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Candice Bergen on What It Was Really Like to Attend Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball

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Malle: And what shoes?

Bergen: Hélène Arpels, who was the shoe goddess at the time. And a small black crocodile evening bag.

Malle: By who?

Bergen: I don’t know! A crocodile! It wasn’t a designer bag.

Malle: Did you know a lot of people?

Bergen: A few. I was overwhelmed. There were like 500 people there!

Malle: Did you dance? There’s a picture of you dancing.

Bergen: Oh God, I look so surly. I don’t know who I was dancing with there but I remember dancing with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and he was wearing a black velvet executioner’s hood. It was a bold choice.

Malle: Did you know him before the party?

Bergen: Just vaguely.

Malle: And then were you closer with him after?

Bergen: I just danced with him! I didn’t go home with him!

Malle: Who else did you dance with?

Bergen: I don’t know, because we were all masked. Norman Mailer! I danced with him. Peter Duchin did the music.

Malle: Who was the best dancer of the people you danced with?

Bergen: Nobody. It was the most self-conscious gathering of famous people I’d ever been at. The level of awareness was so intense with everybody looking at everybody else.

Malle: Like Instagram before Instagram?

Bergen: Yeah, it was like Instagram times 400.

Malle: Why do you think that was the case with this event? Because it was Truman or because of the people invited?

Bergen: There was such a buzz about it, people were crazed beforehand. Did you get the invite? Did you not? What are you wearing? People trying to get the invite…

Malle: Who were people excited to see?

Bergen: Mia [Farrow] and Frank [Sinatra]. They had just gotten married. Frank was all surly.

Malle: Why?

Bergen: Because he was Frank Sinatra! He didn’t want to be there. There was a big frisson around them. Even though they had bad masks—simpler masks. They were like dime store masks, which was kind of chic, Frank’s had little whiskers. They didn’t have to have fancy masks because they were Frank and Mia.

Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow arriving at the Black and White Ball.Photo: Fairchild Archive / Getty Images

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