George Plimpton: Man of many talents

George Plimpton, one of the more or less unknown artists of our time, is coming to lecture at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall as part of the 2002-2003 Arts and Lectures Series, and you have to see him. Why? Because in this day and age, the idea of a Renaissance man is almost as alien to us as the thought of trying to live without electricity.

Not that Plimpton is an actual Renaissance man. There is far too much information nowadays in the world for such a person to even exist. Yet I hold to my resolve to call him such. As an author/editor of well over 30 books, the editor and co-founder of The Paris Review, and an actor in 20-plus movies and numerous television appearances, he comes closer to the idea or definition of a person of Renaissance than most.

That and the fact he is insightful and funny as hell.

In a film career that goes back four decades (his first being “Lawrence of Arabia”), he has worked with the likes of John Wayne (“Rio Lobos”) on through to Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting”).

He says of death scenes: “The worst thing that can happen to your career is to be shot out in an open field. You’ve got to be in the right position to die dramatically, against a wall, near something to hang onto. Never close your eyes. Glaze them. You can’t go wrong bringing something down with you when you fall. A tablecloth is excellent. Preferably with a meal on it.”

In writing, Plimpton brings his own personal brand of wit. When discussing his work area, he states: “I suspect I sit at entirely the wrong desk. It is so crowded with distractions that there’s hardly room to see a small pad amongst them and get to work – framed photos, mementos, trophy cups full of unsharpened pencils, a box of foreign currency, a tin in the form of Shea Stadium with a top that when removed plays ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” a Masai doll, a tined musical instrument from West Africa, a brass megaphone, paperweights, a small clock that doesn’t work, a dish of keys to locks I can’t remember. There’s almost nothing on the desk that is useful – such as a pencil sharpener to sharpen all those pencils. I have often wondered if I swept it all clear – Saint Jerome in his cell – would I do better – churn out the odd masterpiece?”

It is possible to imagine Plimpton’s lectures play out more like a one-man show, something like an evening with Spalding Grey, if you will.

Regardless, considering the experiences of the man giving it, an evening with George Plimpton promises to be entertaining. Don’t miss this chance to see one of the few people of Renaissance quality in the world of the arts in person.

Plimpton will be in Portland on Jan. 22, and his lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The lecture preview at 5:30 p.m., and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

For ticket information, call 503-227-2583.