“There are people who would perhaps call me a dilettante, because it looks like I’m having too much fun. I have never been convinced there’s anything inherently wrong in having fun.”
– George Plimpton (1927-2003)
George Plimpton at a Cocktail Party (seated at left)
Cornell Capa/Magnum Images
Born with blue blood bursting out of his veins, George Plimpton decided not just to live a life of gentlemanly leisure, but to thoroughly embrace adventure – specifically, somewhat ridiculous adventure. As a sports writer, he could not be satisfied with simply telling his gentle readers what he saw, he had to invent an entirely new form of journalism – the kind where you get blood punched out of your nose by light heavyweight boxing titan Archie Moore.
Every list of Plimpton’s achievements is long and absurd, but woefully incomplete. He simply did too much. Plimpton drove a tank in the war; drank cocktails with Norman Mailer and Ernest Hemingway; pitched to Willie Mays in an all-star game; edited the Paris Review; threw legendary parties; dabbled in trapeze; snapped photos for Playboy; wrote about the witch doctors of Zaire who helped Ali destroy Foreman; and was expelled from Exeter for aiming a Revolutionary musket at the football coach. Oh, and he wrestled the pistol out of the hands of Sirhan Sirhan after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
In 2003, at the Brook Club, Plimpton stood up to have a broken drink repaired at the bar. Then, he collapsed and cracked his skull on the table. The paramedics, who recognized him, began slapping his cheeks and desperately saying, “George, wake up!” The maitre d’ simply would not tolerate this kind of behavior and declared, “At the Brook Club, sir, we refer to him as Mr. Plimpton.”