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10Apr/08Off

Capote, Cacti and a Dune Buggy

"Truman is here!", I could hear his high-pitched voice resonate from the parking area located approximately 100 feet from Tierra Caliente, my family's designer home in Palm Springs.

Capote became a perennial house guest at all Viola and Raymond's parties, which included an eclectic group of local celebrities, industry moguls and LA's beautiful people.

My mother and Truman forged a deep bond whereupon the colorful writer would regale her with the latest gossip of the month.

He even showed her his latest, yet unpublished manuscript, seeking her advice.

As their relationship grew, Capote insisted that Viola let him escort her to his secret haunts and watering holes in Palm Springs and Manhattan. Viola was both thrilled and curious.

Meanwhile, my father who at 69 was the oldest graduate of the Carrol Shelby School of High Performance Racing, had plans to take on the nearby dunes racing a dune buggy. I became his pit crew and navigator.

Dad would have made the 10 best-dressed list with his custom cowboy boots, pants, shirt and hat. I on the other hand, made the mistake of wearing shorts and sneakers.

As my mother was being entertained by Capote, my father and I took off in his metallic blue dune buggy complete with a high pole from which a bright- colored flag flew. The idea behind the flag was to alert others to our presence.

Dad was fearless. He attacked the steepest dunes with pedal to the medal ferocity. The buggy was powered by a high-performance VW engine quite able to produce enough speed for the terrain and send the local wildlife dashing for shelter.

Never the less, I remember many predicaments. On numerous occasions the rear tires failed to grab enough traction thereby sending Dad and I sliding backwards down a high dune.

It was at those times Dad would send me off to gather anything that would enable the buggy to push off and clear the dune’s crest.

I'd walk, dripping with sweat, with my sneakers filled with sand and load up on driftwood, rocks and painful cactus quills. Gripping the steering wheel Dad would say, "The race must go on!"

In hindsight, I savor those memories and my mother’s trust in sharing with me Capote's deepest secrets. I recall one.

Apparently, during the writer's numerous interviews with the two convicts responsible for the "In Cold Blood" murders; one stood out for Truman. He confided that he had a great affection for Perry Smith.

Perhaps that emotional intensity added to the book's fiber thus its enormous success. Capote, in spite of his other works, was best known for that 1966 story for the rest of his life.

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