If you didn’t know the man, you could, I think, be fooled by the voice. I mean, if George Plimpton wasn’t my father and I’d never met him, and I heard that voice emerge from his lips and matched it with his severe Roman features and his usual blue blazer, oxford shirt, and tie, I might have assumed that he was a little pompous or snooty or affected.
Actually, that’s not far off from how my mom felt when she first met him. She was having lunch at P. J. Clarke’s with the publisher Bennet Cerf and his son Chris, and my dad swooped over to the table (he was wearing a cape) and introduced himself in that ridiculously gallant voice: “Bennet, Chris, what a pleasant surprise! …And what have we here?” My mom’s initial impression was that he was a little hoity-toity—“I mean, who did this guy think he was?”
But the second time they met, it was, in fact, my father’s voice that won her over. She’d wandered out to the balcony of a lonely Manhattan cocktail party, and was standing out there, smoking a cigarette and looking down mournfully at the street far below, when from behind her she heard a voice: “I know a better way down.”