Gay Talese (/təˈliːz/; born February 7, 1932) is an American writer. As a journalist for The New York Times and Esquire magazine during the 1960s, Talese helped to define literary journalism. Talese's most famous articles are about Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra.
|Born||February 7, 1932|
Ocean City, New Jersey, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Alabama|
Nan Ahearn (m. 1959)
Talese's entry into writing was entirely happenstance, and the unintended consequence of the then high school sophomore's attempt to gain more playing time for the baseball team. The assistant coach had the duty of telephoning in the chronicle of each game to the local newspaper and when he complained he was too busy to do it properly, the head coach gave Talese the duty. As Talese recalls in his 1996 memoir Origins of a Nonfiction Writer:
On the mistaken assumption that relieving the athletic department of its press duties would gain me the gratitude of the coach and get me more playing time, I took the job and even embellished it by using my typing skills to compose my own account of the games rather than merely relaying the information to the newspapers by telephone.
After only seven sports articles, Talese was given his own column for the weekly Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger. By the time Talese left for college during September 1949, he had written some 311 stories and columns for the Sentinel-Ledger.
Talese credits his mother as the role model he followed in developing the interviewing techniques that would serve him well later in life, interviewing such varied subjects as mafia members and middle-class Americans on their sexual habits. He relates in A Writer's Life:
I learned [from my mother] ... to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments ... people are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time. However, I have also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.
Talese was accepted to the University of Alabama, where his selection of a major was, as he described it, a moot choice. "I chose journalism as my college major because that is what I knew," he recalls, "but I really became a student of history." At the University, he became a brother of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
It was here that Talese would begin to employ literary devices more well known for fiction, such as establishing the "scene" with minute details, and beginning articles in medias res (Latin for "into the midst of things"). During his junior year, Talese became the sports editor for the campus newspaper, Crimson-White, and started a column he dubbed "Sports Gay-zing", for which he wrote on November 7, 1951:
Rhythmic "Sixty Minute Man" emanated from the Supe Store juke box and Larry (The Maestro) Chiodetti beat against the table like mad in keeping time with the jumpy tempo. T-shirted Bobby Marlow was just leaving the Sunday morning bull session and dapper Bill Kilroy had just purchased the morning newspapers.
This was before Lillian Ross did the same in Picture (1952) or Truman Capote used the technique in The Muses Are Heard (1956). More importantly, Talese included among his subjects both the "losers" and the unnoticed. He was more interested in those who did not attain the glory of winning and less in hero-worshipping the winners.
After graduating during June 1953, Talese relocated to New York City, yet could only find work as a copyboy. The job was, however, at the esteemed New York Times and Talese arrived for his mundane position nevertheless in handstitched Italian suits. Talese was eventually able to get an article published in the Times, albeit unsigned (without credit). In "Times Square Anniversary" (November 2, 1953), Talese interviewed the man, Herbert Kesner, Broadcast Editor, who was responsible for managing the headlines that flash across the famous marquee above Times Square.
Talese followed this with an article in the February 21, 1954 edition, concerning the chairs used on the boardwalk of Atlantic City (something with which he was familiar as his home town of Ocean City is the next hamlet south of the gambling mecca). Yet, his budding journalism career would have to be put on hold – Talese was drafted into the United States Army in 1954.
While at the University of Alabama, Talese had been required (as were all male students at the time owing to the Korean War) to join the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and had relocated to New York awaiting his eventual commission as a second lieutenant. Talese was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to train in the Tank Corps. Finding his mechanical skills lacking, Talese was transferred to the Office of Public Information where he once again worked for a local newspaper, Inside the Turret, and soon had his own column, "Fort Knox Confidential".
When Talese completed his military obligation during 1956, he was rehired by the New York Times as a sports reporter. Talese later opined, "Sports is about people who lose and lose and lose. They lose games; then they lose their jobs. It can be very intriguing." Of the various fields, boxing had the most appeal for Talese, largely because it was about individuals engaged in contests and those individuals in the mid to late 1950s were becoming predominately non-white at the prizefight level. He wrote 38 articles about Floyd Patterson alone.
For this, Talese was rewarded with a promotion to the Times' Albany Bureau to cover state politics. It was a short-lived assignment, however, as Talese's exacting habits and meticulous style soon irritated his new editors so much that they recalled him to the city, assigning him to write minor obituaries. Talese puts it, "I was banished to the obituary desk as punishment – to break me. There were major obituaries and minor obituaries. I was sent to write minor obituaries not even seven paragraphs long." After a year working for the Times obituary section, he began to write articles for the Sunday Times, which was then managed as a separate organization from the daily Times by editor Lester Markel.
Talese's first piece for the magazine Esquire – a series of scenes in the city – appeared in a special New York issue during July 1960.:23 When the Times newspaper unions had a work stoppage during December 1962, Talese had plenty of time to watch rehearsals for a production by Broadway director Joshua Logan for an Esquire profile. As Carol Polsgrove indicates in her history of Esquire during the 1960s, it was the kind of reporting he liked to do best: "just being there, observing, waiting for the climactic moment when the mask would drop and true character would reveal itself.":60
In 1964, Talese published The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (1964), a reporter-style, non-fiction depiction of the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. In 1965, he left The New York Times to write full-time for editor Harold Hayes at Esquire. His 1966 Esquire article on Frank Sinatra, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", is one of the most influential American magazine articles of all time, and a pioneering example of New Journalism and creative nonfiction. With what some have called a brilliant structure and pacing, the article focused not just on Sinatra himself, but also on Talese's pursuit of his subject.
Talese's celebrated Esquire essay about Joe DiMaggio, "The Silent Season of a Hero" – in part a meditation on the transient nature of fame – was also published during 1966. When a number of Esquire essays were collected into a book called Fame and Obscurity, Talese paid tribute in its introduction to two writers he admired by citing "an aspiration on my part to somehow bring to reportage the tone that Irwin Shaw and John O'Hara had brought to the short story." Honor Thy Father (1971) was made into a feature movie.
During 2008, The Library of America selected Talese's 1970 account of the Charles Manson murders, "Charlie Manson's Home on the Range", for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.
In 2011, Talese won the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism.
In April 2016, Talese spoke at a panel at a Boston University journalism conference. During the panel Talese was asked what nonfiction women writers he found inspiring, to which he responded, "I didn’t know any women writers that I loved." In response, a Twitter hashtag was "immediately" created under #womengaytaleseshouldread.
In June 2016, the credibility of Talese's book The Voyeur’s Motel, whose subject was Gerald Foos, was questioned when it came to light Foos had made false statements to Talese which Talese did not verify. When news of the credibility broke, Talese stated, "I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?" In subsequent interviews and on an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Talese recanted this disavowal, stating that his story was still accurate despite the discrepancies found by the Washington Post.
In a November 2017 interview with Vanity Fair at the New York Public Library’s Literary Lions Gala, Talese made comments about the sexual assault accusations against Kevin Spacey that had surfaced over the previous weeks. Talese stated, "I would like to ask [Spacey] how it feels to lose a lifetime of success and hard work all because of 10 minutes of indiscretion 10 years or more ago. I feel so sad, and I hate that actor [Anthony Rapp] that ruined this guy’s career. So, OK, it happened 10 years ago... Jesus, suck it up once in a while! You know something, all of us in this room at one time or another did something we’re ashamed of. The Dalai Lama has done something he’s ashamed of. The Dalai Lama should confess... put that in your magazine!" CNN reported the "backlash on social media was almost immediate." Jenavieve Hatch of the Huffington Post called the remarks "disrespectful to survivors of sexual trauma." The Daily Beast's Tom Sykes wrote "chastising an alleged child sexual harassment victim is a terrible look." The Washington Post called his statements a "bizarre, rabid defense of the actor."
In 1959, Talese married writer Nan Talese, a New York editor who manages the Nan A. Talese/Doubleday imprint. Their marriage is being documented in a non-fiction book he has been working on since 2007. They have two daughters, Pamela Talese, a painter, and Catherine Talese, a photographer and photo editor.
A Writer's Life is a 2006 autobiography by Gay Talese. The book focuses on many of the stories that Talese attempted to tell, but failed, such as spending six months working on a story about John and Lorena Bobbitt for The New Yorker only to have the piece rejected by New Yorker editor Tina Brown.Everything Is Copy
Everything Is Copy — Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted is an American documentary film that premiered on March 21, 2016 on HBO. Directed and written by Jacob Bernstein and Nick Hooker, the film explores the life and legacy of legendary writer and film director Nora Ephron.Fame and Obscurity
Fame and Obscurity: A Book About New York, a Bridge, and Celebrities on the Edge was a 1970 book by Gay Talese. The book was a collection of many of Talese's works for Esquire about New York City, and also includes his most famous celebrity profiles: "Joe Louis: The King as a Middle-aged Man", "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" and "The Silent Season of a Hero".Frank Sinatra Has a Cold
"Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" is a profile of Frank Sinatra written by Gay Talese for the April 1966 issue of Esquire. The article is one of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever written and is often considered not only the greatest profile of Frank Sinatra but one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written. The profile is one of the seminal works of New Journalism and is still widely read, discussed and studied. In the 70th anniversary issue of Esquire in October 2003, the editors declared the piece the "Best Story Esquire Ever Published". Vanity Fair called it "the greatest literary-nonfiction story of the 20th century".Gerald Foos
Gerald Foos is the former owner of the Manor House Motel, which operated in Aurora, Colorado. He was the subject of Gay Talese's 2016 article "The Voyeur's Motel" in The New Yorker, in which Talese disclosed that Foos was a long time voyeur of people staying in his hotel, having installed grilles in the ceiling of most of the rooms that enabled him to view his guests without their knowledge. Foos' observational focus was the sexual activities of those staying at the Manor House.
Both Talese's publication of the article and Foos' actions sparked controversy. Foos justified his actions as a means of conducting research concerning sexual behaviors. Talese released a book about Foos and his motel in July 2016, also titled The Voyeur's Motel.
In April 2016, Steven Spielberg purchased the rights to create a film based on Foos' life, with director Sam Mendes tapped to direct. The film was cancelled in November 2016 after Spielberg and Mendes learned of an upcoming documentary feature about the same subject. In regard to the decision to cancel the film, Mendes expressed frustration that no one had advised them of the documentary's existence, but said "it has so many things that are wonderful and can only be achieved by a documentary...the story became infinitely more interesting and more complicated, but impossible to tell in a narrative movie."
The New Yorker article was expanded into a book by the same name. Concerning the book, author and critic Michelle Dean wrote in: [S]hortly before the book appeared, The Washington Post published an article [by Paul Farhi] that called Foos’s veracity into question. The reporter pointed out that Foos hadn’t owned the hotel for part of the time recorded in his journals. Talese, confronted with this information, did nothing less than freak out. “I’m not going to promote this book,” he told Farhi. “How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?"
However, Gay Talese discovered that the person who had owned the hotel for that period was still alive, and contacted him and reported that the person said that Gerald had a key and complete access over this period. Gay Talese stated that he had overreacted. Gerald Foos claimed that he had not brought it up as he had not wanted this person's name connected to the voyeurism.
The documentary film, directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, was released on Netflix Dec. 1, 2017, with the title Voyeur.Honor Thy Father
Honor Thy Father is a 1971 book by Gay Talese, about the travails of the Bonanno crime family in the 1960s, especially Salvatore Bonanno and his father Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno.Josh Koury
Josh Koury (born 1977) is an American filmmaker, best known for his documentary films Voyeur, Journey to Planet X, We Are Wizards and Standing by Yourself.
Koury was born in upstate New York, and currently resides in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
His first film, Standing by Yourself, opened theatrically in 2002. His second feature-length film, We Are Wizards, had its premiere at SXSW in March 2008. Since then it has traveled to many film festivals around the world and had its theatrical release in November 2008. His feature film, Journey to Planet X, had its World premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and was picked up as an Epix Original Documentary to air in 2013. Voyeur, starring Gay Talese and Gerald Foos, was globally premiered as a Netflix Original documentary film in December 2017.With Myles Kane and Cris Moris, Koury also co-founded the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival, where he served as programming director for five years. In addition, he worked for four years from 2004 at the Hamptons International Film Festival as a programmer. He now works as faculty at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Manhattan, New YorkLe Conversazioni
Le Conversazioni is an anglophone literary festival organized by Italian film personalities Antonio Monda and Davide Azzolini, and financed by the Italian government and various corporations. It is held on the island of Capri. The festival was first held in 2006. These gatherings have attracted a wide range of notable writers, including Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Chuck Palahniuk, Elizabeth Strout, Colum McCann, Donna Tartt, Nathan Englander, Nicole Krauss, EL Doctorow, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ian McEwan, Claire Messud, Annie Proulx, Stephen Sondheim, Michael Chabon, Wole Soyinka, Jamaica Kincaid, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Sedaris, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, Philip Gourevitch, David Foster Wallace, and others. In 2009 Le Conversazioni became a global festival with events at the Morgan Library in New York. Amongst the guests have been: Renzo Piano, Marina Abramović, Jonathan Franzen, Ian Buruma, Paul Schrader, Daniel Mendelsohn, AM Homes, Mark DiSuvero, Daniel Libeskind, Gay Talese, Michael Cunningham.Louise DeSalvo
Louise A. DeSalvo (born 1942-died October 31, 2018) was an American writer, editor, professor, and lecturer who lived in New Jersey. Much of her work focused on Italian-American culture, though she was also a renowned Virginia Woolf scholar.
DeSalvo taught memoir writing as a part of CUNY Hunter College's MFA Program in Creative Writing, published over 17 books, and was a Virginia Woolf scholar. She edited editions of Woolf's first novel Melymbrosia, as well as The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, which documents the controversial lesbian affair between these two novelists. In addition, she wrote two books on Woolf, Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work and Virginia Woolf's First Voyage: A Novel in the Making. DeSalvo's publications also include the memoir, Vertigo, which received the Gay Talese award and was also a finalist for Italy's Primo Acerbi prize for literature. Vertigo holds as one of the most widely taught Italian American books and has been said to influence almost every Italian American memoir written since. DeSalvo's memoir, Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Feuds, and Forgiveness in an Italian American Family, was also named a Booksense Book of the Year for 2004. One of DeSalvo's most popular books to date is the writer's guide Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.Master of Professional Writing Program
The Master of Professional Writing Program is a graduate degree program in professional writing. Chatham University in Pennsylvania has an online MPW program. The University of Southern California's MPW program will be closing in May 2016.Nan A. Talese
Nan Talese (née Ahearn; born December 19, 1933) is an American editor, and a veteran of the New York publishing industry. Talese is the Senior Vice President of Doubleday. Since 1990, Talese has been the Publisher and Editorial Director of her own imprint, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, known for publishing notable authors such as Pat Conroy, Ian McEwan, and Peter Ackroyd.New Journalism
New Journalism is a style of news writing and journalism, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, which uses literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. It is characterized by a subjective perspective, a literary style reminiscent of long-form non-fiction and emphasizing "truth" over "facts", and intensive reportage in which reporters immersed themselves in the stories as they reported and wrote them. This was in contrast to traditional journalism where the journalist was typically "invisible" and facts are reported as objectively as possible. The phenomenon of New Journalism is generally considered to have ended by the early 1980s.
The term was codified with its current meaning by Tom Wolfe in a 1973 collection of journalism articles he published as The New Journalism, which included works by himself, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Terry Southern, Robert Christgau, Gay Talese and others.
Articles in the New Journalism style tended not to be found in newspapers, but rather in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, CoEvolution Quarterly, Esquire, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and for a short while in the early 1970s, Scanlan's Monthly.
Contemporary journalists and writers questioned the "newness" of New Journalism, as well as whether it qualified as a distinct genre. The subjective nature of New Journalism received extensive exploration; one critic suggested the genre's practitioners were functioning more as sociologists or psychoanalysts than as journalists. Criticism has been leveled at numerous individual writers in the genre, as well.The Kingdom and the Power
The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at The New York Times: The Institution That Influences the World is a 1969 book by Gay Talese about the inner workings of The New York Times, the newspaper where Talese had worked for 12 years. The book was originally subtitled "The Story of The Men Who Influence The Institution That Influences the World." The book is credited with starting the trend of "media books" as noted by Portfolio at the New York University School of Journalism, books that "portraying the inner-workings of a media establishment, turning the tables on the people who write and report the news, and making them the subject."The New Journal
The New Journal is a magazine at Yale University that publishes creative nonfiction about Yale and New Haven. Inspired by New Journalism writers like Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, the student-run publication was established by Daniel Yergin and Peter Yeager in 1967 to publish investigative pieces and in-depth interviews. It publishes five issues per year. The magazine is distributed free of charge at Yale and in New Haven and was among the first university publications not to charge a subscription fee.The Shack (journalism)
The Shack is the nickname used by reporters for the police beat in New York City. In most cities, such a bureau is nicknamed a "cop shop." It is named after a cramped office located inside the NYPD headquarters, where journalists report on crime stories.
The first in-headquarters press bureau began in 1863, in the basement of the NYPD headquarters on Mulberry Street. In 1875, police superintendent George W. Walling expelled the press from the building for being too intrusive in police matters. When the NYPD moved to its beaux-arts headquarters at 240 Centre Street in 1910, the press set up shop in a tenement across the street. Its poor conditions may have resulted in the nickname. This location was the office for legendary reporters including Gay Talese, David Halberstam, Joe Cotter and McCandlish Phillips. In 1973, the NYPD moved to its new modernist-style headquarters at One Police Plaza in the Civic Center. The Shack followed with an office on the second floor of the new building. Its present tenants include Associated Press, New York Daily News, New York Post, The New York Times, Newsday, Staten Island Advance, El Diario, NY1 News and 1010 WINS. In April 2009, NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced plans to evict The Shack from Police Plaza by August, in order to make way for an expansion of a command center. As of 2016, the shack remains in the same location.Thy Neighbor's Wife
Thy Neighbor's Wife is a non-fiction book by Gay Talese, published in 1981 and updated in 2009.The book is an exploration of sexuality in America from after World War II through the 1970s, with notable discussion of the free love subculture. It provides a snapshot of liberated pre-AIDS sexual morality.
In preparation for writing the book, Talese resided for several months at clothing-optional resort Sandstone Retreat.In 1979, prior to the book's publication, United Artists purchased the film rights to Thy Neighbor's Wife for $2.5 million, which at the time was the largest amount ever paid for film rights to any book. At the time, UA contemplated making as many as three films based on the book, and in 1980, William Friedkin agreed to write and direct the first film, which he contemplated would receive an X rating. However, as of 2019, no film has been made.Unto the Sons
Unto the Sons is a 1992 book by Gay Talese. The book traces the origins of Talese's own family, beginning with his great-grandfather in Maida, Italy, his grandfather who immigrated to Pennsylvania and Talese's father, who immigrated to the United States separately following World War I.Voyeur (film)
Voyeur is a 2017 American documentary film directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury and starring Gay Talese and Gerald Foos. It globally premiered as a Netflix Original documentary film in December 2017.World Publishing Company
The World Publishing Company was an American publishing company founded by Alfred H. Cahen. Originally headquartered in Cleveland, the company later added an office in New York City. The company published genre fiction, trade paperbacks, children's literature, nonfiction books, textbooks, Bibles, and dictionaries, primarily from 1940 to 1980. Authors published by World Publishing Company include Ruth Nanda Anshen, Michael Crichton, Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Ludlum, Sam Moskowitz, Ayn Rand, Rex Stout, Gay Talese, and Lin Yutang. The company's Cleveland headquarters were located in the Caxton Building.World Publishing was notable for publishing the first edition of Webster's New World Dictionary in 1951, which contained 142,000 entries, said to be the largest American desk dictionary available at the time. The company also had a vibrant children's book division, and published the first edition of Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969.World Publishing Company is not related to the original owners of the Omaha World-Herald or Tulsa World (also called "World Publishing Co.").