My third meeting with Gore Vidal.
The second time I met Vidal it was with Stephen Fry when Stephen was here in LA writing his book.
On both occasions I had to share him with many others.
On this occasion Charlie Parsons and I had him all to ourselves.
Gore looks very frail. He looks like a child. Sitting in his wheelchair, his clothes hanging off his slight frame. His eyes still blaze, his smile..when he smiles…lighting up his whole face. He looks ever so slightly like Monty Burns. He remains mesmerizing.
He is still king of the brilliant bon mot.
Charlie arrived from London and checked into his hotel.
My good buddy is here in LA so we get to spend a great deal of time together. He is such fun and very gently mocks how seriously I take myself.
We sat with Gore at his dining room table in his beautiful Spanish revival house (for sale) in the Hollywood Hills riveted to his take on contemporary America.
Sitting with his assistant and his realtor Delphine. He offered us white wine but we opted (obviously) for water.
Gore recently sold his home in Italy so the house is crammed not only with thousands of books piled in every room but also an extraordinary collection of renaissance art.
A ginger cat with huge eyes lay on his bed.
We sat in the dining room chatting, covering a great deal of ground in a very short amount of time.
He laughed at how he was always asked to play corrupt senators.
We discuss Sarah Palin . He impersonates Palin brilliantly reducing us to fits of giggles. He described her as ‘un-American’, he laments her lack of intelligence.
We discuss pre-war Germany and how the catastrophic economic situation here perfectly mirrors the situation there; creating a moment in time when a person like Palin can grab the attention of the people and make them feel as if she alone can provide simple answers for difficult problems.
Like any snobby intellectual he scorns the stupid whenever he can. He laments how Obama has been stopped by the vicious right from achieving anything esteemable.
Yet, Obama’s people were also described as ‘stupid’.
Next week he will be with Gorbachev. He holds Gorbachev in very high regard.
Not only is Gore Vidal a remarkable man, he is a remarkable gay man. Inspiring me to understand the old, old gay man in my film and who he might be.
Such a wonderful history. Belligerent, surly, glamorous.
When we left the house we sat quietly in the car making sense of this extraordinary moment.
Gore Vidal, embittered by this contemporary America. He is saddened that corruption is rife.
Like anyone with a big brain he wants to understand how this could have happened to such a great country.
He mentioned my pet American peeve, that Americans boast continually that they are the very best at everything in all the world.
That they have the best police, firemen, soldiers, scientists, schools, healthcare, healthcare delivery… the list is as long as you want to make it.
Yet, elsewhere people live longer, are better educated, live safely etc. Gore mocked American grandiosity.
He said, “I don’t know many Swedish boys who are desperate to become American, look at the people who do…”
At one point Vidal started talking about the end of slavery, how the blacks were deliberately uneducated by the whites and if they showed any desire for an education, for reading and writing, he said that they were “Taken out and shot.”
I remember a Chris Rock skit when he imagines what that must have felt like, to disguise ones intelligence for fear of ones life.
Now we are all slaves with no real need to be educated.
Do American white folk still resent an educated black man? Is that what he was trying to say? Was this why, when he was elected, people here kept on telling me that Obama would be assassinated?
I drove home listening to NPR but I couldn’t listen to anything other than the conversation we had just had with this frail old man.
When he dies something of old America, good America will die with him.