Musician Donald Fagen shares a true story about George Plimpton, Buck Henry, and the last will and testament of Roy Cohn.
There’s a lot of Roy Cohn action lately: a release of some FBI files, a documentary, and the assumption that, every night, the toxic attorney’s ghost sings Donald Trump to sleep.
When Cohn died in 1986, apparently without leaving a will, the late George Plimpton had an idea for one of his infamous public pranks. A will would be discovered and read for the first time in front of an audience of New York journalists and glitterati at the Harvard Club or some other distinguished venue.
The document would actually be written by a team of humorists intending to provide the deceased with an appropriately mordant final send-off. A friend of mine, Rusty Unger, was put in charge of assembling the writing crew. Rusty thought I was sort of funny, and that’s how I found myself sitting in her living room with Plimpton, Buck Henry, and an SNL writer (I’m pretty sure it was Herb Sargent), all intent on coming up with some droll Cohn-bashing material.
From the get-go, George and Buck started quarreling about how and where the fake will would be found. Plimpton thought the document should just be left on the seat of a random cab. He was absolutely certain that the cabbie or some civic-minded passenger would find the will and bring it to the attention of some appropriate authority who, unable to resist the prospect of having a historic feather in his cap, would bring this amazing discovery to light. Plimpton would then spring into action and somehow secure the right to do a public reading.
We all thought that the chances of this strategy working were very, you know, low, and that we might as well put the document in the shredder. Buck Henry was looking at Plimpton with an expression that said, Uh-oh, George is ripped on coke again — or what if he’s having a stroke? Buck was particularly offended by the idea and, for the next three hours, these two accomplished Manhattan wags went at it. Buck was okay with telling everyone that the will was found on a cab seat, but the idea of working on something and then actually throwing it into the traffic was abhorrent. All the while, George stoutly defended his lunatic plan.
Towards midnight, when things got a little too intense, Herb and I slithered out of the apartment, relieved to be back on the sweltering sidewalks of Manhattan. To the best of my knowledge, Roy Cohn’s last will and testament — be it genuine or bogus — never surfaced.