Making a Success Out of Failure


Watch Excerpt from Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself

Mr. Zero. Vague. These are some of the nicknames the celebrated writer and journalist George Plimpton tried on for size during his lifetime (1927–2003). Plimpton did not show much early promise when shortly before graduation, he flunked out of the college preparatory school Exeter (Phillips Exeter Academy), where generations of his family held an esteemed reputation. In this film excerpt, Plimpton’s son reads from his father’s essay, “How Failing at Exeter Made a Success of George Plimpton.”

Plimpton reflects in the essay, “Could it have been that, having failed in all departments at Exeter, I was driven in later life to compensate, to try once again to succeed where I hadn’t? I’ve wondered, on occasion, whether these exercises in participatory journalism for which I am known were as much to show my mentors at Exeter that I had somehow managed to intrude onto the highest plateaus of their various disciplines.”

Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself premieres nationally Friday, May 16, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).