Monday, February 14, 2005

George Plimpton: The Proto-Networker – Continuing Last Week’s Conversation

To bring you up to date, let me remind you that last week, in response to an exchange with my friend Abbot Cooper, I sent out a request for anyone who may be able to shed some light on George Plimpton’s role as a “networker.” Almost immediately, I heard from my friend, Roy Vella, a Stanford grad who works for eBay/PayPal in San Francisco. Roy was familiar with Blair Fuller, who had first come to know George Plimpton when the two of them studied together at Harvard. Through an e-mail to Roy, Blair was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on George Plimpton.

Blair and I had a delightful phone conversation on Friday afternoon. During that conversation, I not only learned that Blair and George had been together at Harvard, but that they served together as editors of The Paris Review. Blair was very clear in making me aware that Plimpton would never have used the term “networking,” nor would he have seen himself as a “networker.” What we would today call networking – the weaving of a web of relationships for personal or business purposes – was not an aim in itself for Plimpton, but was, rather, a by-product of his genuine interest in people and of his curiosity about the world.

With that important clarification in mind, I am pleased to share with you some of Mr. Fuller’s thoughts on his friend, George Plimpton:

There's a lot that could be said about GAP and networking: he was interested in individuals. No political bias interfered with this interest. He was only peripherally interested in position of any kind. He was never impressed. People with big positions were often interesting because they had the confidence to express whatever they felt like --- as opposed the timidity of those who are impressed by position. He was very bright, eager to know many people and would retain their names. Kept a small size of writing paper so that only a couple of typed lines would look sufficient --- he often sent very short notes. He had a Rolodex --- did not depend on anyone else to keep names and numbers. He never told self-aggrandizing stories, although he liked to tell stories, God knows.

It occurs to me: He was close with many Kennedys. He took the pistol from Sirhan Sirhan and NEVER talked about it. He spent a weekend at Camp David with George Bush. They played golf, tennis, pitched horseshoes, bowled, and at the very end played tiddlywinks (!) I asked how he felt about Bush. "No one can say a bad thing about him to me," said George.



Thank you, Blair, for adding to our understanding of the role that “networking” played in George Plimpton’s life.

Al Chase

FYI: Blair Fuller, is an editor of The Paris Review, author of two novels, and the recipient of two O. Henry Awards for his short stories. His most recent book is Art in the Blood: Seven Generations of American Artists in the Fuller Family.

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