--Norman Mailer, Hockney’s Alphabet
“I’m working on a novel and it’s acting like most such creatures—insists on being a wife. You poets don’t know how lucky you are with your one-night stands.”
--Norman Mailer, Hockney’s Alphabet
Gore Vidal's copy of Hockney's Alphabet, in which Vidal was one of the participants, is available for purchase via the Nick Harvill Libraries store.
Jay Parini: If you could change anything about your life, what would it be?
Gore Vidal: My mother!
Jay Parini: Whose mother do you want?
Gore Vidal: I’ll take Whistler’s. I’ll take anybody else’s.
--Gore Vidal, via Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
Nina Vidal Auchincloss Olds, an alcoholic, was no one's idea of a perfect mother. She came with baggage. Yet, some of those bags were Louis Vuitton.
After Nina's marriage to Gore's father ended, she married Hugh D. Auchincloss. It was through Auchincloss that Gore became stepbrother (once removed) to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a connection that gave him entree to Camelot and that he would dine out on for the remainder of his life.
Just as importantly, Nina's frequent absences meant Gore was practically raised by her book-loving parents, U.S. Senator Thomas and Nina Belle Gore, whom Gore recalls with great affection in his memoir, Palimpsest. He spent much his childhood among the books in their well-stocked library, and in the end, a good library triumphed over a negligent mother.
“Never miss an opportunity to have sex or be on television.”
Gore Vidal, via Patricia Bosworth, The Men in My Life
Like it or not, the 21st Century corollary is: "Never miss an opportunity to make a sex tape and use it to boost your ratings on reality television."
“Truman hasn’t written anything in years, and what’s more, he hasn’t read anything in years.”
--Gore Vidal, via Leo Lerman, The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman
“Of course, I’m always sad about Gore. Very sad that he has to breathe every day.”
--Truman Capote, Literary Feuds, A Century of Celebrated Quarrels—from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe
“Truman stole from Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. The only thing he and I have in common are our mothers are both drunks.”
--Gore Vidal, via Patricia Bosworth, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan
How does one top Joan Crawford versus Bette Davis? Might we suggest Truman Capote versus Gore Vidal? Perhaps the indomitable Mamacita left Crawford to work for Truman's great friend Joanne Carson? How about it Ryan Murphy?
“Of course I pay for sex, I’m such a bad lay, I should pay for it.”
--Gore Vidal, In Bed with Gore Vidal
See also: "The Best Little Filling Station in Los Angeles"
“There are rare people who make you believe in God. I think continually of them so that I can go on.”
--Tennessee Williams, Five O'Clock Angel, Letters of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just
For Gore Vidal's recollections on this photograph, see The Luminous Years, Portraits at Mid-Century by Karl Bissinger (the copy listed on our website is from Vidal's personal collection with his bookstamp) or "Salad Days" from the October 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.
“Good sex is all about how much is too much, how little is too little, about that thin dividing line between consistency and variety, between meeting the expected and surprising with the unexpected.”
Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Live of the Stars is one of the most extraordinary Hollywood tell-alls ever released. Its publication was like a nuclear bomb detonation, but because every victim was already deceased, there were no fatalities (and not even that much attention from the tabloids). That is actually just as the author Scotty Bowers intended. By all accounts, he is a kind person and loyal friend. He steadfastly resisted all attempts to write about his four-decade career as an A-List hustler and broker until those he would incriminate were long gone.
Bowers’ incredible story begins in 1946 when he pumped gas into an automobile driven by character actor Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon propositioned him, paying Bowers twenty dollars for a sexual encounter. More such on-the-job shenanigans followed, and soon the Richfield gasoline station on Hollywood Boulevard where Bowers worked became the most unlikely of brothels. [Leave it to car-centric midcentury Los Angeles to combine the world's oldest profession with one of its newest.]
Just about every personality in Hollywood except Shirley Temple and Lassie eventually found need of Bower’s services: either via an assignation with Bowers himself or a male or female companion arranged by him. His client list included Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Errol Flynn, Edith Piaf, Noel Coward, Tyrone Power, Anthony Perkins, George Cukor, and many, many others. One of those others was Charles Laughton, and the chapter concerning him is so disturbing that it is best to skip it altogether.
It is a truth-is-stranger than fiction book, and one cannot help but wonder if Bowers embellished his story. Did the Duke and Duchess of Windsor really participate in a tawdry Pacific Palisades sex party? Gore Vidal, a longtime close friend and client of Bowers, vouched for Scotty’s veracity. It was Vidal who publicly encouraged Bowers to break his code of silence and write his memoirs. Vidal lived to see that come to fruition, but just barely. In fact, the February 8, 2012 launch party for the book, held at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, was Vidal's last public appearance. He died later that year.
Another corroborating witness was Cecil Beaton. In the early 1960s, Beaton was billeted in Los Angeles for an extended period—a miserable one for him—working on the costumes and sets for My Fair Lady. During production, he famously fell out with his friend George Cukor, My Fair Lady’s director. As Bowers relates in his book, Beaton required much encouragement and compassion, which Bowers provided during paid sexual encounters at Beaton’s private bungalow on the grounds of the Hotel Bel-Air.
Beaton himself confirmed his association with Bowers in his posthumously published diaries, Beaton in the Sixties. Referring to an assignation several years after the wrap of My Fair Lady, Beaton wrote, “Scotty is a phenomenon. I heard several years ago that the police had caught up with him ... I only had a telephone number, now surely in disrepair. But no. Although I woke him early, his voice was as cheerful as ever. It is five years since I’ve seen him ... I asked him how much I owed him and he suggested a sum much smaller than I knew was customary.”
“The United States was the creation of men who believed that each man has the right to do what he wants with his life as long as he does not interfere with his neighbor’s pursuit of happiness (that his neighbor’s idea of happiness is persecuting others does confuse matters a bit).”
--Gore Vidal, Gore Vidal’s United States, Essays 1952-1992
Upon learning of the circumstances surrounding Capote's passing, Gore Vidal, Truman's erstwhile friend and full-time nemesis, thoughtfully sent a condolence note—only not to the bereaved Joanne, but to her ex-husband Johnny. He wrote:
“You know, John, I know how upset you must be by Joanne’s publicity coup in having Capote die in her house. Out of friendship to you, I promise I’ll die in yours.”
Vidal’s droll promise went unfulfilled. Carson died in 2005, seven years before Vidal passed away in 2012.
Via: Truman Capote in which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career
Photo Credit: Snapshots in History's Glare
There are no guarantees when speculating on alternate history. However, when Gore Vidal was asked how the world might be different had it been Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev who was assassinated in 1963, his droll answer was most certainly correct.
“With history one can never be certain, but [had it been Khrushchev rather than Kennedy assassinated in 1963], I think I can safely say that Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs. Khrushchev.”
--Gore Vidal, Palimpsest