TRUMAN CAPOTE’S HAMPTONS STUDIO | THE INTENTIONALLY UNTENDED LOOK

It’s not to say that I’m not a fan of his written works, but what I love Truman Capote for more are his brilliantly bitchy Black & White Ball of 1966 to celebrate the release of In Cold Blood, and his subdued and soothing studio hidden among the scrubs in the heart of the Hamptons that he personally designed as his own private oasis. I believe that most of these pics of the Mid-century modern beach studio were actually taken in 1965 (except for the last pic of Capote seated in his robe), though this story is from the archives of Architectural Digest, ca. 1976. Sadly, it no longer looks quite as charming as it does in these old photos. Through subsequent updates by later owners the beach studio has been sterilized a bit and is sorely lacking Capote’s self-proclaimed intentional untended chic and quirky touches.

1965– Truman Capote standing on the ledge of the fireplace in the living room of his Hamptons country studio near Sagaponack on the South Fork. –Image by © Condeˆ Nast Archive/Corbis

From Architectural Digest, 1976–

It is virtually impossible to find his Long Island home in the Hamptons, but that’s exactly the way he wants it. Hidden behind scrub pine, privet hedges and rows of hydrangea bushes is Truman Capote’s two-story, weathered-gray beach house near Sagaponack on the South Fork.

He lives in the heart of the Hamptons—a stretch of rolling potato fields and lush farmlands married to the nearby Atlantic Ocean. A year-round farming community and a summer place for city people, it is here that antique farmhouses vie with modernistic glass houses for the dunes and fields. Mr. Capote once called Sagaponack “Kansas with a sea breeze.”

1965– Author Truman Capote relaxes in a wicker chair outside his Long Island home in the Hamptons. –Image by © Condeˆ Nast Archive/Corbis

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REQUIRED VIEWING | STATE OF GRACE GARY OLDMAN AS JACKIE FLANNERY

“Looks like it’s time to kick some Guinea ass.”

–Gary Oldman as Jackie Flannery

Ask any hardcore Gary Oldman fan what their favorite on-screen performance is, and most won’t have to think twice– the loveable, loyal, lunatic Jackie Flannery in State of Grace. Directed by Phil Joanou (Rattle and Hum), released quietly in 1990, and largely overshadowed by another epic gangster flick that hit theaters that same week– Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Due largely to Oldman’s mesmerizing performance (one of the finest actors of our time), today State of Grace is considered by many mobster movie fans to rank up there with the best of the best.

Gary Oldman as badass Irish gangster Jackie Flannery in 1990’s “State of Grace”

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PIANIST GLENN GOULD | REJECTING THE ‘BLOODSPORT’ CULT OF SHOWMANSHIP

“A record is a concert without halls, and a museum whose curator is the owner.”

Glenn Gould was blessed with a musical talent that few have managed to match in our lifetime. A ‘child prodigy’ pianist, he was thrust into fame’s spotlight in 1955 at the age of 22 when Columbia released his groundbreaking Bach ‘Golberg Variations.’ (Gold was his birthname, which his parents had changed to “Gould” over fear of anti-semitism during WWII– the family was not Jewish. When he was often asked his religious ancestry he’d remark, “I was Jewish during the war.”) His rebellious style, anti-establishment vibe, and longish locks also made him a sort of counter-culture icon of Classical music.

Gould’s incredible playing– inventive, unorthodox, and originally shunned by classical purists like Leonard Bernstein, was often noted by a manipulated tempo, sometimes very fast, yet each note amazingly clear. He was also known for his signature ‘humming’– which he wouldn’t allow to be removed from the final tracks over fear that doing so would diminish the sound quality.  His other eccentricities are also legendary– the lone, personal folding chair he insisted on using for playing, the layers of gloves he’d wrap his hands in year-round, his refusal to shake hands, hypochondria, the social awkwardness, and difficulty with fame– mostly likely can be attributed to Asperger’s Syndrome.  By the age of 31, Gould had sworn off public performances.

Glenn Gould passed away from a stroke on September 27th, 1982– shortly after his epic second Bach ‘Goldberg Variations’ (recorded in 1981) was released.  Many who knew him said he was planning on abandoning the piano and move on to conducting.  God only knows what incredible works would have resulted.  Below is an incredible series of photographs taken during the recording of his 1955  ‘Goldberg Variations’ by another cultural icon, the photographer Gordon Parks.

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March 1955, Columbia recording studio, NY — Brilliant young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould listening intensely while a section of his performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is played back as the sound engineer (R) follows the score. — Photograph by Gordon Parks for LIFE

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March 1955, Columbia recording studio, NY — Glenn Gould eating his lunch (graham crackers & milk cut with bottled spring water) while sitting at the sound engineers table next to wall festooned with nude pinups.– Photograph by Gordon Parks for LIFE

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BANDITS’ ROOST, NYC | AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET

Jacob Riis was born the third of fifteen children on May 3rd, 1849 in Denmark. He was a carpenter by trade when he headed to the United States in 1870. Like a lot of immigrant folks, he was unable to find work when he landed on New York’s hard-scrabble streets, and sought shelter wherever he could– often spending the night sleeping on the floor in temporary police station shelters. Through perseverance and hard work Riis landed a gig with a NYC news bureau in 1873, which eventually led to him becoming a police reporter for the New York Tribune. All too familiar himself with life on the NYC’s mean streets, he made it his personal mission to use his position to become the voice for the city’s suffering poor– especially the children. Jacob Riis strongly believed that the “poor were the victims, rather than the makers, of their fate.”

Manhattan’s Lower East Side, particularly the wretched areas known as Mulberry Bend and Bone Alley were teeming with poverty, violence and disease– “The whole district is a maze of narrow, often unsuspected passage ways—necessarily, for there is scarce a lot that has not two, three, or four tenements upon it, swarming with unwholesome crowds.” Jacob Riis wrote the epic, “How the Other Half Lives, Studies Among the Tenements of New York” published in 1890 (which also featured his iconic photography) to expose the horrible truth.

In 1895, Teddy Roosevelt sought Jacob Riis out, wanting to assist him in his efforts anyway he could. Then the acting President of the Board of Commissioners of the NYPD, Roosevelt asked Riis to personally show him the daily routine of street cops. On their first outing together, they uncovered nine out of ten patrolmen totally absent while on duty. Riis wrote of this, and it got the attention of everyone at the NYPD. The two became great friends, and after becoming President of the United States, Roosevelt said of Riis–

“Recently a man, well qualified to pass judgment, alluded to Mr. Jacob A. Riis as ‘the most useful citizen of New York.’ Those fellow citizens of Mr. Riis who best know his work will be most apt to agree with this statement. The countless evils which lurk in the dark corners of our civic institutions, which stalk abroad in the slums, and have their permanent abode in the crowded tenement houses, have met in Mr. Riis the most formidable opponent ever encountered by them in New York City.”

If it were not for the tireless work of Jacob Riis, the city’s poor may have long suffered with little hope. Riis was eventually successful in having the most crowded and dangerous areas torn down and replaced with new public parks and playgrounds. The infamous Mulberry Bend and Bone Alley areas gave way to Columbus Park, the Hamilton Fish Park and a public swimming pool, respectively.

In his last dying days, Riis recounted to a friend, “Now that I have to fight for almost every breath of air, I am more thankful than ever that I have been instrumental in helping the children of the tenements to obtain fresh air.”

Bandit’s Roost (1888), by Jacob Riis, from “How the Other Half Lives.” Bandit’s Roost, at 59½ Mulberry Street (Mulberry Bend), was the most crime-ridden, dangerous part of all New York City.

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HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE, Y’ALL | PARTY LIKE IT’S CIRCA 1900

Old School (ca. 1900) party– A cigar smoking man poses with a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of beer.  –Image by © DaZo Vintage Stock Photos/Images.com/Corbis

1 Times Square, West 43rd Street @ Broadway & 7th Avenue

NY Times Tower held a celebration of the opening of its new headquarters with a display of fireworks on January 1, 1905, at midnight. The famous New Year’s Eve Ball drop tradition began in 1907.  via

The first New Year’s Eve Ball– made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the ball.  via

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A LOST ART OF DAYS GONE BY | VINTAGE CURT TEICH LINEN POSTCARDS

I’m crazy for vintage Curt Teich linen postcards. The warm, fuzzy, softness of color, printed (sometimes slightly off register) on the linen-weave stock, of scenes when America had a youthful glow. It makes me yearn for a life and times that I was born too late for, by golly.  I find myself gazing at neighborhoods and cities, trying to chronologically piece them together.  I ask myself– what was it like here 100 yrs ago… which houses came first… which were layered in later, and when?  A lot of the scenes in these incredible windows to the past are places where I’ve lived, or passed through that are in one way or another core to who I am.

Imagine living again in a time with no cell phones, internet, and the other so-called modern conveniences that “save us time.” I could go back in a New York second.  Technology and consumption is moving at a scary pace, folks.  I wonder what we’ll be looking back at with nostalgia-glazed eyes 25 yrs from now… Planet Earth?

Ford Model T – 1908-1909, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

Statue of Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor, New York City

Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City

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TAXI DRIVER | “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver.  The two had previously collaborated in the 1973 film, Mean Streets.  It’s hard to believe that Scorsese originally offered the role of Travis Bickle to Dustin Hoffman, who turned it down.  Hoffman recalls, “I remember meeting Martin Scorsese.  He had no script and I didn’t even know who he was. I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, ‘What is he talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy!  The film was Taxi Driver.”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  When he signed-on to play Travis Bickle, De Niro was still abroad filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in Italy.  De Niro would finish shooting on a Friday in Rome, get on a plane and fly to New York.  He even obtained an official NYC taxi cab driver’s license, and when on break would pick up a cab and drive long shifts on the streets of New York City for a couple weeks at a time before flying back to Rome.  In typical De Niro form, he shed 30- 35 lbs. for the role and studied the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) to get inside his head.

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1976, New York — Director Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro on the set of  Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  Oliver Stone believes he was the model for De Niro’s Travis Bickle, pointing out that he was being taught by Scorsese at NYU film school at the time, and like Travis he was a Vietnam veteran turned N.Y.C. cabdriver and wore his olive drab army coat while on duty.

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TRUMAN CAPOTE’S ICONIC & BITCHY BLACK AND WHITE BALL OF 1966

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When Capote threw a party at the Plaza for the release of his epic “In Cold Blood”, the biggest stars came calling.  But little did they know that it would be Capote’s coup de grace, as he masked the world’s most important faces, in a calculated move that controlled the elites of politics, power and prestige.  It was the night Capote made 500 friends, and 15,000 enemies.

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Arguably, one can say that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” catapulted Truman Capote’s stardom to a level that very few writers ever reach.  It was a work so special, with a style of prose so signature, it would stir literary heavyweight Norman Mailer to openly praise Capote as “the most perfect writer of my generation.” Capote himself would later say that Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the turning point in his career. Still Capote knew he could go further, professing– “But I’m nowhere near reaching what I want to do, where I want to go. Presumably this new book is as close as I’m going to get, at least strategically.”

This “new book” Capote was referring to was “In Cold Blood”, and it would do more than enough to get him where he wanted to go.  Upon its release in 1965, “In Cold Blood” created a wave of acclaim and controversy that would carry Capote for years to come, and make him one of America’s most talked about writers ever.  And a work of art this important deserved a grand celebration that was equally epic.

So in 1966, Capote decided to host a party that would be his “great, big, all-time spectacular present” to himself.  Some might even say that the 1966 Masked Black and White Ball was truly one of his greatest works ever.

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Truman Capote arrives at the Plaza Hotel holding hands with Mrs. Katherine Graham, the guest of honor.  Mrs. Graham was the president of the Washington Post and Newsweek Magazine.  — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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No stranger to celebrity, Capote was already a fixture in New York City’s elite social circles, and knew very well how to play the game.  A masterful manipulator of self-promotion, he knew that this was much more than just a celebration—it had the potential to be a major publicity opportunity for “In Cold Blood”, and the ultimate act of self-aggrandizement.

The task before Capote now was no easy one.  How could he devise the perfect, titillating, gimmick for the party he planned to hold for himself?  One that would create a spectacle like none ever seen before, that would hold both the media and fans breathless?  Well, the answer was pure genius.

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Candice Bergen holding her white bunny mask at Truman Capote’s epic 1966 Black and White Ball. — Image by © Elliott Erwitt

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BOB DYLAN & HIS TRIUMPH | ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE CRASHING

A great archival piece, Highway 61 Revisited…On a Triumph from one of the best sites out there — The Vintagent — on Dylan and his Triumph days, and how the crash ultimately changed his outlook on life, and impacted his music.

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Bob Dylan on his red-and-silver ’64 Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle.

These photos of Bob Dylan date from 1964/5, when he rode a Triumph on the leafy roads surrounding his home in Woodstock, New York. This charming young folk singer, a man of unpredictable habits, was a charismatic figure on his red-and-silver ’64 Tiger 100. He was often accompanied by a lovely young lady named Joan Baez, who was his early defender, lover, and co-performer, notably at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I have a Dream’ speech. Dylan’s music, implicitly political during this period, became anthemic to a generation seeking change.

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Bob Dylan on his Triumph motorcycle, Bearsville, New York, summer 1964.  Facing the camera, Victor Maymudes, Bob’s road manager. Back to camera, painter-musician Bob Neuwirth.  Photo Copyright © John Byrne Cooke

On July 29, 1966, it was announced that he had suffered injuries after ‘locking up the brakes’ on his Tiger 100, not far from his manager Alan Grossman’s house in Woodstock. Though no hospital data records an entry from Bob Dylan, he claimed to have suffered facial lacerations and ‘several broken vertebrae in his neck’. Quite an injury, yet no ambulance was summoned.

Dylan had this to say about his crash: “When I had that motorcycle accident… I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus, I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.”

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DIRTY, DANGEROUS & DESTITUTE | NEW YORK IN THE 70s – ALLAN TANNENBAUM

More than a few years back, I was walking up 40th past Bryant Park with my boss at the time, Jay, and he said– “You wouldn’t even recognize this place back in the 70s… you’d have been tripping over hypodermic needles, and fighting off the hookers back then.  It was nasty, man.” A chort was about all I could muster-up as a response. Maybe he was over-stating it a bit, or maybe I just couldn’t fathom– I’ve never felt unsafe in the city.  I just couldn’t get my arms around what he was talking about– it felt so far-removed and long ago. But man, these pics and words by Allan Tannenbaum make it vividly clear what NYC was truly like back then– probably just what Jaybird was talking about. It’s hard to imagine… Oh, and there was also some hellacious parties happening as well– and the music scene was incredible.

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Long-abandoned Pier 48 being used by gay men as a rendezvous for casual sex. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum

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New York in the 70s: A Remembrance

February 2004

by Allan Tannenbaum

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Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. The 1960s were not yet over, and war still raged in Viet Nam, fueling resentment against the government. Nixon and the Watergate scandal created even more resentment, cynicism, and skepticism. Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead.”

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Transit Authority K-9 Police use German Shepherds on the subway to deter crime. ~ image copyright © Allan Tannenbaum

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