Gore Vidal (1925–2012) Feuds with Norman Mailer & William F. Buckley

Gore Vidal wrote 25 nov­els and var­i­ous mem­oirs, essays, plays, tele­vi­sion dra­mas and screen­plays. He invest­ed him­self in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and ran for office twice, los­ing both times. He tend­ed open­ly toward homo­sex­u­al­i­ty long before the coun­try warmed up to the idea. And he nev­er backed down from a good argu­ment. Gore Vidal died Tues­day from com­pli­ca­tions of pneu­mo­nia at his home in Los Ange­les.

Dur­ing the 1960s and 70s, Vidal feud­ed pub­licly with lit­er­ary and polit­i­cal foes alike. Some­times it made for good TV. Oth­er times it made for bad TV. It did­n’t real­ly mat­ter. He was ready to go. Above, we have Gore Vidal’s ver­bal brawl with the mer­cu­r­ial (and seem­ing­ly sauced) nov­el­ist Nor­man Mail­er. It hap­pened on The Dick Cavett Show in Decem­ber, 1971, and only the show’s host (and the bewil­dered Janet Flan­ner) emerge from the dust­up look­ing okay. Slate has more on this mem­o­rable episode here.

The next clip brings us back to an ABC tele­vi­sion pro­gram aired dur­ing the 1968 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­ven­tion in Chica­go. Suf­fice it to say, emo­tions were run­ning high. In the months lead­ing up to the Con­ven­tion, Mar­tin Luther King Jr. and RFK were both assas­si­nat­ed. Riots fol­lowed. Mean­while, the Viet­nam War splin­tered the nation in two. The Chica­go police tried to shut down demon­stra­tions by anti-war pro­tes­tors, and even­tu­al­ly the two sides clashed in the parks and streets. Amidst all of this, Buck­ley and Vidal, both polit­i­cal ana­lysts for ABC News, start­ed dis­cussing the pro­tes­tors and their rights to free speech, when things came to a head. Vidal called Buck­ley a “pro-cryp­to-Nazi.” Buck­ley called Vidal a “queer” and threat­ened to “sock [him] in the god­damn face.” The threat was not eas­i­ly for­got­ten. It became the fod­der for jokes when Buck­ley inter­viewed Noam Chom­sky the next year. Find the com­plete episode here.


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