John O’Shea and Truman Capote’s Turbulent Relationship, Explained

Hulu’s ‘Feud: Capote vs The Swans’ focuses on the most turbulent time in the life of the writer, who fell into a downward spiral after making enemies out of his friends. Truman had never shied away from presenting himself as someone who knew things and wouldn’t hesitate to use those things in his writing, even if it meant he would be exposing someone’s personal life. The arrival of a new love interest makes things even worse. After getting together with John O’Shea, he becomes increasingly estranged from his friends, betrays them, and falls further into the pit of despair. For the most part, ‘Feud’ gets their relationship right.

John O’Shea was Prone to Being Abusive Towards Capote

While Truman Capote and John O’Shea were involved with each other for almost the entirety of a decade, there is very little information about the latter, which only comes from his connection with Capote. While the writer would charm anyone he met, O’Shea was too bland for anyone to pay attention to him, and this made people wonder why Capote was with him in the first place. O’Shea was married when he met Capote at a bathhouse, an encounter that soon turned into something more for both of them. He had four children, but he didn’t care about them or his wife of 20 years when he abandoned them to move in with Capote. Interestingly, his family actually liked Capote, and later, the writer even helped O’Shea’s daughter make a good life for herself.

Despite having an unattractive personality that no one in Capote’s circle approved of, O’Shea was described as “just the kind of man Truman liked.” Whatever Capote saw in him remains unclear, but for O’Shea, the life that Capote offered was quite alluring. Even though he was a banker, he had an interest in writing, and through Capote, he got his foot in the door in the world of New York’s elites, which would ideally be enough fodder for a story. Despite the connection with Capote, things never got better for O’Shea, who was too mundane and simple for the people around him.

When O’Shea became Capote’s lover, he also became his business manager. He served as the Executive Vice President of Capote’s corporation, Bayouboys, Ltd., for a while and even made deals with the publishers on his behalf. Capote’s friends became more concerned about him when they saw O’Shea’s increasing involvement in his professional life, but things got worse when the conflict between O’Shea and Capote bubbled to the point of becoming physical.

The Hulu series doesn’t shy away from showing O’Shea’s violent behavior on the screen, and per accounts of people who were around Capote at the time, O’Shea really was prone to hitting the writer. The Thanksgiving scene where O’Shea beats Capote to a pulp in front of his friends is based on a real incident between them that happened in 1981.

Things remain turbulent between the couple for a while. In 1976, they briefly broke up when O’Shea left Capote for a woman. Moreover, Capote claimed that his ex-lover had stolen a chapter from his manuscript, and while he initially seemed intent enough to see it through, he dropped the lawsuit in 1981. For a while, they were stuck in a cycle of breaking up and getting back together. Eventually, O’Shea left for good, and an angry Capote hired someone to rough him up and teach him a lesson. But the person torched O’Shea’s car.

No matter how things were between Capote and O’Shea, the former didn’t allow this to change his equation with O’Shea’s family, whom the man never returned to. O’Shea’s daughter, Kate, once reached out to Capote for help because, with her father out of the picture, things were financially difficult for her and her family. Not only did Capote take her under his wing, but he also helped her with each step in her journey, supporting her all the way through. With her, he maintained a relationship based on love and respect. With O’Shea, who died sometime in 2014, things never got any better.

Read More: Where Was FEUD Capote vs The Swans Filmed?