Gore Vidal

Writer

Born: 3 October 1925
Died: 31 July 2012 (complications from pneumonia)
Birthplace: West Point, New York
Best known as:

The smart and sassy author of Burr and Myra Breckinridge

Name at birth: Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr.

Gore Vidal was both author and celebrity for most of the second half of the 20th century. He joined the Navy at age 17, served during World War II, and then made a name for himself right after the war with his first few novels, especially Williwaw (published in 1946, when Vidal was only 21) and The City and the Pillar (1948). In the 1960s he was right in the mix with rambunctious celebrity authors like Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, as famous for his brains and sophisticated sassiness as for his prose. Vidal wrote the hit Broadway play Visit to a Small Planet (1955), and the hit book Myra Breckinridge (1968), but he is better known for his very successful and critically-acclaimed series of historical novels about the United States. They included Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1989), Hollywood (1989) and The Golden Age (2000). Vidal was famously mischievous, liberal and not-quite-heterosexual; he had relationships with both men and women, and his long relationship with Howard Austen lasted from the 1950s until Austen's death in 2003. The City and the Pillar was one of the first American novels to feature frankly gay characters. CNN later called it a "coming-out tale" and said it "brought him notoriety at a time when homosexuality was still considered immoral." But Vidal managed to keep his name in the papers via regular highbrow spats with other celebrities, and he was a reliable all-purpose guest commentator on television chat shows and interviews from the 1950s through to the 21st century. Gore Vidal also made infrequent appearances in movies, including the political comedy Bob Roberts (1992) and the sci-fi film Gattaca (1997, starring Ethan Hawke).

Extra credit:

Gore Vidal made unsuccessful bids for both the U.S. Congress (1960) and the Senate (1982)... Gore Vidal shared a stepfather (Hugh Auchincloss) with First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and they were good friends; he was part of the Kennedy circle during John F. Kennedy's years as a senator and his presidency... The grandson of U.S. Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, Vidal was a distant cousin of former U.S. vice president Al Gore... Gore Vidal was an uncredited writer for the 1959 blockbuster film Ben-Hur (starring Charlton Heston).

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