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10 Things You Might Not Have Known About Truman Capote

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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.

3. He didn’t attend college.

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..."

7. He cameoed in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

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.

10. He’s buried alongside other big Hollywood names.

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.

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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images
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LeVar Burton Is Legally Allowed to Say His Reading Rainbow Catchphrase
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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine the original Reading Rainbow without LeVar Burton, but in August, the New York public broadcasting network WNED made it very clear who owned the rights to the program. By saying his old catchphrase from his hosting days, “but you don’t have to take my word for it” on his current podcast, WNED claimed Burton was infringing on their intellectual property. Now, Vulture reports that the case has been settled and Burton is now allowed to drop the phrase when and wherever he pleases.

The news came out in an recent interview with the actor and TV personality. “All settled, but you don’t have to take my word for it,” he told Vulture. “It’s all good. It’s all good. I can say it.”

The conflict dates back to 2014, when Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show without WNED’s consent. Prior to that, the network and Burton’s digital reading company RRKidz had made a licensing deal where they agreed to split the profits down the middle if a new show was ever produced. Burton’s unauthorized crowdfunding undid those negotiations, and tensions between the two parties have been high ever since. The situation came to a head when Burton started using his famous catchphrase on his LeVar Burton Reads podcast, which centers around him reading short fiction in the same vein as his Reading Rainbow role. By doing this, WNED alleged he was aiming to “control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill.”

Though he’s no longer a collaborator with WNED, Burton can at least continue to say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” without fearing legal retribution. WNED is meanwhile "working on the next chapter of Reading Rainbow" without their original star, and Burton tells Vulture he looks “forward to seeing what they do with the brand next."

[h/t Vulture]

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25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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