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Gore Vidal Dies at 86


The prolific man of letters and public intellectual died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, his nephew Burr Steers told the New York Times. As the Times writes:

"He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas, and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, putdown or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy."

In 2006, Michael Musto interviewed Gore for Out, and he explained: "I'm not a quiet little writer waiting to be recognized, all tremulous. I'm most pugnacious."

He once called himself "the gentleman bitch" of American letters and described himself as a man without qualities. "I am exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."

Vidal often defended that most human were bisexual and he didn't like using the term "gay." He claimed in his memoir Palimpsest that, by the time he was 25, he already had more than 1,000 sexual encounters with both men and women. Howard Austen was his live-in companion for 53, but he claimed that they never slept together.

He published The City and the Pillar in 1948, about a handsome young Virginia athlete who discovers he's homosexual. It caused a scandal at the time and was considered pornographic. Although he wrote many historical books--including Burr and Lincoln--many in the gay community will remember him for works such as Myra Breckenridge, which was made into a movie starring Rex Reed, Raquel Welch, and Mae West, but suffered at the box office. Gore Vidal's The Best Man is currently on Broadway and has already been extended through September 9.

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