The World's New Gay State

Happy Festivus, Gore Vidal.

Posted in Uncategorized by thegaystateblog on December 14, 2009

This is a season that can be trying for those of us who are lacking in holiday cheer.  The false merriment and artificial glee rings hollow for those who find little comfort in the Christmas spirit.  The obscene degree of commercialism that plagues the western cultures only serves to dramatize and magnify the hollowness of all the holiday season rituals.  There are also Jews I’m sure who lament Hanukkah and Africans who would rather ignore all of the trappings of Kwanzaa.   Millions of us who have experienced loss dread the holidays, the melancholy and the isolation that exacerbates the heartbreak.  Which is why I have enjoyed for years, the perverted pleasure that comes from Seinfeld and magic of “Happy Festivus.”

Gore Vidal is one of America’s celebrated atheists.  And I can’t help myself but to wonder how he will pass his time on December 24th and 25th.  We’ll probably be spending a quiet evening in New York on December 24th; not that Gore should feel the need to call and chat or anything, unless of course he felt the urge.  Anyway, he has been an icon in American literature for decades and a Gay icon for all of my adult life.  Funny looking back; I can still remember as a young pre-teen enthralled with photos of Gore in his ‘60’s era swimming trunks.  Was that the moment that “I knew?”  No, “I knew” when I was much younger, but I can still remember those photos. And that smile.

I can’t say that I know Gore Vidal.  I have often been puzzled by his acerbic nature or persona, I’m not sure which.  Having been born into privilege and having had boundless opportunities that most of us never had, I never could see why he always seemed irritable and constipated.  Who amongst us would not want to have lived his life of wealth, with all of the trappings of glamour and access.  Or maybe I should say excess.  He could have just as well lived his entire life on the dusty plains of Oklahoma and had never known the world as he did.  That alone should humble a man to last a lifetime.  On the contrary, Gore is attributed with the quote, “It’s not enough to succeed, others must fail.”  I have never subscribed to that way of thinking at any age.  I hope Gore, that the edge has rubbed off over the years.

When I was in college, I often spent my summer breaks in Newport, Rhode Island at Hammersmith Farm.  I worked as the ‘hired help’ for Mrs. Auchincloss.  By that time, Gore was already an international celebrity.  He rarely came around the property, but Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill, Caroline and John Kennedy Jr. were more frequent visitors.  Gore’s name was sometimes mentioned by family members who fondly spoke of him.

Fast forward to the ‘90’s and early noughts.  My husband Mike and I would spend a part of our summers on the Amalfi Coast, in the village of Positano, relaxing in our villa, which clung to the stone cliffs, high above the sea.  Meanwhile, Gore and his partner Howard were just down the trail in Ravello.  Still we never socialized together.  I’m not much for trying to impress others and to Gore, one-upmanship is a blood sport.  Several times each summer we would make the trek to Ravello.  We’d feast at the Hotel Rufolo, have drinks poolside at Caruso, before an evening of chamber music in the ancient gardens.  Still our paths never crossed, separated by generations and social strata.

Now as 2009 comes to an end and we are all showing our age, Gore has released another book.  I own and keep in my personal library every book he has ever written.  His latest, Snapshots in History’s Glare, is a photographic history as seen through the lens of his life long partner Howard Auster.  Gore provided his trademark insight; sharp, biting and thoughtful.  I’m still not sure if his writing accompanies the photos or the photos accompany his writing but it is a lovely stroll through the decades of a man’s life that has touched so many of us in one way or another.

Now, closing in on 85 and sometimes utilizing a wheelchair, both his mind and tongue are as sharp as ever.  I hope this won’t be Gore’s last book, but if it were to be his Swan Song, it was a lovely look back on a very full life.  And to Gore, I wish you peace and joy, a merry festivus (for the rest of us,) a comfortable new year and lastly a thank you for the memories.

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