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Tymon Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Footnotes: George Plimpton

The Paris Review has just celebrated the publication of its 200th issue. Unfortunately for one of the world’s most revered and beloved literary journals, its first editor-in-chief, George Plimpton, isn’t around to share in the celebrations.

Plimpton, who died in 2003, was born on 18 March 1927, into an influential New York family. He was a Harvard graduate who wrote for the Harvard Lampoon, drove a tank in Italy for the US Army during World War 2, obtained a second degree at Cambridge and, at the age of 26, became the first editor-in-chief of The Paris Review. A Harvard classmate of Robert Kennedy’s, Plimpton was present when the senator was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968 and was credited as being one of the people who helped wrestle the assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, to the ground. For his most well-known book, Paper Lion, Plimpton signed up for pre-season training with the Detroit Lions NFL team and turned his experiences into a book, which was later made into a film. He performed similar exercises for books about baseball and golf and for articles about a range of sporting activities written for Sports Illustrated.

He appeared in a number of television episodes and films, playing secondary characters – these included ER and Good Will Hunting. He was also an interviewee in the 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, about the famous fight in Zaire between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman.


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