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Remembering Gore Vidal, on TV and at the bar

August 07, 2012|by Carolyn Kellogg
  • Gore Vidal, far right, after a 1993 benefit with, from left, writers Gay Talese, Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer.
Gore Vidal, far right, after a 1993 benefit with, from left, writers Gay… (Associated Press )

Writer Gore Vidal died last week at the age of 86, an occasion marked by an outpouring of appreciation. He was a canary in a coal mine, a connoisseur of empires, a cultural icon who made waves. That's nowhere near all: those are thoughts only from staff writers here at the Los Angeles Times.

Others, too, have thought of ways to remember the author, who stirred sensibilities writing about homosexuality and intersexuality, shared his critiques of government and war, and wrote plays, screenplays and massive historical novels that landed on bestseller lists.

Take, for example, the magazine Writer's Digest, which went back to a 1975 piece about Vidal and pulled out 10 terrific quotes from him about writing. “You can improve your talent, but your talent is a given, a mysterious constant. You must make it the best of its kind,” is one thing he said. Another is: “I’ll tell you exactly what I would do if I were 20 and wanted to be a good writer. I would study maintenance, preferably plumbing.... So that I could command my own hours and make a good living on my own time.”

Next is public television. PBS also went into its archives and brought back its "American Masters" biography, "The Education of Gore Vidal." First aired in 2003, the documentary includes interviews with Vidal when he still lived in Italy, fellow literary heavyweight Geoprge Plimpton, and Hollywood  friends including Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. "The Education of Gore Vidal" has been posted in full on the American Masters website, where it will be streaming on demand through Aug. 9.

On Aug. 9, here in Los Angeles, Vidal fans are invited to meet up at Musso & Frank to toast the writer in an appropriately old-Hollywood habitat. "Gore Vidal was a giant in American letters, and his passing demands a moment of reverence," said organizers Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. In fact, they're stretching that moment for two hours: the remembering Vidal gathering will take place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Look for the folks with the vintage Vidal for Senate memorabilia.

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