What if you gave a party and everybody came? That is precisely what occurred on the drizzly night of Nov. 28, 1966, when 540 of Truman Capote’s nearest and dearest turned out for what the writer insisted on calling his “little masked ball for Kay Graham and all of my friends.”
The evening survives on film and in the recollections of the guests who are still alive 50 years later. It was a party of a kind we are unlikely to see again, given that it allowed for a then unheard-of, but now more common, coming together of disparate social spheres.
“There will never be another first time that somebody like Andy Warhol could step into a room with somebody like Babe Paley,” said Deborah Davis, the author of the 2006 book “Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and the Black and White Ball,” referring to one of Capote’s so-called swans — the socialite wife of William Paley, who built the CBS network.
Before the Black and White Ball, no one had ever imagined, let alone attended, a formal party with a guest list so wildly catholic that it brought into one room the poet Marianne Moore and Frank Sinatra, Gloria Vanderbilt and Lionel Trilling, Lynda Bird Johnson and the Maharani of Jaipur, the Italian princess Luciana Pignatelli (wearing a 60-carat diamond borrowed from Harry Winston) and the documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.