I didn’t want “Tru” to leave so, I scrambled behind the bar and quickly mixed two screwdrivers-vodka, orange juice, orange slices.
Mr. Capote: “Ahh, my orange drink. You did your homework well.”
Me: “It wasn’t difficult.”
Mr. Capote: “I suppose not,” he said with a sigh, before taking a long sip from the glass.
Mr. Capote: “It is quite good, thank you and you made doubles. I hope you write as well as you bartend. Or perhaps I really don’t.”
I placed my glass on the table, took a deep breath, and climbed back onto the saddle.
Me: “I hope so too. But now I think we ought to talk about In Cold Blood.”
A small smile played at the corners of Capote’s mouth but his eyes saddened.
Mr. Capote: “It was a hell of a book, wasn’t it?”
Me: “Is a hell of a book. The introduction to this interview will call it genre busting, but even that doesn’t really express the sheer intensity of the work.
Mr. Capote: “That intensity cost me my life,” he said quietly.
Me: “Perry Smith?”
Mr. Capote: “Oh yes, he was a major part, but everything about those six years of living in Kansas for long periods of time, especially in the beginning and the end left me empty, dry.”
Me: “Even though Harper Lee was there to help you?”
Capote sat taller in his peacock blue chair.
Mr. Capote: “No, no, no,” he said, that hard look returning to his eyes. “Harper and I were childhood friends. I thought bringing her to Kansas might help her with her own writing. She had very little to do, however, with either the research or writing of Blood. She did help me get to know a wide range of people who might not have trusted me otherwise. Harper is a very likable woman.”
Me: “She was pretty upset that you shared the dedication and didn’t even mention her contributions to the book.”
Mr. Capote: “Would she rather I had written that I appreciated her amicable personality since that was her contribution? But really, her upset was just a trickle of blood under the bridge. We did remain friends until I died.”
Me: “Much has been written and speculated about your relationship with Perry but very little about Dick.”
Mr. Capote: “Dick wasn’t particularly interesting, really. He just wanted the Clutters’ safe and when he discovered they didn’t have one, simply wanted to get away.”
Me: “But Perry said in his confession that Dick shot the two women.”
Capote waved his hand dismissively.
Mr. Capote: “Nonsense and Perry, of course, knew that. Which was why he never did sign that confession.”
Me: “So Perry told you that he did all the killings?”
Mr. Capote: “He didn’t have to. Only he had the makeup to kill.”
Me: “Was that what drew you to him? So many people have thought you were in love with him and that his hanging was the death of your creativity.”
Capote finished his orange drink, placed the glass on the table, and leaned back with closed eyes.
Mr. Capote: “People often see things quite superficially. I did love Perry, but it wasn’t the love of lovers. As the years passed, our correspondence and relationship grew very, very intimate. When his death grew closer and so much more real, I finally began to understand our relationship: we were the same person, although I used words to express my violence. It was as if we grew up in the same house as one person, then split apart as I went out the front door, and he the back.”
Capote opened his eyes, blinked furiously, then slumped back into his chair.
Mr. Capote: “Of course I was shattered by Perry’s hanging. And Dick’s. So many years of trust, of intimacy, of caring-and yes love. Then to watch as he-they-twisted and wriggled for ten minutes hanging from their ropes. How can one not be devastated?”
Me: “It didn’t stop you from living it up in grand style when the book became a huge success.”
Mr. Capote: “A bit tart, aren’t you? Which bothers you more, the book’s success or my wonderful swans?”
Me: “Neither, really. Well, maybe the success. But now that you mentioned your swans…”
Mr. Capote: “My society women. Not just the women, but the men as well. Frankly, everyone who was anyone begged for an invitation to The Black and White Ball. I actually had to run away and hide weeks before the party.”
Mr. Capote: “What a night! Heavens, the guests from Kansas wouldn’t leave when it was over. But watching people scramble to get an invitation, well, that was even more pleasurable than the Ball. It’s quite hard not to be seduced by such attention-especially after experiencing heartbreak and the small death of myself after the hangings. During that time of life I did feel empty, written out. It was only fair to appreciate the accolades and bask a bit. I paid for it and I don’t mean the cost of the party-though of course I paid for that as well.”
I grinned in order to contain my laughter.
Me: “Bask a bit? Mr. Capote, you were all over every television talk show and newspaper.”
Mr. Capote: “Well, perhaps ‘a bit’ is actually an understatement. But you’ve looked at my life. You’ve seen how quickly people can turn on you. On me!”
It was my turn to shake my head.
Me: “Uhh, it was you who decided to pen a roman a` clef. And you who published ‘La Côte Basque 1965’ in Esquire. And you didn’t let it go. I can only imagine your friends’ fear and rage while they waited for the other shoe to drop in that follow-up book you were bragging about, Answered Prayers.”
Mr. Capote: “What could they possibly have expected? I’m a writer!”
Me: “I don’t think they expected you to write about them.
Capote’s head drooped.
Mr. Capote: “They got their revenge.”
Me: “Their ostracism didn’t seem to stop you. Studio 54, Warhol’s loft scene. You partied like it was 1999.
Mr. Capote: “I partied better than those in 1999. Remember, there are many ways to die. Which, having said, I really must leave. I can’t say this has been entirely pleasant, but it’s good to get out occasionally.”
Capote began to slide off his chair.
I stood up with him.
Me: “I have just one more question-did you ever complete Answered Prayers and, if so, who has the manuscript?
This time a wide smile crossed his face.
Mr. Capote: “That, my friend, is an answer I will take upstairs.”
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is
the belief that one’s work is terribly important.
– Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)