I wasn’t a fan.
Vidal was considered to be a genius by some. Largely because he was a left-winger, and left-wing people usually require ideological agreement as a precondition for recognizing intelligence. That was sufficient to prove Vidal’s intellect.
Mostly, he was considered a genius because he said he was. Vidal claimed to have had over 1,000 sexual encounters by age 25, most of which apparently were with other men. But he decried “labels” and said that human beings are inherently bisexual – so calling him gay would have been “unhelpful” in his terms.
Perhaps more than any other American writer except Norman Mailer or Truman Capote, Mr. Vidal took great pleasure in being a public figure. He twice ran for office — in 1960, when he was the Democratic Congressional candidate for the 29th District in upstate New York, and in 1982, when he campaigned in California for a seat in the Senate — and though he lost both times, he often conducted himself as a sort of unelected shadow president. He once said, “There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”
Mr. Vidal was an occasional actor, appearing, for example, in animated form on “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” in the movie version of his own play “The Best Man,” and in the Tim Robbins movie “Bob Roberts,” in which he played an aging, epicene version of himself. He was a more than occasional guest on TV talk shows, where his poise, wit, looks and charm made him such a regular that Johnny Carson offered him a spot as a guest host of “The Tonight Show.”
Television was a natural medium for Mr. Vidal, who in person was often as cool and detached as he was in his prose. “Gore is a man without an unconscious,” his friend the Italian writer Italo Calvino once said. Mr. Vidal said of himself: “I’m exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.”
Mr. Vidal loved conspiracy theories of all sorts, especially the ones he imagined himself at the center of, and he was a famous feuder; he engaged in celebrated on-screen wrangles with Mailer, Capote and William F. Buckley Jr. Mr. Vidal did not lightly suffer fools — a category that for him comprised a vast swath of humanity, elected officials especially — and he was not a sentimentalist or a romantic. “Love is not my bag,” he said.
For us, this is what’s most memorable about Gore Vidal…
One might say that Vidal and Buckley can return to sparring now in the Great Beyond. We’re not convinced they’re in the same place.
Rest in peace anyway.