Birth of Radical Chic (1970)

Tom Wolfe on what led to his writing the masterful Radical Chic (1970):

One day I went over to Esquire where my girlfriend, who would become my wife, worked. I started wandering around. Most people were at lunch. So while waiting for her I walked into David Halberstam’s office and there on his desk was an invitation from Leonard and Felicia Bernstein to a party for the Black Panthers at 835 Park Avenue, which was really Park Avenue to the third power. And I said, “God, I got to go to that.”

So I took down the telephone number on the invitation. And I took a chance that some sort of committee would be handling RSVPs instead of the Bernsteins. So I just called the number and I said, “I am Tom Wolfe and I accept.” When I got there, there was a little security check. But sure enough there was my name on the list. It was going to be a chapter in this nonfiction novel, but it was so good that the old firebell rang and I had to write this as fast as I could. So I wrote it up for the Herald Tribune.

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