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That time Gore Vidal porked Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, 1953
“What did you and Jack do?” Allen Ginsberg asked Gore Vidal one cold January night in 1994.

“Well, I fucked him,” Vidal was pleased to reply. On the night of August 23, 1953, the two men of letters had banged one out in a Chelsea Hotel room following a Greenwich Village bar crawl. Kerouac published a fictionalized account of the assignation in The Subterraneans but, aside from a morning-after moment of “horrible recognition,” he left out the sex. Vidal was annoyed, and said so:

I challenged Jack. “Why did you, the tell-it-all-like-it-is writer, tell everything about that evening with Burroughs and me and then go leave out what happened when we went to bed?”

“I forgot,” he said. The once startlingly clear blue eyes were now bloodshot.

Palimpsest, the first of Gore Vidal’s two memoirs, fills in the lacuna with a detailed record of the evening’s events. It began with William S. Burroughs. Kerouac and Vidal had met before, and in a 1952 letter to Kerouac, Burroughs expressed interest in meeting the author of The Judgment of Paris:

Is Gore Vidal queer or not? Judging from the picture of him that adorns his latest opus I would be interested to make his acquaintance. Always glad to meet a literary gent in any case, and if the man of letters is young and pretty and possibly available my interest understandably increases.


Gore Vidal on the back cover of The Judgment of Paris, 1952
The three writers met at the San Remo bar the following year, after Burroughs’ return from Mexico. Kerouac, Vidal writes, “was manic. Sea captain’s hat. T-shirt. Like Marlon Brando in Streetcar.” Burroughs asked about a Turkish bath in Rome that Vidal had described in The Judgment of Paris. They moved on to Tony Pastor’s, a lesbian bar; afterwards, Kerouac swung around a lamppost out front, “a Tarzan routine that caused Burroughs to leave us in disgust.” Vidal was ready to go back to his father’s apartment uptown, but Kerouac had a different notion:

“Let’s get a room around here.” The first law of sex is never go to bed with someone drunk. Corollary to this universal maxim was my own fetish–never to have sex with anyone older. I was twenty-eight. Jack was thirty-one. Five years earlier, when we first met, I would have overruled the difference, but I had also arbitrarily convinced myself that Conrad’s “shadow line” extended to sex: So from the age of thirty on, a man or woman was, for my purposes, already a corpse–not that I ever had much on my mind when it came to sex with men. In my anonymous encounters, I was what used to be called trade. I did nothing–deliberately, at least–to please the other. When I became too old for these attentions from the young, I paid, gladly, thus relieving myself of having to please anyone in any way. But now here I was stuck with Jack, who had certainly once attracted me at the Metropolitan when that drop of clear water slid down his cheek. Now there was real sweat. I stared at him. We were the same height and general build. With some misgiving, I crossed the shadow line.

At the nearby Chelsea Hotel, each signed his real name. Grandly, I told the bemused clerk that this register would become famous. I’ve often wondered what did happen to it. Has anyone torn out our page? Or is it still hidden away in the dusty Chelsea files? Lust to one side, we both thought, even then (this was before On the Road), that we owed it to literary history to couple.

I remember that the bathroom was near the entrance to a large double room. There was no window shade, so a red neon light flickering on and off gave a rosy glow to the room and its contents. Jack was now in a manic mood: We must take a shower together. To my surprise, he was circumcised. [...]

Where Anaïs and I were incompatible–chicken hawk meets chicken hawk–Jack and I were an even more unlikely pairing–classic trade meets classic trade, and who will do what?


Gore Vidal, 1948

“Jack was rather proud of the fact that he blew you.” Allen sounded a bit sad as we assembled our common memories over tea in the Hollywood Hills. I said that I had heard Jack had announced this momentous feat to the entire clientele of the San Remo bar, to the consternation of one of the customers, an advertising man for Westinghouse, the firm that paid for the program Studio One, where I had only just begun to make a living as a television playwright. “I don’t think,” said the nervous advertiser, “that this is such a good advertisement for you, not to mention Westinghouse.” As On the Road would not be published until 1957, he had no idea who Jack was.

Thanks to Allen’s certainty of what Jack had told him, I finally recall the blow job–a pro forma affair, which I put a quick stop to. At what might nicely be called loose ends, we rubbed bellies for a while; later he would publish a poem dedicated to me: “Didn’t know I was a great come-onner, did you? (come-on-er).” I was not particularly touched by this belated Valentine, considering that I finally flipped him over on his stomach, not an easy job as he was much heavier than I [...]

Jack raised his head from the pillow to look at me over his left shoulder; off to our left the rosy neon from the window gave the room a mildly infernal glow. He stared at me a moment–I see this part very clearly now, forehead half covered with sweaty dark curls–then he sighed as his head dropped back onto the pillow. There are other published versions of this encounter: in one, Jack says that he spent the night in the bathroom. On the floor? There was a shower but no tub. In another, he was impotent. But the potency of other males is, for me, a turnoff. What I have reported is all there was to it, except that I liked the way he smelled.

Alas, there is no sex tape, but you can watch part one of the fascinating Omnibus profile of Vidal below (part two here).



Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘The Homosexuals’: Mike Wallace interviews Gore Vidal & early gay rights activists, 1967
09:37 am


Gore Vidal
Mattachine Society
Mike Wallace

Gore Vidal and Mike Wallace 11 years later, in 1978. Vidal later resented television appearances, saying he was forced to do TV because no one read anymore.

1967 was an intense year for gay activism. In the UK, the the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalized gay sex for men over the age of 21 in England and Wales (No mention of lesbians?). In the US, however, only Illinois had revoked its sodomy laws That’s it. Illinois. Until the next decade it was just, “Hey, enjoy your one state! Hope you like the midwest, homos!” The 10th Amendment aside, gay activism was gaining more traction and publicity in the US, and this amazing little edition of CBS Reports—subtly titled “The Homosexuals”—was a pretty groundbreaking piece for gay men, despite its conservative conclusions.

Mike Wallace does a great job with the interviews. There’s a tragic one with an anonymous man on probation who had already been to jail three times for “committing homosexual acts.” Wallace says he’s “in therapy,” and the man identifies himself as “sick,” alluding to a domineering mother as the source of his sexuality. There’s a fantastic interview with Gore Vidal too, but my favorite is the representative from The Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group whose stated goals were:

1) Unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind
2) Educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling the cultures of the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples
3) Lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership to the whole mass of social variants
4) Assist gays who are victimized daily as a result of oppression.

During an era where “identity politics” was just getting started, this was an incredibly sophisticated set of political objectives. The Mattachine Society had already been around since 1950, and the group’s original organizing principles were based on the Communist Party’s. Most the the original members were active communists, and founder Harry Hay actually recommended his own expulsion from the the party, which did not technically allow gay members. (They actually ended up dismissing him for security reasons, but declaring him a “Lifelong Friend of the People.”)

This little documentary really covers a range of self-acceptance, from the man who believed himself to be sick to the open and unashamed Vidal and the Mattachine members. Wallace however, makes his opinions clear, saying matter-of-factly:

The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one-chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city — the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Watch a ten-year-old Gore Vidal pilot an airplane, 1936
09:04 am


Gore Vidal

The late Gore Vidal was so many things during his life. Groundbreaking author! Master of belles-lettres!  Committed progressive! Gay (but-sort-of-not-really because he conceived of sexuality as inherently genderless, but whatever)! Kind of a sexist, rape-apologist piece of shit! But hey, remember that one time he pissed off William F. Buckley so bad that Buckley called him a “queer,” and threatened to punch him? That was pretty cool, right? And that other time when Norman Mailer head-butted him? That was good times!

Well, you can add “junior aviator” to Vidal’s long list of accomplishments! The video below shows both Eugene Vidals—Junior and Senior, the latter who was an Olympic Decathlete, Professor of aeronautics at West Point, one of the first pilots in the US Air Corps, and he was an original captain of industry who broke the ground for commercial airlines (it’s also widely believed—and reported by Gore—that he had an affair with Amelia Earhart). The short is a bit of a stunt to alleviate public fears about flying, produced in partnership with the federal government—-notice the “Department of Commerce” logo on the side of the plane. Little Gene’s role is just to show us that flight is safe and simple—why even a future-literary-genius-child could do it!

h/t Connor Kilpatrick

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
So we have Gore Vidal’s ‘snotty, mocking attitude’ to blame for Michele Bachmann?

The short answer appears to be “Yes.”

Via the horrifyingly lowbrow Daily Caller:

“It’s very interesting because I had been a Democrat — and I’d actually worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign. And I was reading a novel by Gore Vidal, and when I was reading it he was mocking the Founding Fathers. And all of a sudden it just occurred to me: I set the book down on my lap, I looked out the window of a train I was riding in, and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m a Democrat. I think I really am a Republican.’ Because the Founding Fathers were not the characters that I saw Gore Vidal portraying in his novel.

“And that snotty, mocking attitude, to me didn’t reflect in any way who we are as a nation. And I just thought that’s a completely different philosophical view of the United States. And I know that Gore Vidal has passed away today, I understood he was 86 years old. And it’s interesting how his work — while he intended I think one particular way — it was used actually to help me see a completely different way, which is the conservative way. And I started then examining the conservative position, and realized at heart I really am a conservative. And that’s far more reflective of American values, than the values that Gore Vidal was espousing.”

Probably falls a bit short of the intellectual legacy Gore Vidal would have wanted…


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gore Vidal: Rest In Peace
02:22 am


Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal has died. He was 86 years-old and the cause of death was pneumonia.

In the next few days many words will be written about Vidal. He was the kind of bigger-than-life figure that polarized, provoked, angered and inspired his friends and foes alike.

Long before it became obvious to many of us that the USA was entering a kind of collective dark night of the soul, Vidal was vocal in his condemnation of the erosion of freedom in America, denouncing the imperialism that thrived under the political leadership of puppets controlled by the military industrial complex and giant corporations. But his cynicism regarding America’s future was balanced by a deep love for the revolutionary values this country was built on. He feared that we were losing our identity and freedom to the machinations of authoritarianism and greed.

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.

In this historic television debate with William F. Buckley during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Vidal is absolutely right on in his criticism of the Chicago Police Department’s violent response to the the anti-war demonstrations taking place outside the International Amphitheatre where the convention was taking place. Described accurately as a “police riot,” the victims of the gestapo-like tactics of the cops included innocent bystanders, journalists (including Dan Rather) and even the Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey who was overcome by tear gas in his hotel room.

Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Mr. Vidal a “queer.” For a moment, the battle between the two men is a perfect distillation of what is occurring outside on the streets of Chicago.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Mae West proving she was still ‘Hard to Handle’ at the age of 77

The incomparable Mae West proving she was still “Hard to Handle” at the age of 77. Here Ms West sings the Otis Redding classic from the 1970 movie Myra Breckinridge. The film, based on the novel by Gore Vidal, and starred Raquel Welch, Farrah-Fawcett and Mae West, but was sadly a flop. Watching this fab little clip, who couldn’t be won over by the incorrigible Statue of Libido?

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Mae West Room in the Dali Theater-Museum

With thanks to Tommy Udo!

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
He’s Still the Great Gore Vidal, But Boy Is He Cranky

(Above, Gore Vidal visits “Mary Hartman” (Louise Lasser) in the mental hospital on the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman soap opera)
I have revered Gore Vidal my entire life. He’s a great writer and he’s a great American, perhaps THE great American gadfly amongst men of letters. The older he gets, the more spiteful he becomes about the state of this country. Interviews with Vidal in recent years fall into one of two categories, sometimes they’re terribly amusing, but alarming, other times just alarming. Lately, he’s really letting it rip. He’s 83, why should he pull any punches? In this long interview from London, a cranky Vidal holds forth on the Obama presidency with a jaundiced eye:

Gore Vidal is not only grieving for his own dead circle and his fading life, but for his country. At 83, he has lived through one third of the lifespan of the United States. If anyone incarnates the American century that has ended, it is him. He was America’s greatest essayist, one of its best-selling novelists and the wit at every party. He holidayed with the Kennedys, cruised for men with Tennessee Williams, was urged to run for Congress by Eleanor Roosevelt, co-wrote some of the most iconic Hollywood films, damned US foreign policy from within, sued Truman Capote, got fellated by Jack Kerouac, watched his cousin Al Gore get elected President and still lose the White House, and ?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cracking Open The Sheltering Sky

Today’s NYT alerts us to the 60th (!) anniversary of Paul Bowles’ novel The Sheltering Sky.  A race to the limits of experience—and existence—set against North Africa’s unforgiving desert, Sky gave Bowles the means to live with the absolute freedom of his two most famous characters, Port and Kit Moresby.  That freedom would ultimately consume the Moresbys, but Bowles, along with his wife, Jane, lived out their years in Tangier, experimenting with hashish and bisexuality, and nurturing friendships with everyone from Gore Vidal to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

It was with Gysin that Bowles met The Master Musicians of Jajouka, a discovery that would later yield Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka.  Dubbed, dryly, by Burroughs as a “4000-year-old rock band,” The Masters can be seen below playing at the 40th anniversary of Brian Jones’ death.

In the NYT: Trusting in the Sheltering Sky, Even When It Scorched

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment