Harry and Truman

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Messaging on Fifth Avenue. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Friday, September 17, 2021. Partly cloudy, but warm, in the mid-70s in New York. Turning cooler by nightfall with rain in the forecast although by the hour of this writing — 11 p.m. — it’s been nada drop.

DPC and Harry talking “Truman” at Sette Mezzo. Photograph by Gigi Benson.

Our Wednesday Diary on “Having Met Mr. Capote” elicited a lot of positive response from readers. Among our respondents were Gigi and Harry Benson whom we’d run into the night before dining at Sette Mezzo. They had not yet seen the Capote piece and I recounted my experience meeting Truman at LAX for the first time. I’d been sent by my then employer (Lester Persky) to pick him and take him to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

From the moment I spotted him at the end of the disembarking crowd from the plane, everything was about a “story.” Truman once said or wrote that everything he wrote was based on his actual experiences. That is very credible although his sharpness as a writer, with the imagination to “illustrate” it personally, is a special ability (and skill).

That weekend in which he came in and went out of my life is clearly one of the most memorable weekends in my now long life. Truman was a special character, not like a real person. That is not to say he wasn’t real. He was entirely real. Aside from his great literary talent he led a wild and widely traveled life among his literary peers, society and the hoi polloi where the writer met his fate. And it started almost full bloom by age 20.

Anyway, long story short, yesterday Gigi sent me the actual photo Harry took of Truman and his “most bee-yu-tee-ful drag queens you’ve ever seen” in New Orleans in 1980 for People magazine.

“In 1980 I was photographing Truman Capote for a story about going back home again. The magazine suggested we use an antebellum mansion as a backdrop …
“Truman looked at me and said, ‘I’ll show you my New Orleans. I don’t want to be photographed in front of some old houses.’
“We walked along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter when Truman walked into one of his favorite haunts and immediately jumped on stage during a performance. He gave me the photograph of the day. The dancers were delighted — everyone had fun. I am pleased to have called the amazingly talented Truman Capote my friend.” — Harry Benson

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