By all accounts — including his own — he was an asshole. He was difficult to work with. He was a privileged, over-educated snob, a proud member of America’s ruling class. He was the scion a sprawling, aristocratic family and was related, in various ways, to President Jimmy Carter, Jackie Kennedy, and Al Gore, among others.
In my book, Gore Vidal had two redeeming characteristics:
1. He was unapologetically gay, long before Stonewall. He was no champion of gay rights, mind you — in fact, he often said that “there are not homosexual people, only homosexual acts”. And frankly, the only reason he was able to come out of the closet was because of his social pedigree. (The wealthy often forgive one another their eccentricities.) But the bottom line is, he liked to kiss boys and he made no secret of it.
2. He was a brilliant author. I’ve often claimed that the opening chapter of Myra Breckinridge is among the most beautiful collection of words ever assembled in the English language. (The movie? Not so much, but at least I can say that my uncle attended the premiere.) Vidal’s memoir, Palimpsest, is equally fascinating, even though it tends to reiterate his status as an A-grade douchenozzle.
And now he’s gone.
If you’ve somehow managed to miss the “Myra rides Rusty” sequence from Myra Breckinridge, do yourself a favor: watch it and realize that an important piece of America’s gay, literary history has slipped away in the night.