"Feud" season two shines a light on the late New York socialite Babe Paley and her husband Bill.
The first episode sees Babe confide in Truman Capote after she discovers her husband's affair.
The series casts Happy Rockefeller as the other woman, something that has never been confirmed.
Showing up at her grand Manhattan apartment, Capote dismisses the florist, the cook, and gets Babe's kids out of her hair with the promise of a matinee showing of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Once they're alone, a distraught Babe spills all to the man whom she never expected would one day betray her confidence.
Her husband, the broadcasting giant Bill Paley (the late Treat Williams) — yes, Paley as in the Paley Center for Media — has been having an affair behind her back, she reveals to Capote. An affair she was previously aware of but thought was long over.
After Capote comforts her, insists she take a valium, and suggests she use the opportunity to request a nice, new piece of jewelry from her philandering spouse, she muses that the only person who could ever really hurt her would be Capote himself. "And that would never happen," Capote promises.
But betray her he did, through a thinly veiled portrait of the couple that he wove into a short story published some years later.
Capote exposed Bill Paley's infidelity in a short story published in 1975
When "La Côte Basque 1965" ran in the November 1975 issue of Esquire, Capote launched a literary missile at New York society. Only a few of the glamorous and wealthy women that the writer surrounded himself with were spared from being satirized in the piece, which recounts several hushed conversations had and heard at the titular restaurant.
Capote's friendships with his so-called "swans" were the collateral; many, including Babe Paley, never spoke to him again.
According to the book "Capote's Women" by Laurence Leamer (which executive producer Murphy and lead writer Jon Robin Baitz based this season of "Feud" on) Paley saw one of the most humiliating moments laid bare for all to read in the story.
In "La Côte Basque 1965," the character Lady Ina Coolbirth (largely believed to have been based on Slim Keith) tells her dining partner about a salacious incident she had heard about Sidney Dillon, the "conglomateur" husband of the glamorous housewife Cleo Dillon.
The story, in essence, is that Sidney experienced a fraught night of trying to clean menstrual blood out of his bedsheets after he hooks up with another woman when his wife is away.
This incident is recreated in the pilot episode of "Feud" but ends a little differently. While the husband in the "La Côte Basque 1965" story manages to hide his thwarted night of passion from his wife by getting the stains out of the sheets, in "Feud," we see Babe walk in on her husband as he's still desperately scrubbing away — and then take care of the sheets herself.
There are conflicting theories on the identity of the woman Bill Paley had an affair with
According to Vanity Fair, after the story was published, there was little doubt that the Dillons were supposed to be stand-ins for the real-life Paleys, especially as Capote hadn't attempted to change any of their attributes.
However, one thing that wasn't immediately clear was the identity of the other woman, who Capote describes in the story as a "homely beast, legal spouse of a former New York governor."
Leamer's "Capote's Women" theorizes that the woman in question was Marie Harriman, the wife of W. Averell Harriman. Per an obituary in The New York Times, she was an acquaintance of Capote's.
However, "Feud" casts another former first lady of New York in the role: Margaretta Fitler "Happy" Rockefeller (played by Rebecca Creskoff), the wife of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who was the New York governor from 1959 to 1973.
In an author's note that accompanies the novel "The Swans of Fifth Avenue," which is loosely based on Capote and his coterie of socialites, author Melanie Benjamin states that the prevailing belief at the time "La Côte Basque 1965" was published was that the woman was Rockefeller.
However, she adds: "More likely, the woman in the story was an amalgamation of the many women with whom Paley had affairs."
"Feud: Capote vs. The Swans" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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