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Soboroff adds Truman Capote typewriter to collection

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

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Truman Capote's nicotine stained Smith Corona, with which he typed his final three novels. It's now in Steve Soboroff's collection of historic typewriters, which he uses to raise money for scholarships. Steve Soboroff

Off-Ramp host John Rabe speaks with Steve Soboroff about the latest typewriter in his collection: the Smith-Corona Truman Capote used to write his last three novels.

"What the typewriter symbolizes now is timelessness, and also a slower, more thoughtful way of life. What is made these days that will be used 60, 70, 80, 100 years from now? I don't think there's anything, and these typewriters have hundreds of years to go." — Steve Soboroff on KPCC's Off-Ramp in 2012.

I asked Steve Soboroff if he ever wakes up and thinks to himself how weird it is that he's been collection historic typewriters for the last 11 years. "No," he says. "I wish I had started a lot earlier!"

Soboroff is the businessman and current head of the L.A. Police Commission, who collects only historically significant typewriters. He adds a few each year, and now has machines owned by Julie Andrews, Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, Joe DiMaggio, the Unabomber, Jack Kevorkian, and Andy Rooney ... and recently, EM Forster's.

Soboroff brings them to charity events, where people have now paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to type on them. They money goes for journalism scholarships.

LISTEN as John tours Soboroff's collection and uses the fabled Andy Rooney typewriter

From the beginning, he's lusted after Truman Capote's typewriter. A particular typewriter. Capote befriended Joanne Carson (Johnny Carson's widow) in the early 1970s, "to the point where he, when he was in Los Angeles, had a little writing room and bedroom in her home." It's where he wrote his final three books, "Answered Prayers," "A Dog’s Bark," and "Music for Chameleons," and this is machine he used to write them.

Soboroff says he tried to buy the typewriter a few years ago, but Carson refused. But then, on a whim, he wrote her a week or so ago, and after a few emails, she invited him to her home. There was the typewriter ... with a red bow on it.

(Joanne Carson with Truman Capote's typewriter and dictionary. Credit: Steve Soboroff)

"She took me into his writing room," Soboroff says, "and nothing has been changed. And the bedroom where he passed away. And she started telling me these stories, and I could have sat there for six hours; it was just UN-believeable. His bible was there. His dictionary's there, and photographs. When I talk about feeling with these typewriters, instead of intellectualizing, this is as close as I've been."

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