Wednesday, August 01 2012
"Blankity blank," that's what I've come up with so far this morning. I took the chance and read google news. Gore Vidal dies: What a admirable and kooky character.
His whole Wiki page is chock full of interesting and valuable information. I bet the conservatives sighed a sigh of relief at his passing. Hold the phone; Brian is posting the whole damn page
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal ( / /; October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) was an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), outraged conservative critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality. He also ran for political office twice and was a longtime political critic.
 Life and career
 Early life
Vidal was born Eugene Louis Vidal in West Point, New York, the only child of 1st Lieutenant Eugene Luther Vidal (1895–1969) and Nina Gore (1903–1978). The middle name, Louis, was a mistake on the part of his father, "who could not remember for certain whether his own name was Eugene Louis or Eugene Luther." As Vidal explained in his memoir Palimpsest (Deutsch, 1995), "… my birth certificate says 'Eugene Louis Vidal': this was changed to Eugene Luther Vidal, Jr.; then Gore was added at my christening [in 1938]; then at fourteen [sic] I got rid of the first two names."
Vidal was born in the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy, where his father was the first aeronautics instructor, and was christened by the headmaster of St. Albans preparatory school, his future alma mater. According to "West Point and the Third Loyalty", an article Vidal wrote for The New York Review of Books (October 18, 1973), he later decided to be called Gore in honor of his maternal grandfather, Thomas Gore, Democratic senator from Oklahoma. Vidal biographer Fred Kaplan states in Gore Vidal: A Biography (1999) that Vidal added the middle name Gore at the time of his baptism in 1938, as well the correct Luther, becoming Eugene Luther Gore Vidal. Later, at the age of 16, again according to Kaplan, Vidal dropped both of his first two names, saying, he "wanted a sharp, distinctive name, appropriate for an aspiring author or national political leader. 'I wasn't going to write as Gene since there was already one. I didn't want to use the Jr.'"
Vidal's father, a West Point football quarterback and captain, and an all-American basketball player, was director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce (1933–1937) in the Roosevelt administration, was one of the first Army Air Corps pilots and, according to biographer Susan Butler, was the great love of Amelia Earhart's life. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a co-founder of three American airlines: the Ludington Line, which merged with others and became Eastern Airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT, which became TWA), and Northeast Airlines, which he founded with Earhart, as well as the Boston and Maine Railroad. The elder Vidal was also an athlete in the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics (seventh in the decathlon; U.S. pentathlon team coach).
Gore Vidal's mother was a socialite who made her Broadway debut as an extra in Sign of the Leopard in 1928. She married Eugene Luther Vidal, Sr. in 1922 and divorced him in 1935. She later married twice more; one husband, Hugh D. Auchincloss, was later the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and, according to Gore Vidal, she had "a long off-and-on affair" with actor Clark Gable. She was an alternate delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention.
Vidal had four half-siblings from his parents' later marriages (the Rev. Vance Vidal, Valerie Vidal Hewitt, Thomas Gore Auchincloss, and Nina Gore Auchincloss Steers Straight) and four stepbrothers from his mother's third marriage to Army Air Forces Major General Robert Olds, who died in 1943, ten months after marrying Vidal's mother. Vidal's nephews include the brothers Burr Steers, writer and film director, and painter Hugh Auchincloss Steers (1963–1995).
Vidal was raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School and then St. Albans School. Since Senator Gore was blind, his grandson read aloud to him and was often his guide. The senator's isolationism contributed a major principle of his grandson's political philosophy, which is critical of foreign and domestic policies shaped by American imperialism. Gore attended St. Albans in 1939, but left to study in France. He returned following the outbreak of World War II and studied at the Los Alamos Ranch School in 1940, later transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. After graduating in 1943 he joined the U.S. Army as a private. He was deployed to the Aleutian Islands during World War II, where he served as first mate on the F.S. 35th which was berthed at Dutch Harbor.
 Writing career
Vidal, whom a Newsweek critic called "the best all-around American man of letters since Edmund Wilson," began his writing career in 1946 aged nineteen, with the publication of the military novel Williwaw, based upon his Alaskan Harbor Detachment duty. The novel was the first about World War II and proved a success for Vidal. Published two years later in 1948, The City and the Pillar caused a furor for its dispassionate presentation of homosexuality. The novel was dedicated to "J.T." Decades later, after a magazine published rumors about J.T.'s identity, Vidal confirmed they were the initials of his alleged St. Albans-era love, James "Jimmy" Trimble III, killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945; Vidal later said that Trimble was the only person he had ever loved.
Orville Prescott, the book critic for the New York Times, found The City and the Pillar so objectionable that he refused to review or allow the Times to review Vidal's next five books. In response, Vidal wrote several mystery novels in the early 1950s under the pseudonym Edgar Box. Featuring public relations man Peter Cutler Sargeant II, their success financed Vidal for more than a decade.
In 1956, Vidal was hired as a contract screenwriter for Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In 1959, director William Wyler needed script doctors to re-write the script for Ben-Hur, originally written by Karl Tunberg. Vidal collaborated with Christopher Fry, reworking the screenplay on condition that MGM release him from the last two years of his contract. Producer Sam Zimbalist's death complicated the screenwriting credit. The Screen Writers Guild resolved the matter by listing Tunberg as sole screenwriter, denying credit to both Vidal and Fry. This decision was based on the WGA screenwriting credit system which favors original authors. Vidal later claimed in the documentary film The Celluloid Closet that to explain the animosity between Ben-Hur and Messala, he had inserted a gay subtext suggesting that the two had had a prior relationship, but that actor Charlton Heston was oblivious. Heston denied that Vidal contributed significantly to the script.
In the 1960s, Vidal wrote three novels. The first, Julian (1964) dealt with the apostate Roman emperor, while the second, Washington, D.C. (1967) focused on a political family during the Franklin D. Roosevelt era. The third was the satirical transsexual comedy Myra Breckinridge (1968), a variation on Vidal's familiar themes of sex, gender, and popular culture. In the novel, Vidal showcased his love of the American films of the 30s and 40s, and he resurrected interest in the careers of the forgotten players of the time including, for example, that of the late Richard Cromwell, who, he wrote, "was so satisfyingly tortured in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer."
After the staging of the plays Weekend (1968) and An Evening With Richard Nixon (1972), and the publication of the novel Two Sisters: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir (1970), Vidal focused on essays and two distinct themes in his fiction. The first strain comprises novels dealing with American history, specifically with the nature of national politics. Critic Harold Bloom wrote, "Vidal's imagination of American politics … is so powerful as to compel awe." Titles in this series, the Narratives of Empire, include Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), The Golden Age (2000). Another title devoted to the ancient world, Creation, appeared in 1981 and then in expanded form in 2002.
The second strain consists of the comedic "satirical inventions": Myron (1974, a sequel to Myra Breckinridge), Kalki (1978), Duluth (1983), Live from Golgotha: The Gospel according to Gore Vidal (1992), and The Smithsonian Institution (1998).
Vidal occasionally returned to writing for film and television, including the television movie Gore Vidal's Billy the Kid with Val Kilmer and the mini-series Lincoln. He also wrote the original draft for the controversial film Caligula, but later had his name removed when director Tinto Brass and actor Malcolm McDowell rewrote the script, changing the tone and themes significantly. The producers later made an attempt to salvage some of Vidal's vision in the film's post-production.
 Essays and memoirs
Vidal is — at least in the U.S. — even more respected as an essayist than as a novelist. Even an occasionally hostile critic like Martin Amis admitted, "Essays are what he is good at … [h]e is learned, funny and exceptionally clear-sighted. Even his blind spots are illuminating."
For six decades, Gore Vidal applied himself to a wide variety of sociopolitical, sexual, historical and literary themes. In 1987, Vidal wrote the essays titled Armageddon?, exploring the intricacies of power in contemporary America. He pilloried the incumbent president Ronald Reagan as a "triumph of the embalmer's art." In 1993, he won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for the collection United States: Essays 1952–1992 According to the citation, "Whatever his subject, he addresses it with an artist's resonant appreciation, a scholar's conscience and the persuasive powers of a great essayist."
A subsequent collection of essays, published in 2000, is The Last Empire. He subsequently published such self-described "pamphlets" as Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, and Imperial America, critiques of American expansionism, the military-industrial complex, the national security state and the George W. Bush administration. Vidal also wrote an historical essay about the U.S.'s founding fathers, Inventing a Nation. In 1995, he published a memoir Palimpsest, and in 2006 its follow-up volume, Point to Point Navigation. Earlier that year, Vidal also published Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories.
Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of same-sex relations in such books as The City and The Pillar, Vidal is often seen as an early champion of sexual liberation. In the September 1969 edition of Esquire, for example, Vidal wrote, "We are all bisexual to begin with. That is a fact of our condition. And we are all responsive to sexual stimuli from our own as well as from the opposite sex. Certain societies at certain times, usually in the interest of maintaining the baby supply, have discouraged homosexuality. Other societies, particularly militaristic ones, have exalted it. But regardless of tribal taboos, homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime … despite the best efforts of our puritan tribe to make it all three. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word 'natural,' not normal."
In 2009, he won the annual Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, which called him a "prominent social critic on politics, history, literature and culture".
 Acting and popular culture
In the 1960s, Vidal moved to Italy; he gave a cameo appearance in Federico Fellini's film Roma. In 1992, Vidal appeared in the film Bob Roberts (starring Tim Robbins) and appeared in other films, notably Gattaca, With Honors, and Igby Goes Down, which was directed by his nephew Burr Steers. Vidal voiced himself on both The Simpsons and Family Guy and appeared on the Da Ali G Show, where Ali G (intentionally) mistakes him for Vidal Sassoon. He provided the narrative for the Royal National Theatre's production of Brecht's Mother Courage in the autumn of 2009.
 Political views and activities
Besides his politician grandfather, Vidal had other connections with the Democratic Party: his mother, Nina, married Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., who later was stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Gore Vidal is a fifth cousin of Jimmy Carter. Vidal also may have been a distant cousin of Al Gore.
As a political activist, in 1960, Gore Vidal was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress, losing an election in New York's 29th congressional district, a traditionally Republican district on the Hudson River, encompassing all of Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Schoharie, and Ulster Counties to J. Ernest Wharton, by a margin of 57% to 43%. Campaigning with a slogan of "You'll get more with Gore", he received the most votes any Democrat in 50 years received in that district. Among his supporters were Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward; the latter two, longtime friends of Vidal's, campaigned for him and spoke on his behalf.
In 1982 he campaigned against incumbent Governor Jerry Brown for the Democratic primary election to the United States Senate from California. This was documented in the film, Gore Vidal: The Man Who Said No directed by Gary Conklin. Vidal lost to Brown in the primary election.
There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.
Despite this, Vidal said "I think of myself as a conservative." Vidal had a protective, almost proprietary attitude toward his native land and its politics: "My family helped start [this country]", he wrote, "and we've been in political life … since the 1690s, and I have a very possessive sense about this country." At a 1999 lecture in Dublin, Vidal said:
A characteristic of our present chaos is the dramatic migration of tribes. They are on the move from east to west, from south to north. Liberal tradition requires that borders must always be open to those in search of safety or even the pursuit of happiness. But now with so many millions of people on the move, even the great-hearted are becoming edgy. Norway is large enough and empty enough to take in 40 to 50 million homeless Bengalis. If the Norwegians say that, all in all, they would rather not take them in, is this to be considered racism? I think not. It is simply self-preservation, the first law of species.”
He suggested that President Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor to facilitate American entry to the war, and believes FDR had advance knowledge of the attack. During an interview in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, Vidal asserts that during the final months of World War II, the Japanese had tried to surrender to the United States, to no avail. He said, "They were trying to surrender all that summer, but Truman wouldn't listen, because Truman wanted to drop the bombs." When the interviewer asked why, Vidal replied, "To show off. To frighten Stalin. To change the balance of power in the world. To declare war on communism. Perhaps we were starting a pre-emptive world war."
During domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh's imprisonment, Vidal corresponded with McVeigh and concluded that he bombed the federal building as retribution for the FBI's role in the 1993 Branch Davidian Compound massacre in Waco, Texas.
Vidal was a member of the advisory board of the World Can't Wait organization, a left-wing organization seeking to repudiate the Bush administration's program, and advocating the impeachment of George W. Bush for war crimes.
In 1997, Vidal was one of 34 celebrities to sign an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, which protested the treatment of Scientologists in Germany. Despite this, Vidal is fundamentally critical of scientology.
Vidal contributed an article to The Nation in which he expressed support for Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, citing him as "the most eloquent of the lot" and that Kucinich "is very much a favorite out there in the amber fields of grain".
On September 30, 2009, The Times of London published a lengthy interview with him headlined "We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US — The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’ — and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it", which brings up-to-date his views on his own life, and a variety of political subjects.
 Vidal versus Buckley
In 1968, ABC News invited Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. to be political analysts of the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions. Verbal and nearly physical combat ensued. After days of mutual bickering, their debates degraded to vitriolic, ad hominem attacks. During discussions of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, the men were arguing about freedom of speech in regards to American protesters displaying a Viet Cong flag when Vidal told Buckley to "shut up a minute" and, in response to Buckley's reference to "pro-Nazi" protesters, went on to say: "As far as I'm concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself." The visibly livid Buckley replied, "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." After an interruption by anchor and facilitator Howard K. Smith, the men continued to discuss the topic in a less hostile manner. Buckley later expressed regret for having called Vidal a "queer," but nonetheless described Vidal as an "evangelist for bisexuality." In 2011, Vidal recalled that moderator Smith was "patently in favor of Buckley throughout the debates."
Later, in 1969, the feud was continued as Buckley further attacked Vidal in the lengthy essay, "On Experiencing Gore Vidal", published in the August 1969 issue of Esquire. The essay is collected in The Governor Listeth, an anthology of Buckley's writings of the time. In a key passage attacking Vidal as an apologist for homosexuality, Buckley wrote, "The man who in his essays proclaims the normalcy of his affliction [i.e., homosexuality], and in his art the desirability of it, is not to be confused with the man who bears his sorrow quietly. The addict is to be pitied and even respected, not the pusher."
Vidal responded in the September 1969 issue of Esquire, variously characterizing Buckley as "anti-black", "anti-semitic", and a "warmonger". The presiding judge in Buckley's subsequent libel suit against Vidal initially concluded that "[t]he court must conclude that Vidal's comments in these paragraphs meet the minimal standard of fair comment. The inferences made by Vidal from Buckley's [earlier editorial] statements cannot be said to be completely unreasonable." However, Vidal also strongly implied that, in 1944, Buckley and unnamed siblings had vandalized a Protestant church in their Sharon, Connecticut, hometown after the pastor's wife had sold a house to a Jewish family. Buckley sued Vidal and Esquire for libel. Vidal counter-claimed for libel against Buckley, citing Buckley's characterization of Vidal's novel Myra Breckinridge as pornography.
The court dismissed Vidal's counter-claim; Buckley settled for $115,000 in attorney's fees and an editorial statement from Esquire magazine that they were "utterly convinced" of the untruthfulness of Vidal's assertion. However, in a letter to Newsweek, the Esquire publisher stated that "the settlement of Buckley's suit against us" was not "a 'disavowal' of Vidal's article. On the contrary, it clearly states that we published that article because we believed that Vidal had a right to assert his opinions, even though we did not share them."
As Vidal's biographer, Fred Kaplan, later commented, "The court had 'not' sustained Buckley's case against Esquire … [t]he court had 'not' ruled that Vidal's article was 'defamatory.' It had ruled that the case would have to go to trial in order to determine as a matter of fact whether or not it was defamatory. [italics original.] The cash value of the settlement with Esquire represented 'only' Buckley's legal expenses [not damages based on libel] … " Ultimately, Vidal bore the cost of his own attorney's fees.
In 2003, this affair re-surfaced when Esquire published Esquire's Big Book of Great Writing, an anthology that included Vidal's essay. Buckley again sued for libel, and Esquire again settled for $55,000 in attorney's fees and $10,000 in personal damages to Buckley.
After Buckley's death on February 27, 2008, Vidal summed up his impressions of his rival with the following obituary on March 20, 2008: "RIP WFB — in hell." In a June 15, 2008, interview with the New York Times, Vidal was asked by Deborah Solomon, "How did you feel when you heard that Buckley died this year?" Vidal responded:
I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.
 Criticism of the George W. Bush administration
Vidal was strongly critical of the George W. Bush administration, listing it among administrations he considered to have either an explicit or implicit expansionist agenda. He described George W. Bush as "the stupidest man in the United States".
He was of the view that for several years the Bush administration and their associates aimed to control the petroleum of Central Asia (after gaining effective control of the petroleum of the Persian Gulf in 1991). In October 2006, Vidal derided North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for what he claimed was a conspiracy against the U.S. public, perpetrated by an alliance of the United States Air Force and the Government of Canada at the time.
In May 2007, Vidal clarified his views, saying:
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I'm a conspiracy analyst. Everything the Bushites touch is screwed up. They could never have pulled off 9/11, even if they wanted to. Even if they longed to. They could step aside, though, or just go out to lunch while these terrible things were happening to the nation. I believe that of them.
 Statement regarding the Roman Polanski sexual abuse case
In response to the Roman Polanski sexual abuse case, Vidal said: "I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?" His position was criticized by journalists and columnists in The Huffington Post and The Atlantic, as well as by Bill Maher.
 Personal life
Vidal had affairs with both men and women. The novelist Anaïs Nin claimed an involvement with Vidal in her memoir The Diary of Anaïs Nin but Vidal denied it in his memoir Palimpsest. Vidal also discussed having dalliances with people such as actress Diana Lynn, and alluded to the possibility that he may have a daughter. He was briefly engaged to Joanne Woodward, before she married Paul Newman; after eloping, the couple shared a house with Vidal in Los Angeles for a short time. In 1950, he met his long-term partner Howard Austen. According to literary critic Harold Bloom, Vidal believed his homosexuality had denied him the full recognition of the literary community. Bloom, meanwhile, claimed this had more to do with Vidal's association with the unfashionable genre of historical fiction.
During the latter part of the twentieth century Vidal divided his time between Italy and California. In 2003, he sold his 5,000-square-foot (460 m²) Italian Villa, La Rondinaia (The Swallow's Nest) on the Amalfi Coast, and moved to Los Angeles. Austen died in November 2003 and, in February 2005, was buried in a plot for himself and Vidal at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.