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Asking the Future Queen to Dance

The elegant man of letters once sat opposite Princess Elizabeth of England. “Halfway through dinner I leaned across the table and lit her cigarette for her with a French match that sputtered badly,” he recalled. “By about midnight I had steeled myself to asking her to dance. I was just rising out of my chair to go around the table to ask her when the orchestra gave vent with a Mexican hat dance — certainly not the sort of music suited to the occasion of one G. Plimpton dancing with the future queen of the British Empire. I sank back into my chair.” Who knew the prim queen once smoked? Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, reviewing a new anthology of writing by and about Plimpton, also picks this anecdote from Anne Fulenwider, an intern on the Paris Review. “One night, George took us all to Elaine’s for dinner, all six or eight of us, and Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband came in.” Introductions were made, and Goodwin, amazed that all of them worked in George’s house, told her husband: “This is what we need! We need six kids to be running around our house all the time.” Now that would be a team of rivals.