George Plimpton

George Plimpton

Past Event: Tuesday, January 21, 2003

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Literary Arts Icon

Literary Arts

Sponsored by Stoel Rives, LLP.

Fifty years ago, while an undergraduate at Yale University, George Plimpton co-founded The Paris Review, one of the most highly regarded literary journals in the world. Since then he has been an icon of American literature.

Best-selling author and editor of nearly 30 books, Plimpton is best known for his practice of covering professions by participating in them as an amateur. He has played quarterback for the Detroit Lions, percussion with the New York Philharmonic, flown on a trapeze for a circus, and boxed against Archie Moore. In the process, he has suffered some bruises—to his body and his ego—but he has never lost his sense of humor. “There are people who would perhaps call me a dilettante,” he says, “because it looks as though I’m having too much fun. I have never been convinced there’s anything inherently wrong in having fun.”

Known as one of America’s most engaging public speakers, Plimpton is also an accomplished character actor and has appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including ER (1994 ), Good Will Hunting (1997), and L.A. Story (1991). His books include Out of My League (1961), Paper Lion (1966), Shadow Box (1977), and Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. He lives in New York City.

Excerpt from The Best of Plimpton (1991)
“Of my friends, the writers seemed to be the ones who most enjoyed the sensation of setting off a shell, especially those who were having difficulty with their own work, suffering the so-called ‘writer’s block.’ I understood why, I thought: it was the frustration of not being able to put on paper what was so vivid in one’s mind—the agony of confronting Mallarmé’s blank page—compared to the simple act of igniting a fuse and immediately producing a great chrysanthemum of color and beauty high above, punctuated with a splendid concussion, while below, people would gape in wonderment and call out ‘Wow!’ It was the kind of reaction that writers always hoped for with their own work but never received in such visible and adulatory form. The best one could expect from a reader was a low hmmm, whereas fireworks could produce loud ‘Ohhs!’ and ‘Ahhs!’ . . .

“I remember Norman Mailer at one of our July fireworks parties in the Hamptons. He wanted to fire a shell. He had his bourbon drink in a blue glass, really more a vase, the sort of receptacle one usually finds in the back of a kitchen cabinet when everything else in the house, even the plastic cups, has been commandeered. He held the drink in one hand, safe out behind him, and he approached the fuse with the railroad flare in the other. The mortar held a six-inch Japanese shell. I watched him—struck again by the grotesque attitudes that people get into when faced with igniting a shell. In his case, he seemed not unlike a scientist intent on catching a lizard by the back of the neck. The shell came out almost instantaneously. His surprise at the shock of its emergence—a six-inch shell of that type weighs about eight pounds—toppled Norman into a complete backward somersault through the sawgrass. Astonishingly the blue vase remained upright as he pinwheeled around it; not a drop of bourbon splashed out. He got up and took a sip and asked if he could do another. ‘Do you have anything slightly larger?'”

Selected Work
Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, And Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career (1997)
The Best of Plimpton (1990)
The Curious Case of Sidd Finch (1987)
Mad Ducks and Bears (1973)
The Bogey Man (1968)
Paper Lion (1966)
Out of My League (1961)

Links An Oral History of George Plimpton
Satirical letter to Britney Spears from Plimpton

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.