Shelved Dolls: Lillie Mae Faulk – The Real Holly Golightly

Arch Persons and Truman Capote. Arch turned this picture into a postcard, which he sold once Truman became famous.

She promised Truman – as Holly was always saying she promised her brother Fred – that just as soon as she got enough money she was going to send for him. She moved to New York where she told 5 year old Truman she’d support herself “hostessing.” It is somewhat up to you to decide what she meant by that.

Truman probably had his own ideas. Later in life, when interviewed, Truman said that Holly was a kind of American Geisha hostess who “was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check … if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night.”

Truman was left with his southern relatives, the Faulks, who you might remember from stories like A Christmas Memory or Truman’s first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms. One upside to this was that he meet his neighbor Harper Lee (she based the character Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird on Truman) - as well as Sonny Boular who later became the inspiration for Boo Radley.

However, unlike Holly, Lillie did send for Truman. In 1931, when Truman was 8, Lillie married a successful South American businessman Joe Capote (Joe, not Jose, the successful South American Holly wanted to marry in Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Joe, according to almost everyone who knew him, was lovely. Phoebe Vreeland, who grew up near the Capotes and became a friend of Truman’s claimed,

“Joe was a darling guy, wonderful fun. If she was the first divorcee mother I met, he was the first Cuban. He had a wonderful accent, a Cuban accent, which is nothing like Puerto Rican or Spanish. He was funny, humorous and taught me how to rhumba. But Nina was his life. And he didn’t really know how to handle the whole thing. Of course, he couldn’t handle his financial life. He ended up in Sing Sing for embezzlement. I’ll never forget that, I mean, Sing Sing! That’s where Jimmy Cagney goes to jail. Not the nice guy who taught you how to do the rhumba.”

What day was it that Holly Golightly went to visit her friend at Sing Sing who was there for financial trouble? Thursday? Doesn’t matter.

Share This Post:
    • Amy

      Fascinating story! Thanks so much for sharing

    • Caitlin

      Yes, this is great! Super interesting. Excellent work and thanks for posting

    • Samantha

      I love this column so much.
      This might be my favorite yet – it almost brought me to tears.

    • Nancy

      What they said! Keep them coming!

    • Erin

      Thank you for the Shelved Dolls articles. They are lovely.

    • Jaclyn

      Very well done. These pieces are fantastic and each one is more fascinating than the last.

    • Lindsey

      You should put these into a book and sell people the book.

    • Cate

      I agree with the stuff everyone else is saying. I love this series.

      • Jennifer Wright

        AW YOU GUYS!

        I think next week might be Evelyn Nesbit. She is saucy. Also, I need to find someone whose life isn’t incredibly sad. Which is not Evelyn Nesbit. I mean, she’s pretty sad.

    • Robin

      You know, for the longest time, I sort of assumed that Truman Capote had intended Holly Golightly to be a female version of himself (given how others who knew him, such as Harper Lee, had seemed to describe him). I don’t really have time to read past the first page at the moment, but I look forward to reading the rest of your case soon!

    • diane kaston

      thank you thank you, this just blew me away, see you at tiffany’s

    • Kate

      Just had to jump on the “God-this-series-is-fantastic-please-never-stop-writing-it!!” bandwagon. Great writing, fascinating subjects… I’m always so excited to see a new Shelved Doll article. So, please, keep it up!

    • Rod

      “In 1931, when Truman was 8, Lillie married a successful South American businessman Joe Capote (Joe, not Jose, the successful South American Holly wanted to marry in Breakfast at Tiffany’s)”

      But Joe is short for Joseph, isn’t it? That is, José in Spanish (and Joe was Cuban).

    • An Okie

      Loved the piece. But I have one thing. It’s Okie, not Oakie. We’re not made of wood.

    • Luisa

      Wonderful piece! I did have an issue with one tiny bit-Cuba is NOT in South America.