Inside Mortimer’s on the day of Truman Capote’s New York memorial service, two small segments of society were in tumult. In the side room, C.Z. Guest was holding a luncheon for twenty-four of Truman’s good friends—Katharine Graham (for whom he had given the Black and White Ball), Joanne Carson, Rose and Bill Styron, his producer Lester Persky, Judy Green, Joe Fox, Alvin Dewey, the investigator of In Cold Blood, his lawyer, Alan U. Schwartz, and some of the Sagaponack friends. Inexplicably, this group was scrunched uncomfortably into the dark area next to the kitchen. The whole center of the room was peculiarly empty, and as far from them as possible, at a long table by the window, Jan Cushing Olympitis, whom Capote once described as “a cat with a cold,” was holding her own, smaller, rival Truman Capote lunch with his newer friends. Here were the companions of his night world and members of the Warhol group, among them Kate Harrington, the young woman Capote had loved as a daughter.

“We were the ones he really loved,” Jan was saying while Mrs. Guest managed to pretend her friends were really quite alone in the room. The two factions, each with its own standing in Capote’s life, looked at each other across the gap, few crossing over to lightly sideswipe the cheeks of their chums before scuttling back in loyalty to the rival blonde queen. Meanwhile, in the main room of Mortimer’s, one of Capote’s last lovers, the father and ex-husband of two women at Jan’s table, sat uninvited and unwelcome.

Some of the New York contingent were angry at one of the California contingent, each competing to say who loved him hardest and helped him most. Jack Dunphy, his companion of thirty-six years and heir, had left the service and stayed wisely private. He removed himself, as he always did, from these people he considered “exaggeratedly immature, without much talent,” and returned to the beach where he lived, with the ashes of Truman Capote in a hollowed-out book on his mantelpiece.

From both ends of the room, you could hear Truman’s friends imitating his voice as they told stories from his good days. There were women who had loved him so much they hadn’t wanted to share him, and so there were rivalries and jealousies among these later women as there had been among the earlier ones and among the boyfriends. There were women who had used him for his fame and some he had used. There were those who had courted him, as he had courted the earlier, grander ones, like Babe Paley. And those like Kate and Joanne, one in white, one in black, to whom he had been a mentor, teaching each of them to share his taste in different eras and taking care of them. There was one man in the restaurant who they said had physically abused him, and many who had stayed away and disappeared long ago from his life when he became sloppy in his dress and wobbly on his feet, told their secrets, and brought his careless men into their careful homes. There were those whose talent he encouraged and those who had taken care of him when he collapsed in their houses both grand and simple and those who drove him around, who took him to and from hospitals and drying-out clinics and extricated him from one disaster after another and felt relieved when he would go to the Coast, because then the California people would take over for a while.

Where is Answered Prayers? “It’s in him,” says Jack Dunphy.

The life of an artist had been reduced to this clatter of forks, this last group so fractured and diminished. Except for C. Z. Guest and Katharine Graham, all the stately women were gone. The powerful men were gone, too. In fact, the whole core of the 540 who had rushed to his ball were ab-sent from the day and his life, the result of his social suicide when he published “La Cote Basque 1965” nine years ago. None of Answered Prayers had been read at the tribute. But there were readings from Other Voices, Other Rooms, The Grass Harp, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and In Cold Blood, the beautiful Capote words that were the other truth of this day and this man.

It was not hard to imagine the small figure of Truman Capote in this social landscape, his sensibility always too finely stretched and vibrating, standing in the empty space watching these segments of his life, his felt hat pulled down, his cardigan buttoned, his tongue jammed into the side of his mouth. He would run his finger over his eyebrow as he did in a healthy period when he was enjoying himself, finding it all “hiiiiiiilarious,” perhaps singing one favorite song that the Old Guard had refused to play at the service—”It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”—his scarf flying out as he twirled from one side to the other on his little feet in pure malicious delight in a ruckus.

Over the afternoon, in the minds of those who knew, hung the last lie, the secret they had begun to suspect, for searches had already been made, that there was no Answered Prayers—not a word—except for the four chapters that Esquire had published. It was a secret that, if ultimately true, Capote had successfully kept from Gerald Clarke, his biographer for nine years; Joe Fox, his editor since In Cold Blood; and his lawyer and literary executor, Alan Schwartz, all of whom had believed the masterwork existed in some form. And so they searched, trying to find a secret drawer in a Chippendale chest, under cabinets, even getting Dunphy to open the trunk of a Buick. For over the last sixteen years, Capote had said he was working. He had given two friends an outline. He had discussed the missing portions in tempting detail, even promising to bring them to various lunches, though he never did. Whenever Fox and Schwartz would meet, they would have this exchange:

“Has he shown it to you?”

“No, has he shown it to you?” “Wouldn’t he have shown it to me?” says Jack Dunphy. “Truman showed what he did, but tout de suite! He had to run down the road with it. Don’t you think he would have told me? He was a great conjurer.”

Where is Answered Prayers? “It’s in him,” says Dunphy.

Well then, what was he doing for the last twelve years when he would go into his house and say he was working?

“He was reading magazines. He was a magazine addict,” says Dunphy. But how could they know, those capitalists and entrepreneurs who were “minding the store.” “They don’t see backstage.”

As much as he led people on, Capote tried to give dues. Years ago in Palm Springs, Truman had shown Frank Perry a large stack of pages on his typewriter, indicating they were four hundred pages of Answered Prayers. When Perry was alone in the room, he went to the pile and found “to my horror,” he says, that only the first five pages were typed, the rest blank. At one time, Capote planted a false story in Aileen Mehle’s “Suzy” column, saying that all his manuscripts had been lost in a flood at Gloria Vanderbilt’s house. He told others that one of his lovers had stolen parts of Answered Prayers, but when Alan Schwartz investigated, he decided that the man did not have them. There is always the possibility that they were rewritten out of existence in Capote’s obsession with getting his work perfect, though he did not throw away his drafts. Indeed, cartons and stacks of manuscripts had been carried away and sorted.

In the introduction to his last collection, Music for Chameleons, Capote wrote about the techniques he would be using for Answered Prayers. He did a lot of writing about his writing and his plans to rewrite the book. speeding up the effects, using all his craft. He would practice by writing exercises, combining in a single form all he knew from other genres, setting himself center stage in this “grim gamble” Norman Mailer finds this “a distress call. I made mine early with Advertisements for Myself. It was his bad luck it hit him late, when he felt his powers were fading. He loved writing so much and had such pride of offering nothing but his best,” says Mailer, “that when he could no longer deliver he lost much, of his desire to live.” Capote’s old antagonist Gore Vidal called his death, at fifty-nine, “a wise career choice.” “I’d say,” says Mailer, “it was an inevitable career choice. He had more pride than any writer I know. His achievement was to go as far as he went, and it was asking too much of him to be the wise curator of his talent.”

Whatever sort of curator he was of his talent, Capote was a poor caretaker of his body. He would cure it to abuse it. He would swim laps, go to gyms; he would go or be carried off to clinics and hospitals, consult doctors; and then he’d sabotage everything. “He had a talent for putting himself in harm’s way,” Schwartz said at his memorial. “I was involved with him in many heartrending [episodes], but he always got up and threw himself into the fray.” At various times, Capote was reported to have throat polyps, prostate problems, a tie douloureux. He did have liver disease, epilepsy, emphysema, and phlebitis, but his hard little body, as stubborn and solid as the bulldogs he collected, kept mending, and his will did the rest. “He could rejuvenate faster than anyone I knew,” says a doctor who treated him. “For the last two years, he fought to stay alive. He was kicking his feet to stay above water, not like before, when you felt he was going straight for a nosedive,” says Kate Harrington. His death came when he was drinking less, when the turbulent companions were gone, and when he was fighting phlebitis, the disease that frightened him as nothing physical had before. In the last few years, he would have stints when he was Spartan, during Music for Chameleons and for months last winter and spring, though he had been drinking again over the summer. It was a bad summer. Quite typically, this June he fled his last drying-out place, checking out of Chit-Chat Farms after only five days, paying $600 for a limousine to get him home quick.

“He’d be rueful,” says a friend, “but he denied his problem—‘It has nothing to do with drinking. It’s just bad luck.’ He’d take Antabuse and drink right through it.”

All his life, Truman Capote knew how to seduce, the way certain small children (like the child in his story “Miriam”) do. He was full of wiles and guile, talking low so you couldn’t lean back in your seat with him as he told one of his stories, usually something dreadful about someone impeccable. He loved to shock. The mother of two famous sisters had called her daughters “whores” during one of their screaming fights. The penis of one famous writer was actually “a cross between a dimple and a bellybutton.” He had his network of informants and the classic gossips desire to know it all. In the days when he cared, he was not above asking one editor who on her staff was having affairs. He saw through, social poses because, somehow, he knew all worlds, from his underground of pimps, druggies, and whores to the now aging stories from the days of his high life.

“He was my mentor,” says Kate Harrington. “With all his enfant terrible behavior, with me he was not that way. He protected me at Studio 54. He taught me what to read, took me on shopping sprees.”

Capote was perverse in all things. Though his public mannerisms were effeminate, there was a masculine, almost sexy core to this man who knew himself so well and presented his outrageousness boldly and with calculation. Intensely competitive as he was, and jealous of all his turfs, he was yet a fierce protector of other writers’ talent. He was proud of Jack Dunphy’s writing all his life. And though he wrote cruelly about a minimally disguised Tennessee Williams in Answered Prayers, he dedicated Music for Chameleons to him in a low period of Williams’s career.

He told women of a certain age to keep to one look, and that way they would never age. He told his women how to dress, what makeup to wear, what to see or read, who to love. He waited at their hairdressers, waited in their libraries. Wear glasses and low heels in reptile, he said to one, happily wasting his writer’s eye. He took care of them, moving them into new houses, sending them to Norman Orentreich for their skin, running their lives as he had when he tried to launch Lee Radziwill as an actress in Laura, or to set up a house-opening business for his cleaning lady. After he gave a reading to a fashionable audience at the Newhouse Theater, Lester Persky found him in his dressing room cackling away with his cleaning woman and her four friends. When Katharine Graham was nervous about traveling with him without having read all his work, he marked a collection for her of what she should read. He assured her she’d be all right in a more social world than she was used to at the time. Aileen Mehle remembers that when she stayed with him once in Palm Springs “he treated me as though I were a little doll. He tucked me in bed and told me bedtime stories and gave me a bit of Answered Prayers to read.”

“He was my mentor,” says Kate Harrington. “With all his enfant terrible behavior, with me he was not that way. He protected me at Studio 54. He taught me what to read, took me on shopping sprees, asking, ‘Do you think this is pretty? Isn’t this chic?’ We went looking at pictures, and he taught me to observe. At the end of parties, he would sit on my bed and say, ‘What did you see?’ He taught me how to talk. I’d say, ‘I’m taking a bath,’ and he would say, ‘You’re not taking a bath, you’re bathing.’” He made sure she kept out of the sun, having her paged on one California trip whenever she sneaked out to the pool. He had Avedon photograph her for her fourteenth birthday, and gave her pearls from Tiffany for her high-school graduation: “The real thing, for the real thing,” he wrote. But as she grew, he changed, and she found herself having to take care of him these last years.

All Capote’s friends geared up for him, for he was the best company, not only for the women but for the night people too. Once, he went over to a little gay kid at Studio 54, as thin as a sparrow, and just put his arms around him and held him. The husbands and the big businessmen were comfortable with him, as attracted to the stories and gossip as were their wives. Before the break, William Paley used to call Capote “Tru-boy,” and he could be seen sitting parked in front of CBS in Pale’s car, waiting for him. Robert 0. Anderson, the chairman of Atlantic Richfield, once sent Truman in his private plane to his Mexican house and then took the plane away so Truman would be forced to write. For all of them, Truman always went a bit further: going along 49th Street to find a new shop for his barber, giving a People writer copies of his books and driving her all the way to the expressway so she wouldn’t get lost, dropping off pies and a quilt at the summer house of Jill Krementz and Kurt Vonnegut, befriending and supporting the family of a lover during and after their affair.

He loved people who were “slightly manqué,” and he loved pranks and mischief. The first time he met Leo Lerman, he jumped on Lerman’s back and said, “Give me a piggyback.” He’d call Krementz and imitate a tele-phone repairman. When Aileen Mehle was going to London, he hurt her by lying about her and a British banker. “I knew you were going there, and I thought it would be fun if we stirred up the pot,” he told her later. When he first met one of his later women, she told him she was seeing an analyst he had once gone to. Capote had her go in for her next appointment and say, “Doctor, I’m so happy. I’ve finally found the man for me. He’s warm and stable and everything you told me to look for.” A very nervous nurse came in just then to announce that Mrs. X’s fiancé was in the waiting room. At that point, Truman burst in, pulling her away, saying, “Darling, you were so quiet when you got out of bed this morning I didn’t hear you go.” And, laughing, out they ran to lunch at Quo Vadis. “He went from an imp to a gremlin. From something adorable and sweet to hold in your hand to almost a rocklike creature,” says a friend.

Truman Capote’s best years ended in the seventies. The mid- to late seventies were very hard times. Then began the desertion of friends, and the feuds with Jacqueline Susann, Gore Vidal, and Lee Radziwill. The collapses, with Capote limp on a stretcher, increased then, too, building to four in two months of 1981. In 1977, he had walked onstage at Towson State University in Maryland announcing he was an alcoholic.

He told a writer about his childhood in Alabama, when he lived with his maiden aunts and an uncle who drank (they were actually his mother’s cousins). There was liquor set up in the library. He would talk to his uncle, and when his back was turned, he would drink until he was drunk by the time dinner was called. His aunts would look at him and say, “Truman, we don’t understand you. All day you are a monster, and at night, you’re so docile and sweet.”

“I’d give him a tomato juice,” says Judy Green, “and he’d put vodka in it. He’d have one or two openly, but then I’d go out of the room and he’d be up and back at the bar fast.” Jan Olympitis would take him home at ten, and call up the UN Plaza concierge, who would tell her Mr. Capote had just gone out. He was known in the bars of 49th Street, where he’d have three doubles at once, drink them in fifteen minutes, and leave. He convinced one friend he was not “a chemical alcoholic but a psychological one.” Patrick Shields, the director of Le Club, remembers a dinner with Capote and Tennessee Williams, one of those nights when the language sang, when both were trying so hard not to drink. “Tennessee would look at me and will me with his eyes to pick up the bottle and fill his glass. People like Truman and Tennessee were only alive because of the assertion of their wills. They reach a point where the will does not work anymore, and sort of expire.”

There are those who remember Capote’s 1978 interview with Stanley Siegel as an example of just how self-destructive he was, to have gone on television drunk and drugged, his upper lip sweating, slurring his half-finished sentences, so that Siegel was obliged to ask him if he wanted to quit before the second question. But what was remarkable about that interview was the bravery and self-understanding that Capote displayed. He performed almost in a trance, too tired and drugged to lie. He had said he was going to show up, and he did, even though he hadn’t slept in two days, and he tried very hard to finish the program, answering everything de-spite the level of some of the questions. He was cut after seventeen minutes.

“My life is so strange—it’s not like anybody else’s,” he tells Siegel.

“You have had this history of alcoholism,” says Siegel.

“Oh, my God, alcoholism is the least of it. That’s the joker in the cards. My problem was never drinking. [It was] taking different kinds of drugs, but not things that other people would consider drugs.”

“But the combination of drugs and alcohol,” says Siegel.

“I put them together like some sort of cocktail… I think that anybody that starts to do that thing, you know, they get into a kind of pattern of doing. I mean, you start by doing one thing and then you start by doing another thing because you put the two things together.”

“You’ve been doing it lately?” Stanley asks.

“I’ve been doing it for twenty years.”

Siegel asks why.

“I can tell you in exactly one word: anxiety.”

About what?

“I don’t know. I think certain people have a feeling of anxiety. A lot of analysts call it ‘Free-floating anxiety’ … You know it doesn’t mean any-thing, but it’s always there, and I don’t know what it is … I know people who do fantastic things because of anxiety.”

“It began a long time ago?”

“It began because I … because my mother. It was all very simple. My mother was a very beautiful girl and only seventeen years old, and she used to lock me in these rooms all the time, and I developed this fantastic anxiety that no analyst has ever been able to … ”

“Unlock?” says Stanley. “Are you anxious now?”

“I’m pretty anxious about this new book of mine [Answered Prayers] … really a great sense of anxiety about it,” he says and then draws back. “On the other hand, most people who have free-floating anxiety … it really has to do with some kind of emotional relationship or something to do with their work. Well, I don’t have that at all. I couldn’t care less.” Siegel asks if he is writing now.

“Yeah, it’s almost finished,” says Truman. Later, he says, “There’s something about me that just got out of it … Somebody like me, you really never get through it really to… there’s just something that’s going through your sensibility. It just doesn’t work.”

“Is it biochemical?”

“It’s just something. It’s also the reason why you work and create and do something, but it’s an awfully high price to pay.”

Siegel asks what will happen if Capote can’t overcome his problem and says he is sure Capote has thought about it.

Well, you know, I do fret,” says Capote, “months and months and months and my writing and everything, but the obvious answer is that eventually I’ll kill myself without meaning to.”

“Like Marilyn Monroe, for example?” asks Siegel.

“Well, you see … it’s a really interesting thing, because Monty Clift and Marilyn and I were all great friends. I don’t know what it is … a particular kind of sensibility.

Siegel wants to know if he could reverse the process.

“Well,” says Truman, “I’ve been in practically every hospital in America you can think of. I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe no. I’m not dishonest about it.”

Friends tried to help by recommending analysts. Years ago, Jack Dunphy’s wife, Joan McCracken, told Dunphy that Truman was “very in-secure.” “Who isn’t insecure?” says Dunphy. “Analysts were a waste of time and money. He’d start to duel with them, and he was always brighter. Friends checked him in and out of Silver Hill, Riggs, Hazelden, Smithers, and various emergency rooms. When he had bad times, “he was forgiven because you always knew that in a month he’d be back in the hospital,” says a friend. He was well known to the staff of Southampton Hospital. John Scanlon, there in June of 1982 after a heart attack, remembers Truman being brought in in a straitjacket. The next morning, Scanlon looked out, and there on the misty green lawn was Capote, hiding behind a bush with his sneakers in his hand, pursued by huge female attendants. Later, he saw Capote tied to the bed, a small swollen lump with only his sunglasses showing.

“When he was drinking or on drugs, there was not much you could do,” one friend says. “Shake him. Scream at him. I tried, but when one thing stopped, another would start. He could have died a year ago or a year from now.”

“Truman used hospitals quite effectively … Indeed, at first, he wanted to get truly well. In the latter stages they merely served as three-day emergency rooms. Which didn’t serve cocaine. He could get that only from his ‘friends’ ”

“I remember sitting on his bed and saying, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’” says Kate Harrington. “Then he’d ‘fall’ twice a year. And finally, when I was seventeen, I said, ‘Isn’t it enough that you have me? I’d be heartbroken if you died.’ “Well, of course you would,’ he said.”

At one dinner in the late seventies at Lester Persky’s apartment with two friends, Persky, a kind and true friend of Truman’s, decided to talk to him “like a Jewish mother.” For forty minutes, he told Capote his forebodings. “The friends’ jaws fell slack. Truman took it and was very quiet. He stopped then for a few months.”

“His battle was much more difficult because of his cross-addiction to a spectacular panoply of other drugs,” wrote a man who lived with him at this time. “When the shakes became untamable through use of alcohol, he moved to downers to stop them and to sleep without the nightmares. Then, to offset the lethargy … he went to uppers. Later, cocaine was added to the already dangerous equation.

“Truman used hospitals quite effectively … Indeed, at first, he wanted to get truly well. In the latter stages they merely served as three-day emergency rooms. Which didn’t serve cocaine. He could get that only from his ‘friends.’

“His addiction was more difficult to treat than most, since he was what is called a ‘protected addict.’ That is, he had almost unlimited resources to acquire alcohol and other drugs … to avoid well-meaning but critical friends, as well as acquire sycophants… who abetted his spiral to death.”

Capote knew almost too much about medicine. He had doctors all over, and since he really was sick and anxious, whenever he walked in, the prescription pads came out. When he died, the coroner found his death complicated by multiple-drug intoxication. He’d taken pills for sleep, anxiety, leg pains, and epileptic seizures. He was always bragging that he knew how much he could take. Once, he said that Sunny van Bulow had seat him a book about recreational drugs: “It describes the maximum dose you can take safely, and it was definitely accurate about every drug I’ve taken.” One day, Gerald Clarke had lunch with him at Bobby Van’s when he was waiting for a delivery of sleeping pills. He held up a new violet pill and said, “Aren’t these the most beautiful pills you’ve ever seen? They let me sleep four hours at a time, which I’ve never been able to do.”

It is, of course, presumptuous to go beyond Capote’s own words to ex-plain why this happened. Even Jack Dunphy says he does not know. “Fame? Success?” Capote had blamed his childhood, he blamed envy, saying, “People simply cannot endure success over too long a period of time. It has to be destroyed.” Certainly, there were external events that hurt him. Some friends, like Phyllis Cerf Wagner, saw his bad times beginning in 1965 with the pain he felt at the execution of the killers of In Cold Blood. Ten years later, he was rejected by some of his social friends—in Aileen Mehle’s words, “he shot himself in the heart. He went from the pinnacle to the pits.” For, as Mailer says, he had tasted a renowned social power. “No one came near it, and he was probably prouder of that. It was harder to do than was the writing for him. His talent was his friend. His achievement was his social life.”

It hurt Capote to lose the friendship of the Paleys. He had been at their house every weekend since Babe’s daughter Amanda Burden was a girl up until “the dread book,” as she calls it. Babe was his “Bobolink; “He’d been her closest confidant for eighteen or twenty years, part of the fabric of her life,” says Amanda. “When she saw him later in a restaurant, he was invisible to her. Then he seemed to disappear and begin his serious drug life.” Mailer thinks that “La Cote Basque” may have been Capote’s deliberate effort to free himself. “Either I grovel at their feet, or I get down to real work,” though Judy Green says Capote told her he believed he was giving “immortality” to those he wrote about, and they would, of course, under-stand. Liz Smith even went so far as to suggest that Capote died of a heart broken by Lee Radziwill’s refusal to testify for him in Gore Vidal’s lawsuit five years ago, an assumption so embarrassing to Radziwill that she stayed away from his memorial because of it.

“I always felt he brought out something that made you want to hug him, and at the same time, he wanted you to be scathing,” says Harrington.

Capote’s immediate young fame, however desired, was something he always had to deal with. In lulls, the celebrity absorbed his creativity. There was always the dangerous appeal of the verge, sliding into and out of life with the Warhol people, where fame is quick as a photograph and the night rolls on and on. One of the saddest sentences ever written about Capote probably made him the happiest. “In November of 1966, when it all came to a head, the art of the novel was 388 years old and the American system of party-giving was 345,” Esquire wrote after the Black and White Ball for Kay Graham. “Neither will ever be the same, and all be-cause of one man who managed to become a master at both.”

He felt vacant, he needed a family, he had no bourgeois core, he was not hard-thinking, not intellectual enough-he’d lost his looks, his various friends would say. But does anyone really have to go beyond the vision of a writer with a book in his mind that he could not write?

“The pain was always there inside him,” says Kate Harrington. “He told me how he saw five things at once and how exhausting it was-a flooding, constantly. Others saw one or two levels, so his writing was his way of getting it out; When he could no longer write as he wanted, he was left with what he called his “dark madness” and the remedies.

“I always felt he brought out something that made you want to hug him, and at the same time, he wanted you to be scathing,” says Kate. “Even the first time I met this sweet little man, he had something hurt. When I saw him give a lecture, he came onstage and they laughed and I thought, ‘This is what his whole life has been like.’ Maybe it’s how he became so scathing.”

Some blamed his later companions. Just as some men seem to keep marrying the same woman, Capote seemed to be trying to find Jack Dunphy again in the men—sometimes married, usually Irish—with whom he would stay for years. But there was something wrong with them and Truman together. It was said they mistreated him, made him suffer, and brought out his worst. Like Truman, they drank. Once, Capote passed out and fell from a bed he was sharing with one of them. When another man discovered Truman lying on the floor, he said, “Why didn’t you help him or call me?” The man said, “What do you want? I’m sick, too.” They were toted along now, into worlds Jack had shunned, brought to lunch with Princess Grace. It was hard for them. They “broke things” in every way.

“What is the good of being a famous novelist if you can’t have a little vanity, says Mailer. “But he had an outrageously overweening store of it, and that’s part of what lulled him.” Even after he lost the vanity in his appearance that caused him to go to diet doctors and have his face lifted, his hair, eyes, and teeth done, even after he was no longer bothering to get his clothes into eye-pulling combinations or even get fully dressed (he’d wear a seersucker suit with nothing underneath or an overcoat with under-wear), he never lost his pride in his work, which .may explain why Answered Prayers has never been found. It was better to read magazines.

Lester Persky, who is producing the movie of Capote’s story “Handcarved Coffins,” had several lunches with him in June. With Truman’s co-operation, they made some tapes. They decided to return for one lunch to La Cote Basque. On the tape, “Truman’s voice is thick and very slurred. He says he has taken a new prescription drug: “It has a strange effect—it makes me feel dizzy. He likes the table they have given him right in the front: °I can see every monster as they come in.” Eventually, he finds his stride and begins telling stories about Le Pavilion and a wicked tale about the Duchess of Windsor waiting for Jimmy Donahue in the arcade of El Morocco.

He spent a lot of time at the beach last summer with Jack Dunphy. “Jack was always the boy he fell in love with. Truman was so proud of everything he did,” says a friend. Kurt Vonnegut thinks Capote was trying to set up a new group of friends. “He would never have bothered with me before,” he says, and in fact, Vonnegut had the impression that Capote hadn’t read his work or that of Michael Frayn, who was also a guest at the last lunch the Vonneguts had with him, the week before he died. That day, on the way in, Capote lost his balance and seemed faint, and Frayn and Vonnegut supported him. During lunch, he talked all about himself, telling his stories, but then he felt bad again and lay down on a chaise. Vonnegut drove him home, but Capote was insistent about being let off at the end of his driveway, even though it was painful to walk. An arrest for drunken driving the previous summer had changed his life. He was no longer seen barreling along Daniels Lane in his maroon convertible, so small behind the steering wheel that a friend called him the Headless Horseman and those who knew the car would quickly pull over to the side of the road.

Since no one could take care of Truman Capote, who was clearly in a precarious condition and going down, why didn’t they take better care of his work? Lester Persky says he has parts of Answered Prayers in a black notebook that Truman had asked him to copy, but he can’t find it. Fox says a year or sue months after the last Esquire chapter, Capote gave him another excerpt, “thirty or forty or fifty pages,” but he can’t remember what was in it, and apparently did not even xerox it, though he had it for “a year or two, maybe three. Capote took it back to make revisions. It was never seen again.

Capote’s last conversation with his aunt Marie Rudisill (first reported by Ron Wenzell in the South Carolina newspaper The State) took place because she had written him saying she was seventy-three and wanted to make up before she died. Their estrangement, after her book about his boyhood, “preyed on my mind,” she said, “He called one night at 12:30. He always called late, never called at a human hour,” and told her he knew what she was going through with her book, which had caused her family and friends to stop talking to her. Finally, she wanted to destroy every copy.

“I’ve been through that,” he said. “It caused me more unhappiness. I lost every friend I ever had,” he said to her. “Truman cared,” she says. “He had that little air that he didn’t, but he did.”

He told her he was trying to start a new life, he wanted to shake off some people and unshackle himself. I’m bored with most of them, he said, and I think they’re getting tired of me.

Towards the end, Capote was deprived of his routines of Bobby Van’s and had to swim in the ocean since he could no longer get to pools by himself. In some ways in his later life, he had become like John Cheever’s Neddy in “The Swimmer,” going from pool to pool wherever he lived, drinking and swimming, not quite realizing what had happened to him. Always, at a pool, he would go to the edge and walk right in without looking. At last he was too sick to swim, and the pool he liked was sold to strangers.

The week before he died, in August, Capote met Kate Harrington for lunch. He was not feeling well. He did not want to go back and stay alone in his apartment. It was soundproof, and even friends felt the silence. This was one of the many lunches Truman would have where he seemed to want it to fill his afternoon, but Kate had to return to work at Interview. Later, he spent the night at her place. She had her friends over, and he amused them all with stories, sitting in bed, enchanting a fresh group.

The next week, Kate and Lester Persky had two dinners with Capote. After one, a friend of Kate’s took him home, and Truman told him that he could finally let Kate go because he knew she would be all right. During these last dinners, he said he was excited about the movie of “Handcarved Coffins.” He talked about Los Angeles, saying, “Who wants to live in a town where the leading social figure is a bald, nearsighted dwarf?” But still, says Persky, he had an “idée fixe” about getting to California. He felt comfortable at the Jockey Club and was munching a huge amount of caviar. “I love caviar, but it’s no fun unless you order a pound, Truman said. And he talked a bit about his birthday and a party he would give here, maybe a small one, for twenty.

“He would always say, ‘I’m coming back in two weeks,’ even when he stayed months,” says Kate. “This time, he looked at me through his blue-tinted glasses, and I said, ‘When will I see you?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know when. But you do what I told you to do. I know about these things. All right, baby doll?’ ”

“He was anxious to come to California,’’ says Joanne Carson, his friend for twenty years. He’d always arrive with a round-trip ticket, but he told her to make the reservations just one way. “I don’t know how long I will stay,” he said. He kept calling, wanting to move up the trip, but she told him she was working. “Someone who loves someone like me has to be available at all times,” Capote had once said, but now his women worked, like Kate, even C.Z. They weren’t those women of fashion who would cancel anything to be with him. It was almost as though there were less room for him in his world.

“Truman was very much in touch with the childlike part of himself,” says Joanne Carson. “We both had emotionally deprived childhoods and were looking for playmates … He’d call up and say, ‘I have a marvelous adventure to take you on.’” Later, he would introduce her to California society, moving the furniture and art from his Palm Springs home into her house. There he always had his rooms. She would cook special food, and she kept the pool heated to 92 degrees.

It was the first time he had come with a suitcase. He brought out new clothes. Friday he was tired, but he wrote under the umbrella. Mrs. Carson had asked him to write something for her that would make him “feel good.” He rewrote part of a piece from Music for Chameleons, which he called “Remembering Willa Cather.” He wrote about lavender roses, and there were lavender roses at the side of his bed, though he was describing a room he remembered from his past. He was still rewriting, even this last story.

All day Friday, he swam and planned his birthday. They had dinner and watched the news, and Capote made a note to call Joe Fox, wanting to get forty copies of One Christmas for Christmas presents for his California friends. Joanne Carson says he insisted on writing the notes to go inside the books right then and sat up to do them.

“Usually be fell asleep in my room and then would go to his room and come back. I’d wake to his rustling newspapers. He fell asleep about 2:30 with bis notebook and glasses on the table beside him,” The next morning, she went in to see if he wanted breakfast, “He was struggling with his lit tie bathing suit, and he let me help. ‘Oh, I feel very tired and weak,’ he said, and I put a little T-shirt on him and I left and came back to put the tray on his counter and I didn’t disturb him. At noon, I went in with the pool towels. The minute I walked in, the room was too still, nothing moved.”

Here was the stillness of other rooms, the stillness of his New York apartment, of the rooms he was locked in as a boy. It was the stillness a working writer must live with, a stillness Truman Capote had tried to flee with people and parties and commotions in his blood.

“I usually brush his brow lightly, and I touched his forehead. It was cool … There was no pulse. I called the paramedics and waited.”

[Photo Via: Eric Koch via Wikimedia Commons]

Print Article