Essay: George Plimpton: The Professional Amateur

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One regimen Plimpton was in no hurry to establish was that of marriage. When he finally took the plunge—"a tremendous leap into a swimming pool of cold water," as he describes it—he almost forgot to tell the bride, who "really was," she admits, "among the last to know." Though the license had been acquired days in advance, the actual decision was not made until the morning of the wedding day itself. "He had been agonizing for a long time," explains Freddy, 29, who is blonde, green-eyed and a "knockout," in the dispassionate appraisal of one of George's former girl friends. "It was a question of his waking up one morning and saying it was now or never." Phone calls were made; caterers, florists and guests converged, almost simultaneously, on the Park Avenue apartment of a friend. Some didn't make it at all, and some were late. Jackie called to say she would be delayed—but not to hold up the wedding.

To Plimpton's delight, the current college generation finds him a particularly sympathetic figure. He is in the Establishment, yet out of it; he has dipped into a dozen different fields, yet is tied to none. He possesses both passionate interest and a kind of cool grace. "He is their ultimate vision of the writer," says Polish-born Novelist Jerzy Kosinski (The Painted Bird), one of George's countless literary friends. "To them he comes closest to the American conception of what a writer ought to be—that he should not just live off the imagination, like Proust, but should re-create an ideal search for experience."

In Plimpton's case, the search is not likely to stop soon. He has a score of Mittyish projects in the works or in the back of his mind, ranging from cooking in an elegant French restaurant to racing in the English Grand National Steeplechase—not to mention a book he is writing with Poet Marianne Moore about events they have attended and people they have met together.

There is, in fact, no end in sight to Plimpton's incursions into foreign territory. John Kennedy once asked him in the White House if he would like to be President for a day. "Sure," Plimpton answered. "What day?" "The 29th of February," Kennedy replied. Richard Nixon had better watch out. Plimpton is not likely to forget that there is such a thing as leap year—and that the 29th of February comes again in 1972. · Gerald Clarke

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