Truman Capote's ashes up for auction

WASHINGTON • Have a few thousand bucks to burn? Then Truman Capote's ashes could be yours.

The In Cold Blood author's remains go on auction next month.

A statement from Julien's Auctions last Wednesday said: "The ashes of Truman Capote are housed in a memorial Japanese carved wooden box. The ashes were kept by television host Joanne Carson, who was one of Capote's closest friends. She often said the ashes brought her great comfort."

Capote, 59, was cremated in 1984 in Los Angeles and Carson, ex-wife of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, had kept half of his ashes in Capote's writing room in her Bel Air, California home, where the Breakfast At Tiffany's author had kept one of two rooms.

The other half went to Capote's long-time partner, Jack Dunphy.

Carson's half of the ashes, estimated to fetch US$4,000 (S$5,400) to US$6,000, has had quite a history.

The urn was stolen at a Halloween party she held in 1988. She said she had entered the room to deliver some balloons to Capote when she noticed the urn was missing. "His ashes were my sanity for the last four years," she said at that time. The ashes were later returned mysteriously.

Carson, who died last year aged 83, then interred the urn at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. In 1991, she brought out his remains for another party, to celebrate a play about the writer's life which had returned to Los Angeles. Yet again, someone tried to purloin the ashes. However, the thief was caught in the act and Capote remained tucked away since.

Broadly speaking, under United States federal law, people can buy non-grave-robbed human remains, unless the deceased in question is Native American.

The auction house owner Darren Julien argued that selling the remains was in keeping with the spirit of Capote's life.

"Truman Capote loved the element of shock," he told Vanity Fair. "He loved publicity. And I'm sure he's looking down laughing and saying, 'That's something I would have done.' He was a larger-than-life character."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Truman Capote's ashes up for auction'. Subscribe