Gore Vidal, Author and Playwright, Dead at 86
Of all his writings and political plays that spanned his six-decade career, Vidal was notable for his bestselling novels Myra Breckenridge and Burr. However, his claim to fame came decades before when he published The City and the Pillar (1948), the first American novel that gave an honest and positive account of homosexuality.
Angering critics, Vidal was unconventional in that he refused to categorize his sexuality, saying homosexuality was a human construct. (His partner of 50 years, Howard Austen, died in 2003.)
But his controversies extended far beyond his writing. The novelist was arguably more famous for his caustic commentary on pop culture and politics. During a television appearance in 1968, he incited conservative William F. Buckley, who threatened to punch him in his "godd*mn face," and he also ired many Americans in the 90s when he stated that he believed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh—whom he was regularly corresponding with—was wrongfully prosecuted.
In the early oughts, Vidal continued being outspoken, calling President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney "Nazis" and saying that those who died on 9/11 were victimized twice over: not only through terrorist acts but also through U.S. foreign policy. In 2008, he concluded America was "rotting away" and that the election President Obama was not going to save its demise.
But there was another side to Vidal. When he wasn't agitating critics and his political adversaries, he was hobnopping with Hollywood A-listers, with whom he had a deep connection with, and poking fun at himself. In the 60s and 70s, he was almost a regular on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, and in later years he voiced the cartoon version of himself in both The Simpsons and Family Guy; he also appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen's Da Ali G Show.
Describing him with efficiency, critic Adam Goodheart summed up Vidal as "ironic, cosmopolitan, erudite, a sexual non-conformist with a superbly honed sense of envy who needs to be both gate-crasher and guest of honor at every party."