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George Plimpton Biography and Career Timeline

Biography courtesy of The Paris Review.

George Plimpton (1927–2003) was the editor of The Paris Review from its founding in 1953 until his death in 2003. A graduate of Harvard University and Kings College, Cambridge, Plimpton was recruited to Paris by Peter Matthiessen in 1952 and signed onto the project shortly thereafter. “I’ve decided to stay over here in Paris and run this magazine,” he wrote to his parents. “I think I’d be a fool not to.”

Aside from his lifelong commitment to The Paris Review, Plimpton is best known for his forays into the world of professional athletics: he earned a bloody nose while sparring with Archie Moore in 1959; he exhausted himself during an outing as a pitcher against a series of MLB All Stars in 1960; he lost thirty yards during a stint as quarterback for the Detroit Lions in 1963; and he was trounced in golf by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in 1967…despite a personal handicap of 18. His knack for participatory journalism also led him to test his acrobatics as an aerialist for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus—he failed miserably—and to try his hand as a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic (where a miss-hit on the gong earned him the immediate applause of conductor Leonard Bernstein).

All told, Plimpton authored more than fifteen books, including Paper Lion, Out of My League, and The Bogey Man. He also appeared in more than thirty films, including Lawrence of Arabia, Rio Robo, and Good Will Hunting. Plimpton was made an officier of the L’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres and a chevalier of the Legion d’honneur, and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Timeline of George Plimpton’s Life

1927 George Plimpton born (March 18)

1940 Attends Exeter Academy

1944 Kicked out of Exeter Academy; attends Harvard University

1948 Joins Army, stationed in Italy

1950 Graduates from Harvard; attends Cambridge University

1952 Peter Matthiessen calls, offers editing job

1953 First issue of The Paris Review published

1957 Plimpton moves back to New York; starts writing for Sports Illustrated

1958 Pitches against All-Stars at Yankee Stadium

1959 Boxes Archie Moore

1961 Out of My League published

1963 Joins Detroit Lions and writes about Lions for Sports Illustrated

1966 Swims against Olympian Don Scholander; Paper Lion published

1967 Plays in PGA, writes The Bogey Man

1968 Plays with the New York Philharmonic; marries Freddy Espy; Robert F. Kennedy is killed

1969 Plays with Boston Celtics

1970-72 Plimpton! TV specials air (stand-up comedy, car racing, football, African photography, trapeze in the circus, playing with New York Philharmonic, and acting with John Wayne)

1971 Appears as punchline in New Yorker cartoon; daughter Medora Ames Plimpton is born

1975 Works as photographer for Playboy

1977 Son Taylor Ames Plimpton is born; plays with Boston Bruins

1981 Appears in Reds

1984 Open Net published

1985 “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” article appears in Sports Illustrated (April 1)

1988 Freddy files for divorce

1991 Plimpton marries Sarah Dudley

1994 Twin daughters Laura and Olivia are born

2002 Plimpton inducted into American Academy of Arts and Letters

2003 The Paris Review celebrates 50th anniversary; Plimpton reunites with Paper Lion team for 40th anniversary; dies in his sleep at age 76 on September 25



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