at
a sure level in her life when she was in New
York. I actually favored her lots, we had lunch all
the time. Nicely, she was—I all the time figured she
could be late, you understand. However sooner or later she was—we
have been supposed to satisfy at 1:15 and it was getting
to 2:00. And I simply obtained up and I left. And I left
slightly notice for her and it stated, “cease taking part in
Marilyn Monroe or else overlook me. Yours really,
T.C.” And he or she calls me up she says, “I’m in floods
of tears.” I says, “you don’t sound prefer it.”


However in fact, her factor of being late was simply
utterly neurotic. There are people who find themselves simply
neurotic about being late. I’m all the time on time.
At all times precisely on the dot.

At all times.
(Pause. TRUMAN finishes HIS drink.)

My physician steered that I undertake some more healthy
interest aside from wine-tasting and fornication. So
I’m going to get all pulled collectively. You’ll be able to come
out and go to me on the middle.

Okay, all proper. I’ll come out and go to you. That
could be actually nice. Oh, Truman, we’re going to
miss you.

And if luck permits and self-discipline holds, I’ll
have time to reach at larger altitudes, the place the
air is skinny however the view exhilarating.

It’s one aircraft experience, after which you possibly can take a automotive?

Sure. It isn’t an enormous journey in any respect. I’m getting
able to have a final sensational thirty years.
Andy, would you name me up?

Oh, certain, yeah.

I imply, would you, actually?


You see, I would name you, however I didn’t assume
you’d name me.

Oh, sure, I might.



I questioned.
(The lights change.)


Excerpted from WARHOLCAPOTE: A Non-Fiction Invention by Rob Roth. Introduction by Blake Gopnik. Copyright © 2022. Out there from Simon & Schuster.

Blake Gopnik and Rob Roth

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