The Most Notorious Literary Party Animals


It’s almost the weekend, and we can bet that means you have at least one enticing soirée on your horizon. But will you party as hard as your favorite author? Literary history is filled with notoriously hard-partying writers, from the decadent Fitzgeralds, flouncing about in public fountains with their clothes on, to the permissive Beat poets, flouncing about in mixed company with their clothes off. Romantic, perhaps, but keep in mind that often the most reckless partiers paid for their indulgences in their health or creative ability, so revel with care. Click through to read our list and take some cues (or some warnings, more likely) from ten of the most notorious party animals in literary history, and let us know if we missed your favorite bon vivant or sultry bacchant in the comments.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Reckless, beautiful and always intoxicated — Jazz Age decadence personified — Scott and Zelda made headlines for their scandalous exploits: jumping into the Plaza Hotel’s fountain fully clothed, joyriding around the city in various states of intoxication, spending night after night partying until dawn with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Sadly, their lifestyle — and their mutual dramatic personalities — soon began to backfire, disrupting their marriage, their reputations, and their health.

Truman Capote

The always fabulous Capote is almost as famous for his lavish parties as he is for his contributions to literature. Not only was he a Studio 54 regular, hanging out with Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, Liza Minelli, and anyone who was anyone in the ’60s, but he also threw one of the most famous parties of all time — the legendary Black and White Ball, a masquerade party held in the Grand Ballroom of New York City’s Plaza Hotel. There’s even an entire book, Party of the Century , about the evening, which is more than anyone else can say about one of their parties.

Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney

The two starring members of the American 1980s literary Brat Pack, Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney were famous for their celebrity-studded cocaine-fueled party hopping, the living embodiment of the dead-eyed hedonistic rich kids they both wrote about. Now, they’ve both settled into adulthood with relative respectability, McInerney gently mocking himself in other writers’ book trailers and publishing a collection of his wine writing, Ellis teasing his fans with hints of an American Psycho sequel.

William S. Burroughs

Though well known for being a heroin addict and a relentless partier, Burroughs’ most famous party exploit is also his most deadly — in 1951, he shot and killed his wife while drunkenly playing “William Tell” at a party above a bar in Mexico City. We can’t say that that dampened his resolve, however — or at least not for long.

Christopher Marlowe

Though relatively little is known for sure about Christopher Marlowe, the accusations racked up against him tell the tale of a brawling, spying, bisexual party boy living it up in the Elizabethan era, who once reportedly quipped, “all they that love not Tobacco and Boys are fools.” Called out as an atheist, a heretic, a “rakehell,” a “duellist,” and any number of other less savory things over the years, we figure that anyone who inspires so much name-calling was clearly doing something right.

Dorothy Parker

We refer to the lady herself: “I like to have a martini/ Two at the very most./ Three, I’m under the table/ Four, I’m under the host.” Spoken like a true (and remarkably self-aware) party girl.

Allen Ginsberg

If this photo, from Ginsberg’s 39th birthday party, doesn’t say it all, then maybe take a look at some of the notoriously free-spirited poet’s verse about partying with his friends: “twenty youths/ dancing to the vibration thru the floor,/ a little weed in the bathroom, girls in scarlet/ tights, one muscular smooth skinned man/ sweating dancing for hours…” Sounds like a good time to us.

Salman Rushdie

Yeah, we didn’t expect to put Salman Rushdie on this list either. We know he has a tendency to date impossibly beautiful women (and break up with them on Facebook), but we never thought of him as a hard partier. Apparently, however, the guy is now everywhere, quickly establishing himself as a fixture of the NYC social scene, always with a handful of ladies on his arm(s). Well, if Rushdie wants to be ubiquitous, we can’t say we have a problem with that. Keep on keeping on.

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer was a force of nature in New York City in the 1950s, his enormous ego and his penchant for drinking and drugs fueling his bohemian Greenwich Village lifestyle. A pugnacious drunk and a relentless womanizer, Mailer’s aggressive partying came to a head in 1960, when he stabbed Adele Morales, his second wife (of an eventual six, mind you), in the neck with “a three-inch dirty penknife.” She refused to press charges.

Dylan Thomas

Perhaps the most committed alcoholic on this list — and that’s saying a lot, considering his company — Thomas was a loose cannon, even when he began to draw serious acclaim. Biographer Andrew Lycett observes that Thomas “exhibited the excesses and experienced the adulation which would later be associated with rock stars.” We can see the shirtless guitar-smashing now.