By George, Plimpton Doc Seeks Public Funding

If ever someone’s life were worth a feature-length treatment, it’s beloved Paris Review co-founder, peripatetic amateur athlete and former New York City fireworks commissioner George Plimpton. Just today, as noted by The Paris Review itself,  a campaign has been launched on the public-financing-for-the-arts site Kickstarter to fund a documentary about life of the literary gadabout and inveterate bon vivant.

In the course of his journalism career, Plimpton variously pitched to Willie Mays, boxed with Archie Moore, tried out for the Detroit Lions, golfed in a tournament with Arnold Palmer, spent time as a high-wire walker and played goalie for the Boston Bruins. In addition, he edited one of the world’s most esteemed literary journals and wrestled the gun from the hands of Sirhan Sirhan after the assassin had shot Robert Kennedy.

Like so many, Tom Bean and Luke Poling found Plimpton an irresistible presence, and approached his widow Sarah about making a film. She was more than happy to oblige, and gave the filmmakers full access to Plimpton’s study and papers. Thus, Plimpton! the movie began.

“He’s such an agent of joy,” said Bean. “He’s sheer optimism, and he so much lived the American Century…It’s really cool to see the world through George Plimpton’s eyes.”

With the help of longtime Paris Review board member and Sports Illustrated editor Terry “Big Sky” McDonell, the two set about excavating the vast archive of photos and footage from Plimpton’s merry exploits. (In addition to McDonell, those interviewed include Hugh Hefner, novelist James Salter, and the late restauranteuse Elaine Kauffman.)

The Kickstarter campaign is largely to cover the cost of licensing footage from Plimpton’s television show, which is owned by Warner Brothers, and the cameo he once had on The Simpsons, which Bean would only say will cost “thousands of dollars.”

All together, they hope to raise $25,000 by August 26th. So far, the outlook for the project is Plimptonianly optimistic. This morning the Kickstarter page showed 36 backers, donating a total of $2,783. By the time of this writing, that number had risen to $4,038, coming from 43 donors.