Joanne Carson’s glee grew with each sale of Capotiana, her arms shimmying with delight. Truman Capote’s longtime friend, with whom he frequently stayed in L.A. and at whose home he died, Carson put over 300 of the writer’s personal items up for sale today at Bonhams & Butterfields auction house on Madison Avenue. Tweedy men and reedy women sat tightly among the writer’s belongings. Bidder No. 4445 declined to answer questions, but he did repeatedly knock his chair and elbow into a dummy wearing a diminutive blue “Kid Capote” jersey that somehow retained its shape. (It looked like 4445 was bidding on Lot 1095, two engraved and, one hopes, durable pewter mugs.)
The early lots were books from Capote’s personal library.
Carson annotated the auctioneer’s descriptions in stage whispers. “Truman borrowed those and never brought them back!” she said of one lot of books that Capote had taken from the Carsons — Joanna is a Johnny ex-wife — and eventually returned, years later, inscribed. There was very active bidding for a signed first-edition of In Cold Blood, which finally sold for $7,000. (“Thank you, Truman,” Carson exclaimed. “I love you for signing that book!”) The bigger items, such as Capote’s last essay, published unedited in Vanity Fair this month, will be up for sale late this afternoon. Bonhams expected the event, which began at 1 p.m., to last about four hours.
A major portion of the proceeds will go to animal charities, and Carson spoke on their behalf. “Thank you from the animals,” she said gravely to one bidder. “You just saved animals’ lives.” When a first edition of Richard Avedon’s Portraits, inscribed to Capote, was sold for $5,000, Carson turned to the bidder and blew him a kiss. “Thank you, with all my heart, from Truman,” she said. “You and I are going to be new best friends. I have to visit my books!” That information had not been included in the catalog.
— Aileen Gallagher
The Private World of Truman Capote [Bonhams & Butterfield]