George Plimpton

From the literary journal Paris Review to Sports Illustrated, Plimpton made headlines and made Hemingway and Truman Capote news. He wasn’t only a journalist but also a writer and an actor

With the cradle placed within an educated family

George Ames Plimpton was born in New York on the 18th of March, 1927. His father Francis Taylor Pearsons Plimpton was a successful lawyer and partner of the firm Debevoise and Plimpton. He was appointed as U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations from 1961 to 1965. His grandfather George Arthur Plimpton was the owner of the renowned publishing company Ginn. His mother Pauline Ames also came from a political family.



In July 1944, he started studying at Harvard University where he wrote for Harvard Lampoon, a humoristic publication and joined Hasty Pudding Club and Porcellian Club.



His studies were interrupted by mandatory military service, between 1945 and 1948, when he rode tanks in Italy for the American Army. After he graduated from Harvard, Plimpton went to King’s College, at Cambridge University, between 1950 and 1952.

During his time at the Harvard University, Plimpton was a colleague and a friend of Robert Kennedy’s. When Robert ran for the Presidency of the US, Plimpton was involved in the campaign, with other activities other than Journalism On the 5th of June, 1968, George Plimpton was among the crowd who saw Robert Kennedy being shot, and helped in the arrest of Sirhan Sirhan, the murderer.



Plimpton and the Paris Review interviews

In 1953, Plimpton became the first editor of the influent literary newspaper Paris Review, a publication he would write for until the end of his life. One of the most notable discoveries of the newspaper was the author Terry Souther who developed a great friendship with Plimpton. Ernest Hemingway was one of the most prominent people to be interviewed for Paris Review. George Plimpton was also the first to publish names like Jack Kerouac, Jay McInerney and Jonathan Franzen, among others.



Another great interview that earned him notoriety was with Truman Capote, about his book In Cold Blood.Plimpton even told the story of the writer: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career


George Plimpton would become famous for his sports writing, especially Participative Journalism. This kind of Journalism consisted in the participation in professional events. The experience was then recounted from an amateur’s point of view. Plimpton would establish the genre of Participative Journalism in the 60s, by playing for Detroit Lions, by fighting a boxing match against professional Archie Moore, by being a trapeze artist at a circus and even by playing the triangle with the New York Philharmonic.



Sports Journalism

As he was taking part in numerous sports events, Plimpton developed his interest in sports Journalism in the pages of Sports Illustrated. Meanwhile, the amusing and witty style of Plimpton’s stories would gain more space in magazines such as Haper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, Vogue and New York Times Magazine.

On the 1st of April 1985, Sports Illustrated publishes the article “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” written by Plimpton. The piece recounted that the baseball player Hayden Siddhartha “Sidd” Finch could throw a fastball as fast as 168 miles per hour, he practiced yoga and he had been adopted by an archeologist.



The response to Plimpton’s article surpassed all the expectations. MET fans were euphoric by knowing they had such a player in their team and filled the magazine’s inbox with information requests about Finch. The three networks, CBS, NBC and ABC, and the local St. Petersburg, Florida newspapers sent reporters to Al Lang Stadium for a press conference about Finch.

On the 15th of April, Sports Illustrated announces that Sidd Finch is only fictional and that the story was an April Fool’s joke. Plimpton’s article would be number 2 in the 100 top of hoaxes of the Museum of Hoaxes and would inspire a novel written by Plimpton himself, called The Curious Case of Sidd Finch.

Author of a number of books, Plimpton published many works on his adventures in the world of professional sports, such as golf, football and boxing.



Beyond Journalism

But George Plimpton would be known for a lot more than just Journalism. In cinema and TV, he was a successful author. One of his most famous roles was next to the actor John Wayne, in the western Rio Lobo (1970). His career in the 7th Art also includes the movies Reds (1981), The Bonfire of the vanities (1990), Nixon(1995) and Good Will Hunting (1997).



On television, one of the most famous was the documentary Plimpton! The man on the flying trapeze,broadcast by ABC.

The author and journalist would also play himself on an episode of The Simpsons.






The inheritance for the journalistic and literary world

In his personal life, George Plimpton was married twice. In 1968, he got married to Freddy Medora Espy, a photographer’s assistant. However, marriage wouldn’t last and, in 1988, the couple got divorced. In 1992, Plimpton would end up marrying Sarah Whitehead Dudley, a freelance writer, with whom he’d have twin daughters: Laura Dudley Plimpton e Olivia Hartley Plimpton.

On the 25th of September, 2003, George Plimpton was found dead in his New York City apartment from an apparent heart attack. His life and career would be remembered in diverse publications, including the testimony of his son, Taylor Plimpton, in the magazine The New Yorker.



In 2008, Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. publishes an oral biography on George Plimpton’s life titled George, Being George and, in 2013, Tom Bean and Luke Poling directed the documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as himself. Plimpton would be a star of his time, not only in Journalism, but in many different areas