|Vidal & Newman in Greece|
Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of same-sex relations in such books as THE CITY AND THE PILLAR, Vidal is often seen as an early champion of sexual liberation. In the September 1969 edition of ESQUIRE, for example, he wrote, "We are all bisexual to begin with. That is a fact of our condition. And we are all responsive to sexual stimuli from our own as well as from the opposite sex. Certain societies at certain times, usually in the interest of maintaining the baby supply, have discouraged homosexuality. Other societies, particularly militaristic ones, have exalted it. But regardless of tribal taboos, homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime ... despite the best efforts of our puritan tribe to make it all three. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word 'natural,' not normal." I also recall a great long interview he did for PLAYBOY in the late 60s.
|Gore, Tennessee & JFK in 1958|
PALIMPSEST is a book about a young man on the move, on the make, on the rise: sexy and brash. It also includes a romance: Vidal's boyhood lover Jimmy Trimble who died at Iwo Jima. Then there was Howard Austen, his partner for 53 years (the secret, Vidal insists yet again, was "no sex"). He was also once engaged to Joanne Woodward and was lifelong pals with her and Paul. Confined to a wheelchair after his return to the States, Gore has finally departed at age 86. We really won't see his like again. But we will be returning to that treasure trove of fiction, comment and memoirs. There are several compendiums of his selected writings... One of today's obituaries refer to him as "the man who knew everyone" - rather like our Dirk Bogarde here in the UK, and asks "Could anyone again ever have the career of Gore Vidal?"
Chris Marker (1921-2012) - Of all the French film-makers who emerged in the 1950s, Marker was by all accounts the most forward-looking with pioneering films like SANS SOLEIL. His masterpiece - I have not seen it but know it is acclaimed - is LA JETEE, a poetic time travel tale from 1962 told almost entirely in still images (and now Nr 50 in the new "Sight & Sound" top 50 films).
Tony Martin (1913-2012) - Vocalist and actor, he lived to be 98, a peer of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Although he never became a full-fledged movie star, he was featured in 25 films, most of them like ZIEGFIELD GIRL and TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY, made during the heyday of the Hollywood musicals. A husky 6 feet tall and dashingly handsome, he was often cast as the romantic lead - first married Alice Faye and then in 1948 Cyd Charisse whom he spent 60 years with until her death in 2008 .... you could say some guys have all the luck.
Maeve Binchy - the popular Irish novelist who has died aged 72. Her books are great upbeat reads which make one feel good, capturing the upbeat sunny side of Irish life, I have enjoyed several of them - whereas Edna O'Brien, my particular favourite, caught that darker undercurrent of the Irish character, a nice contrast to the Binchy view.