Shelved Dolls: Lillie Mae Faulk – The Real Holly Golightly

When Truman Capote was throwing the Black and White Ball, which was, well, probably the most majorly publicized party of all time (one critic suggested that the guest list was comprised of everyone who’d be first to the guillotine) one man came to Truman. His wife was a social climber who wasn’t really prestigious – and Truman had been almost gleefully turning away major socialites who were begging for invitations – and the man said that his wife was so upset that she hadn’t been invited that she’d taken to her bed and had been taking all kinds of sleeping pills. As soon as he heard that, Truman immediately ran to the phone, called her, and apologized for having lost her invitation in the mail, and told her that he expected to see her there early at his party.

That was a nice thing he did.

Long before that, though shortly after Lillie/Nina’s death, Truman wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The title is borrowed from a story Truman heard about a young marine. The marine spent the night with a middle aged man in New York. The next morning, the man was so grateful he offered to take the marine anyplace he wanted for breakfast. “Pick someplace fancy,” he said. The marine had only heard of one fancy place in New York. “Well,” he said, “let’s have breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Neither Truman nor his mother were probably ever quite that naive, but, considering where they came from, they might have been close.

Truman said at the beginning that the novel was about a woman who wanted a calm place to go to, amids “that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s does not end, as the movie does, with that woman finding that calm place in another person. But one day, the narrator does see Holly’s former cat looking well taken care of and contented in a windowsill, and he hopes that, wherever Holly is, she is, too. Perhaps he felt a desire to make her so. But perhaps he also realized that would have been pushing things too far.

Even if she never found that sense of calm, Nina did get to live for a while amid the lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. In doing so, she gave birth to not only one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, but, as far as I can tell, one of the greatest characters.  I think even Holly Golightly, always top banana in the shock department, would have been impressed.


Pics via Paramount Pictures Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Capote: A Biography

Party of the Century


Additional Reading:

Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Accquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, George Plimpton

Capote: A Biography, Gerald Clarke

Party of the Century, Deborah Davis


Fifth Avenue, 5 AM, Sam Wasson

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote




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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.