Broadway mourns the passing of Gore Vidal, author, playwright, politician and commentator, who died at the age of 86. Vidal died in his home in the Hollywood Hills at about 6:45 p.m. of complications from pneumonia. Gore Vidal challenged power and exposed the system often led by men he knew firsthand. He had wealth, was famous and was not afraid to use it. He was known for his best-selling novels “Lincoln” and “Myra Breckenridge” and the Tony-nominated play “The Best Man.”
“The Best Man” premiered in 1960 and was made into a film starring Henry Fonda. Paul Newman starred in “The Left-Handed Gun,” a film adaptation of Vidal’s “The Death of Billy the Kid.” Vidal was ahead of his time predicting the fall of democracy, America’s decline and the destruction of the environment. He was honored rarely, lost both times he ran for office and initially declined membership into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, but was admitted in 1999. His friends included countless celebrities such as John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Susan Sarandon and Tennessee Williams. His friendship with Jacqueline Kennedy led to the 1967 essay “The Holy Family.” Vidal formed a bond with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and exchanged letters after Vidal’s 1998 article in Vanity Fair on “the shredding” of the Bill of Rights and their friendship inspired Edmund White’s play “Terre Haute.”
Working in Hollywood, he wrote the script for “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Ben-Hur.” He appeared, exposing himself and others in a documentary about gays in Hollywood, “The Celluloid Closet.” His acting credits included “Gattaca,” “With Honors,” and Tim Robbins’ political satire, “Bob Roberts.” On TV he made guest appearances on everything from “The Simpsons” to “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.”
Vidal wrote the novel “The Smithsonian Institution” and the nonfiction best sellers “Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace” and “Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta.” A second memoir, “Point to Point Navigation,” came out in 2006. In 2009, “Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History’s Glare” featured pictures of Vidal with Newman, Jagger, Johnny Carson, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Springsteen.
Gene Vidal, his father, served briefly in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and was an early expert on aviation. Amelia Earhart was a family friend and reported lover of Gene Vidal.
Vidal is survived by his half-sister Nina Straight and half brother Tommy Auchincloss. His companion Howard Austen died in 2003.
Vidal is a voice who could not be silenced and was not afraid of those who sought to silence him. He will be missed!