If you’ve been reading this site over the years, you may remember how obsessed I am with Truman Capote and his Swans. “All literature is gossip” is what Truman once said… and, ironically perhaps, he knew it better than anyone else. Because the gossip that he wrote is what led to his downfall. And if that’s a spoiler, I’m sorry. But this is what the TikTok generation is about to find out when they start watching Ryan Murphy’s FEUD: Capote vs The Swans at the end of the month. I am beside myself with excitement.
The first trailer for FEUD dropped yesterday and, well, the girls and the gays are READY! Ryan himself has marketed this show as the “Original Housewives” and it’s an apt comparison for sure given the rivalries and the social politics at play but, at the same time, if you know anything about that time and these particular women, the most powerful and influential women in New York society in the 60s and 70s, you know that they would never, ever, ever submit to reality television, to cameras following their every move. The Swans never thirsted for mainstream popularity, they’d be disgusted at the thought of having to feed on regular degular schmegulars with details about their personal lives to maintain their status. The whole point of the swans was that they were superior and impervious to the whims and the trends of the masses. They lived in ultimate privilege and Truman was their pet, until he bit them. And then it was all out war.
This is what FEUD purports to be about – how Truman sabotaged his relationship with the Swans and how the Swans punished him in return. But who are they, they Swans? The OG Swans, in my mind anyway, were Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guiness, Marella Agnelli, C.Z. Guest, Pamela Harriman, and Lee Radziwill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). My GOD these days, right? Babe and Slim, it could only happen of that era. Truman and the Swans were inseparable. He was invited to everything, he stayed at all their homes, they travelled together, they partied together, they talked sh-t together, he held all their secrets. So he did what writers do: he wrote what he knew.
The book was called Answered Prayers. In 1975, he published the first installment of it, a story called “La Cote Basque, 1965” in Esquire and …well… he may have changed the names but everyone knew who these people were; everyone knew that he was telling on the Swans. It was social suicide, Truman became an outcast – and in those circles, this is worse than death.
Capote vs the Swans, presumably, is about hypocritical rich white bitches mobilising against their hypocrite and brilliant social-climbing former friend. There are no angels here. We’re dealing with very wealthy, very well-dressed assholes backstabbing each other for eight episodes. This is basically Ryan Murphy’s speciality. So the trailer? It’s over-the-top. It’s campy and screechy, it might even be too campy and screechy… although I’m not sure Ryan Murphy understands restraint and besides, too campy and screechy? Is there such a thing? I will reserve judgement because this case is bananas.
Naomi Watts as Babe Paley (I always imagined it would be Gwyneth Paltrow), Diane Lane as Slim Keith, Demi Moore as Ann Woodward, Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill, and Chloe Sevigny as C.Z. Guest who was one of few who didn’t cut off Truman completely. But… where is Marella?! If I have a complaint is that we’re light on Marella Agnelli here. And I’m already curious to see whether or not she shows up. I say this in part because all of these women were fashion plates. And FEUD: Capote vs the Swans is going to be a Fashion Show. (Truman’s Black & White Ball alone, if it’s reenacted, will be a mindf-ck.) And I don’t want to miss a single look.
Get ready for these looks to start new trends. Seriously, if you haven’t before, check out these photos of Slim Keith.
Thinking about Slim Keith again pic.twitter.com/q1HCW3yb3d— too legitney to quitney (@whitkayd) November 30, 2020
We’re about to see a Slim revival. A Swan revival, in fact. It’s coming.
Truman Capoteâ€™s â€œswansâ€, who will be portrayed in Feud 2. Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill, CZ Guest and Babe Paley. The original influencers. pic.twitter.com/mBvWf75fmJ— Petronella Wyatt (@PetronellaWyatt) January 30, 2023
PS. If you want a good primer on Truman and the Swans, this Vanity Fair piece from 2012 is a classic.