American author, screenwriter, and playwright Truman Capote would have turned 90 today, but the In Cold Blood writer didn’t make it to his 60s (he died at age 59, a little more than a month before his 60th birthday). Responsible for such works as Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood , Capote left behind a large and varied legacy. Here are some facts about this true American original.
1. “Capote” wasn’t his real last name.
He was born Truman Streckfus Persons , but "Capote" wasn’t a pen name—it came from his stepfather, Joseph Capote, and his name was changed to “Truman Garcia Capote” in 1935.
2. He taught himself how to read and write.
Truman was classified as a “lonely child,” and before he even entered formal schooling, he used that loneliness (along with his obvious smarts) to teach himself how to read and write . By 11, he was already writing his first short stories.
Capote’s schooling was varied, but rich. After he and his mother moved to New York City from Monroeville, Alabama, he attended a number of high-profile institutions, including the Trinity School, St. Joseph Military Academy, Greenwich High School, and the Franklin School (now called the Dwight School). While finishing up his high school education, Capote worked as a copyboy for The New Yorker , which served as his post-high school proving ground.
4. His most famous character was almost not named Holly Golightly.
The star of his Breakfast at Tiffany’s was originally named “Connie Gustafson” (doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?), which was then changed to “Holiday Golightly” before being edited down to “Holly Golightly.”
5. He had a recurring nightmare.
It took place backstage at a theater. "I have a very important part to play," he once told Gloria Steinem . "The only trouble is that I’m in a panic because I don’t know my lines… Finally, the moment comes. I walk onstage… but I just stumble about, mortified. Have you ever had that dream?”
6. Capote was hired by Rolling Stone to cover a Rolling Stones tour.
In 1972, the magazine hired Capote as their correspondent to cover the Stones’ Exile on Main St. tour. Although Capote headed out on the road with the band, he did not finish the article , later telling Andy Warhol in an interview for the magazine, "I enjoyed [being on tour]. I just didn’t want to write about it, because it didn’t interest me creatively. You know? But I enjoyed it as an experience. I thought it was amusing..."
During a scene in the famous comedy, Alvy (Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are engaging in some casual people-watching at the park. At one point, a dapper gentleman walks by the two and Alvy says, "Oh, there’s the winner of the Truman Capote Look Alike Contest.” It was actually Capote .
8. He carried a security blanket.
During his early years, Capote lived with distant relatives in Alabama, including his mother’s relation, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, whom Capote lovingly called “Sook.” Sook made baby Capote his own baby blanket, which he carried around with him even into adulthood . Capote reportedly even had the blanket on the day he died.
9. Capote left behind not one, but two unfinished novels.
The author had started work on his Answered Prayers back in 1966, and the salacious send-up of high Hollywood society hung over his head for years to come. Although he had signed a contract with Random House in 1966 and promised to deliver it in two years, the book was still unfinished when he died in 1984. A number of chapters had been previously published , and a roughly assembled (and unfinished) version of the book was released in 1986 as Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel .
Although everyone knew about Answered Prayers , fewer people were aware that Capote had yet another unfinished novel hanging around. Early in his career—around the 1940s—Capote started working on a love story set in New York City that chronicled the romance between a rich young lady and a parking lot attendant. Capote told people that he had tossed out the entire manuscript, which would have been his first official novel ( Other Voices, Other Rooms eventually took that honor), but a house sitter reportedly snagged it after the author abandoned his Brooklyn Heights apartment—and everything in it—when In Cold Blood made him wealthy. After the house sitter died, the manuscript was discovered, and Summer Crossing was published in 2005.
After his death, Capote was cremated and his ashes were placed in a mausoleum in Los Angeles’ Westwood Memorial Park. Other celebrities rest nearby, including Mel Torme and Heather O’Rourke. Not all of Capote’s ashes are in Westwood, however, as some of them were given to his beloved friend Joanne Carson and another portion were mixed in with his partner Jack Dunphy’s, which were then scattered in Long Island.