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These Voices, These Rooms: Capote’s New Orleans.

Explore the literary wonderland that inspired Capote’s gay coming of age story “Other Voices. Other Rooms.”

A young Truman Capote (Photo credit: Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947)
New Orleans is more than the birthplace of jazz. Truman Capote was born here in 1924. (Photo credit: Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947)

Put on your walking shoes. On an LGBT literary tour of New Orleans, you can visit old haunts and learn secrets about the many authors who found their muses here. Truman Capote is one of them.

The author of Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, was born in the Crescent City in 1924. Although he grew up in Alabama and lived in New York and Los Angeles as an adult, Truman found himself returning to New Orleans again and again. In 1981, the 5’3″ author told a People magazine writer who interviewed him on a bench in Jackson Square, “I stay a few weeks and I read and write and walk around. It’s like a hometown to me.”

“The Free-est Time” of His Life.

Capote first became famous with the 1948 novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, a Southern gothic account of a teenage boy’s homosexuality. At the age of 23, he worked on that book in a rundown $70-a-month apartment at 811 Royal Street in the French Quarter. He told People that he slept all day and wrote all night, propped up in a bed beneath a twirling overhead fan. He said it was “the free-est time” of his life.

Visit Capote’s Haunts.

Like all who love New Orleans, Capote had his favorite spots. According to the Hotel Monteleone’s website, he would sit at the Carousel Bar and boast that he was born in the hotel. The truth is, his mother lived there during her pregnancy, but she made it to the hospital before her little literary legend arrived.

Speaking of his mother, they had a complicated relationship. According to biography.com, Capote was often picked on as a child. And his mother Lillie Mae, wanting him to be like other boys, made fun of his effeminate ways. She was also known to go off and leave her sensitive son in the care of relatives. They say that when she divorced, she only fought for custody of her son to anger her husband Arch who’s been described as a “scheming charmer.”

carousel bar cocktail
Toast to Capote at the famed Carousel Bar inside Hotel Monteleone. (Photo credit: Rebecca Ratliff)

When he wasn’t telling tales at the Carousel Bar, Capote could be found at Café Lafitte in Exile, America’s oldest continuously operating gay bar. It’s rumored that the author’s ghost seeks conversation in the bar’s stairwell to this day. Although we can’t confirm what he drank at this watering hole, we can tell you that Capote was partial to Screwdrivers, which he called “my orange drink.”

Capote also dined a time or two at Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, but it’s a good thing there wasn’t Yelp in those days. He thought Galatoire’s was too crowded and didn’t like the fact that they don’t accept reservations and you have to wait in long lines.

Celebrate New Orleans’ Literary Past

Another author whose work and name are often linked with New Orleans is Tennessee Williams. The annual Tennessee Williams-New Orleans Literary Festival will give you a chance to do your best Marlon Brando impersonation at a Stella-Stanley Shouting Contest in the Quarter. And of course, don’t forget to stop off at Faulkner House Books, a townhouse turned literary shrine located at 624 Pirate’s Alley where William Faulkner wrote his first novel, Soldier’s Pay, in 1925.

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