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Gore Vidal: A Collection of Quotes

The brilliant and acidly witty author of 25 novels, several collections of essays and two memoirs died in Los Angeles on Tuesday at age 86.

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Gore Vidal, circa 1993.

Photo By Ted Dayton/Fairchild Archive

Gore Vidal, circa 1971.

Photo By Nick Machalaba/Fairchild Archive

Gore Vidal, the brilliant and acidly witty author of 25 novels, several collections of essays and two memoirs, who died in Los Angeles on Tuesday at age 86, was always known for his iconoclastic views — and his delight in getting into an argument. He had contretemps or feuds with William F. Buckley (he called him a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley called him a “queer”), Norman Mailer (whom he compared to Charles Manson) and Truman Capote, among many others, and he never shied away from expressing his views.

WWD and W magazine interviewed Vidal a number of times over the years, and, not surprisingly, he had plenty to say.

“I don’t like the miniskirt. It makes me nervous unless she is young and pretty. The back of the leg is a dead giveaway, and then you start thinking of age and death and not of sex.

“My grandfather, the Senator [power broker Thomas Gore of Oklahoma], he was magnificent. He loathed the human race. He was extraordinary. He always said if there was another race, he would join it. And his grandson inherited much of his philosophy.”
WWD, May 31, 1967

“If we succeed in cleaning up the environment, we don’t have enough money for war. But Americans are basically pro-war. We’re a violent people and we like it.”
WWD, Nov. 2, 1970

“Don’t call me a spokesman for bisexuality. It’s like being called a spokesman for blue eyes. It doesn’t mean anything. Everyone is bisexual....I don’t understand the obsession with sex. Norman Mailer often sounds like the deranged commander of an American Legion post, particularly about women, whom he doesn’t like very much. He has made politics out of sex.”
WWD, Nov. 2, 1970

“English is his third language and some of us were thinking about getting up a fund and sending him back to Berlitz for the remainder of the English language course.”
On critic John Simon, in WWD, Dec. 16, 1971

“You hear so much about radical chic in New York, but it’s more like radical dowdy.”
WWD, Dec. 16, 1971

“I did think of marrying once, and I explained it on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ in 1968. It was right after those debates with Bill Buckley during the conventions. I told Cavett that I once planned to marry Joanne Woodward. ‘What went wrong?’ Cavett asked. I told him that Joanne met Paul Newman and I met Bill Buckley.”
WWD, Dec. 16, 1971

Early on, he knew Ronald Reagan largely as “a bore to avoid at Hollywood cocktail parties.” On Nancy Reagan: “Aren’t you glad the rage she has for fashion has not been addressed to politics? Better Marie Antoinette than Catherine de Medici.”
WWD, June 19, 1984

“I came from a guiltless world as far as sex went — the world I grew up in was Southern, Washington and political. Everyone in my world did absolutely everything. I am speaking now of the Thirties. No one I knew denied himself anything. Of course, there was a great deal of care about appearances. People in public life had to be careful.

“But it wasn’t until I was well into my twenties and had Jewish friends that I heard about guilt.”
WWD, June 19, 1984

Asked who was the worst president, he responded, “Oh, there were so many of them. Certainly the silliest was Reagan. The most empty. [George H.W.] Bush is in the running for the worst.”
W magazine, May 1990

On Jack Kennedy: “[He was] very, very funny....He was droll about himself. God knows he was droll about the family. He saw through them all, including Bobby....He should have been a journalist. In fact, he would have been a very good one, a gossip columnist. He knew who was f--king everyone on earth at every given moment. He had an absolute passion to know those details.”
W magazine, May 1990

“Jackie would go around telling people she was an inquiring photographer and she was my sister. I said, ‘She’s my half sister’s stepsister.’ ”
W magazine, May 1990

“If it’s a battle between the Gores and the Bushes, the Gores will win. We are much meaner and cleverer. And we have more popular support.”
— WWD, Oct. 20, 1998

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