Gay Talese is an American journalist and a nonfiction writer. He wrote for The New York Times in the 1960s after working for its copy and obituary sections. In the 1950s, he was one of the first writers to add minute details, use literary flairs, and begin articles in medias res. These techniques became the foundation of the revolutionary “New Journalism.”
He has written many non-fiction books, beginning with 1964’s The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. His 2006 autobiography A Writer’s Life focuses on his trials and failures as a writer, such as having a profile piece rejected by The New Yorker, which ironically reviewed the book positively and said it had a “distinctly moving” quality.
Gay Talese was recently named the winner of a George Polk Award for career achievement. The awards, presented by Long Island University, are considered among the top prizes in U.S. journalism. Born in 1932, Talese graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in journalism.
Question: What are you wearing today?
Gay Talese: Well, sometimes I wear clothes that are made for me by tailors. Sometimes, I go to special stores where I like the merchandise. Now this jacket I’m wearing is – I have a favorite store in Paris. I sometimes go to Paris once a year at least, and I always go to the store it’s called Francesco’s Smalto, and this is a Smalto jacket. I purchase often things from there. I like the cut, very continental cut, very distinguished. It’s the finest off the rack tailoring you can get I think. Now the tailoring I usually wear are clothes that are made for me by relatives of mine who are also in Paris – my cousins Christiani and Francis Christiani, Antonio Christiani. Their father was the owner Antonio was a mentor to my father. They’re Italians who went to Paris in the case of the Old Christiani in 1911, and they had a shop for 50 years on the Route De Lape, and they made all my clothes, and I have tailor made clothes from other people.
Question: And the tie?
Gay Talese: The tie is certainly not made for me. I go to special places to have the ties. I have a tailor that I know, and I live on the east side of Manhattan, and there’s a shop that sells ties that I go to and have shirts also made. The shirt maker is called “Addison on Madison”, but they’re not Madison; they used to be. They’ve now moved to a private place. The store is no longer on the street. They have a little back business, but I get all my shirts made for me.
Recorded on September 22, 2009