Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Why is Gore Vidal smiling? Simple. He knows he has now outlived his three greatest enemy-rivals: Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and now, at last, the odious William F. Buckley Junior. (Which must, I'm sure, be a great source of sadness to William F. Buckley Senior.) Always gracious, Gore has said, "It's not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Now he's learned a Great Truth: Survival is the best Revenge.

Little Dougie is a longtime fan of Gore Vidal. I mentioned back in my 2007 death wrap-up (Which was much more inclusive than The Oscars Death Montage, which even excluded Charles Lane, despite his being a FOUNDER of the Screen Actor's Guild, and his having appeared in more movies than all the other dead stars combined.) that Little Dougie hadn't read any of Norman Mailer's books. (Not quite true. He read the first 20 or so pages of Ancient Evenings before tossing it aside for a Stephen King book.) Well Dougie has read almost all of Gore Vidal's books, fiction and non-fiction alike. Further, he has met and spent a little time with Vidal on a number of occasions going back 35 years, and Gore, notorious for his waspish tart tongue, has always treated Dougie with friendly warmth and charm. Could it be that his image as a nasty curmudgeon is all just a pose?

Dougie was kind enough to give Gore a signed copy of my autobiography, My Lush Life, last year. Gore hasn't called to comment on it yet, by which I can only assume that my literary brilliance has left him cowed and humbled; that, or he just tossed it in the trash when he got home, and since that's unthinkable (Which begs the question: how did I think of it?), it must be the former!

Oddly, I have never had an affair with Gore, let alone ever married him. I can't imagine why not. He's known everyone worth knowing. Here he is with his old pal President Kennedy, whom he's teaching the basics of how to be limp-wristed. Jack never did get it down.

Gore and Truman Capote just never did get along. Tru once famously said of Myra Breckenridge, "That's not writing; it's just typing." This was during the period between Truman's writing In Cold Blood and his death, during which Tru wrote - what was it again? - oh yes, nothing, although he kept saying he was writing a book titled Answered Prayers. Well, he did write one chapter of it, which lost him most of the handful of friends he had left. During this period Gore wrote 9 novels, and a lot of non-fiction also. Oh, and did I mention that Myra Breckenridge is one of Little Dougie's all-time favorite comic novels?

On the other hand, no one ever won an Oscar for playing Gore. But the person who really should have gotten an award for his performance as Truman Capote was Truman Capote. It was a lifelong performance. Here's Gore, Truman, and Tennessee Williams in happier days, when they were all three alive.

Gore and Norman Mailer's often fierce rivalry (Which I understand, was not over women.) was interrupted by periods of friendship, as in this photo of them together at one of Norman's birthday parties. But they were most fun going after each other's jugulars on TV back in the 1970s.

By the way, is it just me, or did Norman star on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant?

But for real, genuine enmity, you can't top Vidal vs Buckley. Their televised political debates forty years ago have never been forgotten. They were witty, elegant, nasty, and had a clear hero (Gore) and a clear villain, (the evil Buckley). The next addition to The Good Riddance List is William F. Buckley Junior. Richard Lowry, editor of The National Review, the Satanic publication founded by Buckley, said of Buckley today, "Without Bill, there'd be no conservatism as we know it today." No punishment is adequate for that Great Crime. What has conservatism as we know it today brought us? George Dubya Bush, Dick Cheney, 9/11, The Iraq War, our latest Bush recession, $4 a gallon gasoline, a raped environment, an economy in ruins, death and destruction on a global scale, and world-wide misery.

Enjoy Hell, Bill, as we are all stuck in the Hell you crafted for us.

Gore has given the movie world so much. For instance, without Gore's play Visit to a Small Planet, we would never have had the Jerry Lewis movie Visit to a Small Planet. I know we're all grateful. And I know just exactly how proud Gore is of that movie.

What other great movies has Gore's work given us? Well, there was the biggest, big-name porn movie of all-time, Gore Vidal's Caligula, not to be confused with Caligulee, Caligula, a 1960 movie from Italy's Pastafazool Films starring Steve Reeves and myself. You probably know Gore Vidal's Caligula as simply Caligula, since Gore had his name taken off it. I guess he didn't care for Malcolm McDowell's performance in it, or Helen Mirrin's as Caligula's sister, Queen Elizabeth. Or maybe he just didn't care for all the hardcore, onscreen sex, or at least the hardcore, onscreen straight sex. Malcolm McDowell fisting a young man at his wedding reception? Fine. Malcolm performing cunnilingus on Helen Mirrin? Ick! Yet without Caligula, we might never have had Shortbus, which, unlike Caligula, is a good movie.

And of course, Gore collaborated with Walt Disney on Walt Disney's Gore Vidal's Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, you may remember, is a fictional character from Vidal's 1984 novel Lincoln, about a robot who saves the Union before being shot by Booth Tarkington during a Sondheim musical. It's a very complex work for a theme park attraction.

And of course, there's the movie of Myra Breckinridge, starring Mae West as me. Oh wait, Gore repudiated that movie also, and says he's never seen it, though how he could know it's terrible without seeing it, I don't know. It is terrible, but how could he know?

Of course, if it had only starred me, it would have been as great as the book. Sadly though, I retired from the screen just before shooting commenced, but the proof that Gore wanted me for the film can be seen from the cover of the recent Penguin paperback edition of Myra Breckenridge and it's sequel Myron. (Myron is, if anything, an even better book!) The picture is from my 1945 film classic The Siren of the Congo, in which I played identical triplets, one good, one evil, and one wishy-washy.

Myra and Myron are great books. I'm proud to be on their cover. Gore followed that satirical line into the wonderful, hilarious books Duluth, The Smithsonian Institute, and especially Live From Golgotha. Those are some good, funny reading. When you finish reading this flogging, pick one of those up and read it. It will annoy the hell out of Buckley's shade in Hell.

Meanwhile, my phone is ringing. It's probably Javier Bardem again. With his penchant for smooching with old lady movie stars, he's been making obscene phone calls to me all week. I hope this is him again.

Hello Javier? You beast, and I mean that caringly. You want to do what to me? How gross and disgusting! Your place or mine?

Cheers darlings.


Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I heard Capote utter the That's Not Writing line about Jacqueline Susanne (or however her name is spelled).

Tallulah Morehead said...

Capote knew the value of a good line, and used it early and often.

Thanks for commenting.