Monday, January 3, 2011


For Christmas my sister Lansing gave me scanned copies of two treasured photographs featuring our grandmother, Katharine Lansing Barnes. To many she was known as "Sister". To us she was Oma.

In this photograph, she and our grandfather are walking outside Central Park on a brisk wintry day. They married October 4, 1930, both in their mid-twenties. After working as a reporter and editor at various newspapers and magazines ( Parade, Town and Country, The Saturday Evening Post) Grandpa Joe joined the Navy during World War 2. After the war he worked for the CIA.

In a half hearted attempt to join the CIA the author John O'Hara ( Appointment in Samarra, Pal Joey) filled out an application and attended a dinner party arranged by his friend, our grandfather, in 1949. He got so drunk he pretty much disqualified himself from service. The next morning Oma congratulated him. She said getting drunk was the most sensible thing he could have done.

Five years later, O'Hara's wife, Belle, died and he eventually began seeing newly seperated Oma, described by Frank MacShane in The Life of John O'Hara as " a witty, stylish and outgoing person who got on with literary people such as Dorothy Parker as well as with the social world in which she was brought up". They married in 1955. Our grandfather sent a telegram of congratulations signed "Frying Pan".

They lived a comfortable life with a house in Princeton and another in Quogue. O'Hara became disenchanted with New York City (" all glass and parking lots , with no building, residential or otherwise, safe from the wrecker's big iron ball") but he and Oma were among the exclusive 540 people who attended Truman Capote's famous black and white ball at The Plaza in 1966. Sinatra was there. Mailer. Warhol. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Garbo.

The New York Times described arriving guests as rolling "off the assembly line like dolls, newly painted and freshly coiffed, packaged in silk, satin and jewels".

<--Truman Capote gets masked up for his ball

The ball was a great publicity stunt: the most lavish book release party of all time. The book: In Cold Blood.

Candace Bergin dancing. Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra arriving. ( The men got rid of their masks as soon as they could).
A recent book about the "party of the century".

Inside the Plaza ballroom.


  1. Love the picture. They look so sophisticated.

  2. Have you seen this book? Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball You can get it on Amazon: