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Gore Vidal made waves as a TV talk show guest

August 01, 2012|By Patrick Kevin Day
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Gore Vidal, who died on Tuesday at age 86, was known primarily as a man of letters, writing numerous novels, essays, plays and screenplays throughout his long career. But his way with words extended beyond the page and into the realm of TV talk, where he made several notable appearances in his younger years.

In 1968, Vidal covered the Democratic and Republican national conventions for ABC alongside conservative writer William F. Buckley. The two men were political opposites and their personalities  clashed to the point where Vidal instructed Buckley to "shut up a minute" and referred to him as a "crypto-Nazi." Buckley responded by calling Vidal a "queer" and threatening to "sock you in the ... face and you'll stay plastered."

In the age of 24-hour cable news, televised arguments have become both slick and almost showy, as if everyone is always aware of the viewing audience. But there's a rawness in this argument that seems very human and personal. In fact, the men's feud continued throughout their lifetimes, including several lawsuits. After Buckley's death in 2008, Vidal wrote about him in a final essay on the website Truthdig, "RIP WFB -- in hell."

PHOTOS: Gore Vidal | 1925 - 2012

Vidal found himself in another televised dust-up a few years after the Buckley incident, this time with writer Norman Mailer while both men were guests on "The Dick Cavett Show."

Appearing alongside New Yorker reporter Janet Flanner, Vidal and, according to Cavett, an inebriated Mailer, exchanged surly insults, prompting Flanner to observe, "It’s very odd that you act so — you act as if you were the only people here.

Cavett later wrote in the New York Times that it was "without doubt the damnedest show I ever did."


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