Legendary gay author, playwright, screenwriter, Tony winner, political activist and King of acerbic wit Gore Vidal has died at the age of 86 on Tuesday due to of complications from pneumonia. Vidal is survived in death by Howard Austen, his partner of 53 years,
Along with such contemporaries as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, Gore Vidal was among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities – regulars on talk shows and in gossip columns, personalities of such size and appeal that even those who hadn’t read their books knew their names.
His works included hundreds of essays, the best-selling novels “Lincoln” and “Myra Breckenridge” and the Tony-nominated play “The Best Man,” a melodrama about a presidential convention revived on Broadway in 2012.
Widely admired as an independent thinker – in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken – about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, “the birds and the bees.” He picked apart politicians both living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers like no other, once observing that the three saddest words in the English language were “Joyce Carol Oates.” (The happiest words: “I told you so”).
In 1948 Vidal published “The City and the Pillar”. It is what we would now call a coming-out story, about a handsome, athletic young Virginia man who gradually discovers that he is homosexual. By today’s standards it is tame and discreet, but at the time it caused a scandal and was denounced as corrupt and pornographic.
In the ’60s Mr. Vidal published three books in fairly quick succession: “Julian” (1964), “Washington, D.C.” (1967) and “Myra Breckenridge” (1968). “Julian,” which some critics still consider Mr. Vidal’s best, was a painstakingly researched historical novel about the fourth-century Roman emperor who tried to convert Christians back to paganism. (Vidal himself never had much use for religion, Christianity especially, which he once called “intrinsically funny.”) “Washington, D.C.” was a political novel set in the ’40s. And the infamous “Myra Breckenridge,” Mr. Vidal’s own favorite among his books, was a campy black comedy about a male homosexual who has sexual reassignment surgery and turns into a woman.
.In 1968, while covering the Democratic National Convention on television, he called William F. Buckley a “cryptofascist.” Buckley responded by calling Mr. Vidal a “queer,” and the two were in court for years. In a 1971 essay he compared Norman Mailer to Charles Manson, and a few months later Mailer head-butted him in the green room while the two were waiting to appear on the Dick Cavett show. They then took their quarrel on the air in a memorable exchange that ended with Mr. Cavett’s telling Mailer to take a piece of paper on the table in front of them and “fold it five ways and put it where the moon don’t shine.” In 1975 Mr. Vidal sued Truman Capote for libel after Capote wrote that Mr. Vidal had been thrown out of the Kennedy White House. Mr. Vidal won a grudging apology.
And this is only a small portion of Gore Vidal’s life.
Vidal was an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right.
He will be greatly missed.
To read more about Gore Vidal click HERE.