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Moment 29: Party of the Century

Truman Capote hosted his famous Black and White Ball in November 1966, and the gala remains famous still for its ultra-exclusive guest list.

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Truman Capote

Truman Capote

Photo By WWD Archive

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

"I feel like I fell into a whole mess of piranha fish," Truman Capote told WWD weeks before his November 28, 1966, event of the ages, the Black and White Ball, got under way in the Grand Ballroom of New York's Plaza Hotel. Capote, who hosted the gala in honor of The Washington Post's publisher Katharine Graham, was referring to the circling social swans, politicos and fellow artists who were desperately angling for coveted invites. (Capote reportedly turned down an entreaty to attend by fellow Southern writer Carson McCullers). The exclusivity gambit worked, as the ball became one of the most-referenced moments in the history of New York society. The conceit: that the two-tone attire, a glittering guest list (the Buckleys, Gloria Guinness and Jacob Javits rubbing elbows with Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall and Norman Mailer) and those ubiquitous masks (though many plunked down hundreds for their masks, Capote reportedly bought his for 39 cents at FAO Schwartz) would capture the social registry's fancy. Of the 540-person gala, Capote famously said, "I just wanted to give a party for my friends."