November 28, 1966 was a rainy Monday in Manhattan. That didn’t stop the city’s elite from donning black and white attire and eye masks and attending the exclusive Black and White Ball—a masquerade party thrown by writer Truman Capote for Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post.
“The guests, as spectacular a group as has ever been assembled for a private party in New York, were an international who’s who of notables,” wrote Charlotte Curtis for The New York Times.
“There were 510 diplomats, politicians, scientists, painters, writers, composers, actors, producers, dress designers, social figures, tycoons, and what Mr. Capote called ‘international types, lots of beautiful women and ravishing little things.’”
The invite list reads like a time capsule of the mid-1960s: Lynda Bird Johnson, Candice Bergen (below), newlyweds Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow (left), Diana Vreeland, William F. Buckley, Andy Warhol, George Plimpton, and assorted Vanderbilts, Fords, and Kennedys.
Capote forked over $16,000 for the event. “The ballroom had been done up in red, with not a flower in sight—‘the people are the flowers,’ declared Capote,” states At the Plaza by Curtis Gathje.
Writes Deborah Davis in The Party of the Century: “Jean Harvey Vanderbilt compared the party to the court of Louis XV because ‘people promenaded around the perimeter of the room in their finery, looking at each other.’ One guest commented, ‘It’s weird, there are only black and white and red in this room, and yet everything’s so . . . so colorful.’”
At the end of the evening, Capote (with Katherine Graham, left), flying high thanks to the recent success of In Cold Blood, remarked, “It was just what it set out to be . . . I just wanted to give a party for my friends.”