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Joseph Wambaugh Roasts Truman Capote

October 25, 2009

Recently, I’ve been enjoying watching the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.  The concept of the television series is simple, a prominent celebrity is subjected to a ‘roast’, a tribute in the form of good natured ribbing and comical insults, from a panel of fellow celebrities and friends. Whole episodes of the original series have been uploaded onto Youtube.

In this episode from 1974, an inebriated Truman Capote is roasted by a group of celebrity friends, one of whom is Joseph Wambaugh, then at the beginning of his literary career and still a Detective Sergeant in the LAPD. Wambaugh’s first truly great work, The Onion Field (1973) is hugely influenced by Capote’s In Cold Blood (1965), which is arguably the first non-fiction novel. Wambaugh had written two previous novels to moderate success but it was The Onion Field, a factual account of the kidnapping of two plain-clothes LAPD Officers and the subsequent murder of Officer Ian Campbell, which established Wambaugh as one of the most important crime writers of his generation.

In the clip below, Wambaugh gives a funny and touching tribute to Capote. There is also something rather sad amidst the laughter, as Capote’s alcoholism and mental deterioration are already becoming self-evident.

Dean Martin introduces Wambaugh four minutes into the clip:

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