Gore Vidal: Fighting Words
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - 12:00 PM
My first experiences of Gore Vidal were not his writing, but as a pop cultural performer playing himself on television. When I was a little kid, he was a regular on late-night talk shows, chatting with Johnny Carson and then Dick Cavett about '60s politics and culture and the decline of America. A decade later, once I'd made my way to Manhattan, I happened to be a guest at the infamous cocktail party where Norman Mailer socked him.
Gore Vidal liked fights. When I was co-editing Spy magazine, we ran an article that described Vidal as "litigious" in the feuds he'd had with William F. Buckley and others. What did Vidal do? Threatened to sue us. For calling him litigious. I guess the master of irony couldn't help himself.
I didn't meet him until two decades later, in 2009, when he came on Studio 360 to talk about his last memoir. I figured that at age 84, he wouldn't connect the dots and remember I was the whippersnapper who had tangled with him, back in the previous century. I figured wrong, as you can hear in my interview with him at 9:45: