I know that it isn't going to matter to me, what those who are left behind say about me after I am gone. But I am sad for Gore Vidal, one of the more elegant and arguably the most eloquent of people I have been lucky enough to know in my lifetime, because of the article in the Sunday Arts section of the New York Times. One of his disappointed familial survivors, to whom Gore apparently left nothing, spoke with gargantuan insensitivity of the writer's loss of control over bodily functions. Dead though he might be, I can still feel him flinching.
I met him when my husband Don and I, early in our marriage, were living in Europe, and our then close friend, Sue Mengers, my agent, gave us Gore's number when we were going to visit Rome. He invited us for drinks atop his terraced rooftop apartment; having apparently passed the audition, we were asked on to dinner, with his companion, Howard Austen, and one of Andy Warhol's current flashes, Ultra Violet. At that meal Gore spoke openly of his sexual proclivities and preferences, and young and innocent though we might have been, as it was Gore, to me it seemed fascinating.
At one point he fixed me with his amazing, dark gaze, and looking deeply, asked if I was wearing contact lenses. I answered No.
"It's just that your eyes are so beautiful," he said, "I thought you must have something in them."
Oddly, it was dazzling being hit on by one of the world's most notorious homosexuals.
When we got back to our hotel, Don, one of the sweet, straight men in the world, said to me: "It just shows what a pervert you are, that you enjoy the company of Gore Vidal."
Not too long after that, back in Los Angeles, Don died. My good friend, the actress Betty Garrett, who had also lost a husband, Larry Parks, too young, said to me: "Now you must do what you wouldn't have done if Don were alive." So the first thing I did was buy a hat-- Don didn't think I had "a hat face,"-- and then I went to Italy, to Ravello, to visit Gore Vidal.
"Gore didn't tell me you were coming," Howard mewed. I was, nonetheless, invited for dinner in their beautiful hillside home, looking down at sea.
"This is ONE of our views," Gore said, opening his arms wide to embrace the horizon.
At dinner, I brought him a copy of my latest, and, I hoped, best novel, MARRIAGE. "I know this isn't your favorite subject," I said. "But it's different than other books."
"Different FROM," he baritoned.
In the years after that I saw him from time to time in different places, at parties, at dinners, at book signings. Always there were warm exchanges, all of them witty, many of them affectionate and/or piercing. I was of course sad to see him growing older and less forgiving, but forgiveness had never been one of his stronger suits. Still, I was glad to know he was still alive.
"The evil that men do live after them," Mark Antony said at Caesar's funeral, which eloquent durability Gore opined would not particularly please Shakespeare, since he was dead. But to have his physical degeneration written of in the Sunday Styles section, I am sure would have mortified Gore, so I am hurt and angry for him.
And though the Times said the crass-detail-giving relative spoke in "affectionate tones," I don't really believe that. I think it was probably, a timbre far from aligned with Jay Gatsby's enamored description of Daisy's, voice as "full of money;" but one more aptly filled with bitterness at not having gotten any.