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Renaissance Man

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Unfortunately, another person to add to our ‘In Memoriam’ posts today…the person who truly embodied the title ‘Renaissance Man’, George Plimpton. Check out these excerpts from his obituary:

Praised as a “central figure in American letters” when inducted in 2002 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Plimpton also enjoyed a lifetime of making literature out of nonliterary pursuits.

He boxed with Archie Moore, pitched to Willie Mays and performed as a trapeze artist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. He acted in numerous films, including “Reds” and “Good Will Hunting.” He even appeared in an episode of “The Simpsons,” playing a professor who runs a spelling bee.

But writers appreciated Plimpton for The Paris Review, the quarterly he helped found nearly in 1953 and ran for decades with eager passion. The magazine’s high reputation rested on two traditions: publishing the work of emerging authors, including Roth and Kerouac, and an unparalleled series of interviews in which Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and others discussed their craft.

He seemed to know everyone: athletes, actors, musicians, statesmen. He had deep connections to the political world, dating back to childhood, when Adlai Stevenson — the two-time presidential nominee — was a family friend and Jacqueline Kennedy a debutante he would see at dances. Robert Kennedy was a classmate at Harvard.

Plimpton maintained a light touch in his work, but he knew tragedy firsthand. He served as a volunteer for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential run and was walking in front of him as the candidate was assassinated in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel.

“I had my hands around his neck,” he recalled in a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, referring to gunman Sirhan Sirhan, whom he helped wrestle to the ground. Plimpton turned his head away as he spoke, his clear voice turned foggy.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Kelly | September 27, 2003 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I am so glad to see that George Plimpton’s passing did not go unnoticed by the staff of Mirandala.com. (Though I’ve long known that Courtney had a soft spot for George.) I can’t believe he was only 26 when he began The Paris Review! He always seemed to me like the quintessential Ivy Leaguer, but while he’s often described as “patrician,” he never struck me as pompous.

    It’s distressing when we have so many celebrity deaths — Robert Palmer and John Ritter were both only in their 50s! Though I’m very happy that John Ritter is on the cover of People. He certainly deserves it.

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