Above: Truman Capote photographed by Andy Warhol
"I don't want to be the Truman Capote of door people," declares 'infamous' doorman Thomas Onorato.
"You needn't worry about that," I always tell Thomas, my subject and collaborator, when he makes this frequent announcement. "You're not the writer here. I am." Not that I would place myself in the same category as the brilliant Tru, but when I wrote Confessions from the Velvet Ropes, I did have a mild In Cold Blood-like crisis when it came to writing the ending: Would Thomas finally throw in the Dior Homme towel and leave the doorman profession? Would he suddenly, overnight, get a new job that involved producing John Galliano shows in Paris? Would Kimora Lee Simmons or Randy Jones of the Village People have Thomas kidnapped? I prayed to my muse every night for any such event, but no. I couldn't wait as long as Capote did for his subjects to be sent to the gallows.
The good news this week for Truman Capote fans, of course, is the release of the film Infamous. Vastly superior to last year's Capote, Infamous shows Truman in all his bitchy, campy, faggy glory. There's no pussy-footing around homosexuality in this film, boys and girls. In one hilarious scene where Truman is visiting killer Perry Smith in jail, an off-camera prisoner shouts at Tru "Hey queer, you wanna suck my dick?" Tru looks up at him for a few amused, silent seconds and says "I don't think it would reach through the bars." There are fabulous scenes of Truman at El Morocco with Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver) and him dancing with his 'swans' (whom he later betrays in real life, hence Onorato's oft-repeated quip) at Diana Vreeland's apartment. Another standout is Sandra Bullock's performance as To Kill a Mockingbird author, Harper Lee. And beyond the camp, the bitchy repartee and the Manhattan social life glamour, the film also has much more emotional depth than Capote. The scene at the gallows left me stunned and the last frame of the film, which explains how In Cold Blood was basically the last thing he ever wrote, is brilliantly poignant.
Traumatized by his experience and haunted by his decaying soul -- the love, loss, manipulation, and stellar success around In Cold Blood -- Truman spent a lot of time in the 70's getting shit-faced and high while avoiding the issue of his unfinished book, Answered Prayers. In Confessions from the Velvet Ropes you can read about Capote's favorite nightclub, Studio 54. For one chapter of the book I interviewed the original doorman of Studio 54, Marc Benecke who -- along with Studio co-owner Steve Rubell -- invented the art of the nightclub door scene. "Truman was always having a great time at Studio," Benecke told me. Benecke also helpfully breaks down some of the myths and legends of Studio 54 (Did Cher really get turned away? Did someone die in the airshaft while trying to sneak into the club?) in the pages of Confessions. It's the perfect book to read while you're waiting in line to buy your movie ticket for Infamous.
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