George Plimpton bigraphy, stories - Journalist, writer, editor, actor

George Plimpton : biography

March 18, 1927 - September 25, 2003

George Ames Plimpton (March 18, 1927 – September 25, 2003) was an American journalist, writer, editor, actor, and gamesman. He is widely known for his sports writing and for helping to found The Paris Review.

Education

Plimpton attended St. Bernard's School, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Daytona Beach Mainland High School, where he received his high school diploma before entering Harvard University in July 1944. He wrote for the Harvard Lampoon, was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, Pi Eta and the Porcellian Club. His field of concentration was English. Plimpton entered Harvard as a member of the Class of 1948, but did not graduate until 1950 due to intervening military service. He was also an accomplished birdwatcher.

Plimpton's studies were interrupted by military service lasting from 1945 to 1948, during which he served as a tank driver in Italy for the U.S. Army. After graduating from Harvard, he attended King's College at Cambridge University in England. He studied there from 1950 to 1952 and graduated with a third class BA in English.

Career

In 1953, Plimpton joined the influential literary journal The Paris Review, founded by Peter Matthiessen, Thomas H. Guinzburg, and Harold L. Humes, becoming its first editor in chief. This periodical carries great weight in the literary world, but has never been financially strong; for its first half-century, it was allegedly largely financed by its publishers and by Plimpton. Two articles by Richard Cummings, "An American in Paris" (The American Conservative) and "The Fiction of the State" (Lobster), disclose that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided funds for The Paris Review, using publisher Sadruddin Aga Khan's foundation as a conduit, and that Plimpton was an "agent of influence" for the CIA. Peter Matthiessen took the magazine over from Harold Humes and ousted him as editor, replacing him with Plimpton, using it as his cover for his CIA activities. Plimpton was also associated with the literary magazine in Paris, Merlin, which folded because the State Department withdrew its support. Future Poet Laureate Donald Hall, who had met Plimpton at Exeter, was Poetry Editor. One of the magazine's most notable discoveries was author Terry Southern, who was living in Paris at the time and formed a lifelong friendship with Plimpton, along with future classical and jazz pioneer David Amram.

At Harvard, Plimpton was a classmate and close personal friend of Robert Kennedy. Plimpton, along with former decathlete Rafer Johnson and American football star Rosey Grier, was credited with helping wrestle Sirhan Sirhan to the ground when Kennedy was assassinated following his victory in the 1968 California Democratic primary at the former Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Outside the literary world, Plimpton was famous for competing in professional sporting events and then recording the experience from the point of view of an amateur. In 1958, prior to a post-season exhibition game at Yankee Stadium between teams managed by Willie Mays (National League) and Mickey Mantle (American League), Plimpton pitched against the National League. His experience was captured in the book Out of My League. (He intended to face both line-ups, but tired badly and was relieved by Ralph Houk.) Plimpton sparred for three rounds with boxing greats Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson, while on assignment for Sports Illustrated.

In 1963, Plimpton attended preseason training with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League as a backup quarterback, and ran a few plays in an intrasquad scrimmage. These events were recalled in his best-known book Paper Lion, which was later adapted into a feature film starring Alan Alda, released in 1968. Plimpton revisited pro football in 1971, this time joining the Baltimore Colts and seeing action in an exhibition game against his previous team, the Lions. These experiences served as the basis of another football book, Mad Ducks and Bears, although much of the book dealt with the off-field escapades of football friends such as Alex Karras and Bobby Layne. Another sports book, Open Net, saw him train as an ice hockey goalie with the Boston Bruins, even playing part of a National Hockey League preseason game.

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Living octopus

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