What Hugh Hefner, David Bowie and Julie Child all have in common

For the past 16 years, the Proust Questionnaire has been a popular page in Vanity Fair magazine—a series of probing questions (which originated as a 19th-century Parisian parlor game) put to prominent cultural figures in the hopes of catching a glimpse into their inner selves. We can’t vouch for every answer being the result of deep soul-searching, but the handsome and comprehensive Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire: 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life is a fascinating and entertaining read , and illustrated with vibrant caricatures by Robert Risko.

It’s an eclectic list of participants—where else would Ted Kennedy, Claudette Colbert, Little Richard and Jasper Johns all show up?—and the answers are candid, funny and often surprising. Kirk Douglas reveals that the thing he dislikes most about his appearance is his famous chin; Norman Mailer notes that his biggest regret was “not knowing at 30 what I knew about women at 60”; and Martin Scorsese declares what he considers his greatest achievement: putting eardrops in his dog’s ears.

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What Hugh Hefner, David Bowie and Julie Child all have in common