Inside Ryan Murphy’s Swans Soiree

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In 1966, Truman Capote threw his famous black and white ball at the Plaza Hotel, where a guest list that included the likes of Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley Jr., and Tallulah Bankhead gathered to fete the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.

Last night, Ryan Murphy threw his version of that party, also at the Plaza, to celebrate the premiere of his upcoming FX series Feud: Capote vs. The Swans. There, I watched Demi Moore feed a french fry to a drag queen and Bethenny Frankel do a little dance. Sure, the glamour quotient wasn't quite as high, but it sure was pretty fun.

The first season of Feud premiered seven years ago and centered on the war between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis; Capote vs. the Swans explores the relationship between Capote and his coterie of well-heeled socialites, who he dubs “the Swans,” because they stay above water but have to kick to stay afloat.

Outside the Museum of Modern Art, where last night’s festivities began, an enormous version of the titular bird hung over the black carpet as cast members like Diane Lane and Molly Ringwald worked the press line. Guests milled about before the screening, until a recording of Capote—or, more specifically, the actor who plays Feud’s Capote, Tom Hollander– told people to take their seats.

The first episode of the new season, directed by Gus Van Sant, chronicles how Capote (Hollander) sidles up to Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), the wife of CBS executive William S. Paley (Treat Williams), before ultimately betraying her and her circle by publishing a tell-all short story, "La Côte Basque, 1965" in Esquire. The piece, an excerpt from a novel-to-be, didn't use their real names, but the descriptions of Capote’s swans were so thinly-veiled that anyone in the know could tell exactly who was supposed to be who.

This season of Feud was written by playwright Jon Robin Baitz, but if there was a Capote of the night it was certainly Murphy himself, whose 300-plus lifetime Emmy nominations were shouted out by FX chairman John Landgraf in his intro for the TV impresario. Many of Murphy's own "swans" were there, including the cast playing the socialites—Watts, Moore, Lane, Ringwald, Chloë Sevigny, and Calista Flockhart—but also Emma Roberts, one of the producer's most frequent leading ladies, appropriately wearing a white gown with a feathered mini-cape.

During his intro Murphy even described how he was once approached to audition to play Capote for a movie being developed about the black and white ball. "When I said, 'offer only,' I never heard back," he added.

The guests took the dress code seriously, though admittedly it was hard to tell from the invitation just how fancy the ball would be. Would this be a full on black tie event? Or something a little more casual? (I went for a long black velvet dress with motorcycle boots—a happy medium.)

There was definitely high drama in the room, including a man wearing a bunny-eared black feathered mask that made him look like a chic Donnie Darko and a woman in a turban that surely obscured someone's viewing of the episode. "Please give yourself a round of applause for looking so beautiful in your black and white," Murphy said, speculating that it was the most "glamorous premiere since pre-COVID." To the man in the blue hoodie sitting next to Marc Jacobs: You stood out.

At the afterparty—the "ball," if you will—the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza was decked out with mannequins wearing costumes from the series. White balloons surrounded a cage dangling from the ceiling that would be used when a group of drag queens emerged to perform an elegant routine during which an acrobat took to the sky.

The queens would continue to mill about as Moore noshed from her personal bowl of fries and Watts dashed around hand in hand with husband Billy Crudup. Still, perhaps the most exciting attendee was Debbie Harry, someone who actually palled around with Capote back in the day. And that's a flex most other people in the room couldn't muster.

Originally Appeared on GQ