Feud: Did Slim Keith Sleep With Bill Paley?

Friendships are complicated in Hulu’s ‘Feud: Capote vs the Swans.’ While the focus is on the ruin of Capote’s friendship with his New York socialites known as the Swans, the show also turns its attention toward the many affairs of the Swans and how they impacted the relationships within the group. In the fourth episode of the season, we discover that Slim Keith is having an affair with Bill Paley. This is when her best friend, Babe Paley, is battling cancer while still recuperating from the betrayal of Truman Capote and his Esquire article. Considering how close the Swans are and how dedicated Slim is to making Truman pay for his betrayal, particularly to Slim, it seems rather unbelievable that she would betray her best friend in such a way.

Slim Keith and Bill Paley’s Affair May Have Been Real

One of the things about Capote’s Swans was that they had very colorful lives, especially when it came to romance. Slim, particularly, had her own fair share of affairs, not including her three marriages, all of which ended in divorce. In her list of many admirers and lovers (some brief, some for a longer period of time), one will find names like Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Peter Viertel, and Frank Sinatra. In fact, the men that she married also started out as affairs.

In the same vein, Bill Paley was notorious for being a womanizer. His list of affairs includes women from different walks of life, including actress Louise Brooks. But his most famous affair remains with Happy Rockefeller, which became infamous after Truman Capote immortalized it in the excerpt from his book ‘Answered Prayers,’ published in Esquire, which eventually led to the rift between him and the Swans.

Considering that both Slim and Bill were known for indulging in affairs and had known each other for a long time, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to believe that they may have been together at one point. While the show dives into this theory headfirst by leaving no doubt about the fact that Slim and Bill were going behind Babe’s back, there is no proof outside of the fictional world of ‘Feud’ to prove their infidelity. Still, there is an incident that gives weight to this argument.

‘Feud: Capote vs. the Swans’ is based on ‘Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era’ by Laurence Leamer. In the book, the author mentions an incident that happened before Bill and Babe were married. This was during Slim Keith’s first marriage with Howard Hawks. She was holidaying in Cuba when a group of people she knew and adored showed up on a yacht, inviting her to join them. The group included David Selznick and Jennifer Hones, Leland Hayward and Margaret Sullivan, and Bill Paley.

The book has Slim describing Bill as a “funny, very agreeable and a full-blown sexy man” who made her feel “divine.” He wanted her to come on the boat, and it is hinted that had Slim boarded that yacht, she most probably would have had an affair with Bill. But things took a different turn. Slim didn’t get on the boat and spent the rest of her holidays in Cuba. She later had an affair with Leland Hayward, who eventually left his wife, while Slim left her husband, and the couple married each other.

As for Bill, one year later, he was married to Babe, and while he had his own string of affairs during their marriage, it is not confirmed whether he and Slim actually slept with each other. It is possible that ‘Feud’ takes Slim’s admiration for Bill from the Cuba incident and extrapolates it into an affair to add to the drama of an already stirred pot. The affair between them is also used to justify Slim’s uncanny dedication to making Truman pay for what he did to Babe and the other Swans by writing about them. Her intense aggression makes even other Swans wonder why she is so spiteful of Truman when even Babe is ready to forgive him. It turns out that this aggression is her way to compensate for her own betrayal.

In the end, both Slim and Bill agree that they shouldn’t see each other anymore. The fact that the thing never gets out of the inner circle might be the reason why there is no record of even gossip or rumor about them anywhere, and we will have to accept that their affair in the show is added by the writers and is most probably fictional.

Read More: Did Truman Capote and Babe Paley Patch Up? Did They Become Friends?