“Don’t stick your tongue out at me, Bill.”
That’s one of the lines I remember most from my childhood.
In fact, my best friend and I used it throughout our senior year in high school, that’s how much we appreciated the line and the man who uttered it.
As I recall, it was used during one of the debates on ABC-TV during the 1968 conventions.
The Bill was a reference to William F. Buckley Jr., and the man who was involved in a no holds barred verbal slugfest with Bill was, of course, Gore Vidal who passed on today at age 86. (In this day and age, I trust the Vidal-Buckley clip is googleable).
I was a big fan of Gore Vidal, not as much for his books as for his verbal prowess throughout the years.
Don’t get me wrong, I managed to get through Burr (on my third try), and I admired Vidal as a writer, but I found him very difficult. I remember trying to get through Lincoln as bedtime reading one winter, but it was simply too depressing.
I will miss Gore Vidal the same way I miss Walter Cronkite; he was around so often during the formative years of my life I use him as a landmark of my coming of age. What was I doing when Gore or Walter did this or that?
Howie Carr, on WRKO, shared a couple of Vidal’s other great quotes with his listeners this afternoon.
Upon the passing of heavy drinking and drugging Truman Capote at age 59, Vidal was more succinct than “Don’t stick your tongue out at me Bill.” He called Truman’s death a great career move.
Speaking of memories from earlier in life, remember those interminable Capote interviews with Dick Cavett.
Vidal’s other quote from Gore was typical, the kind of straightforward assessment that made Vidal both a loved and hated figure. It’s not enough to succeed, he once said; others have to fail.
How true, how true!
RIP, Gore, RIP.
Maybe I should try—once again—to get through some of that historical fiction which has eluded me at every try.
The last time I tried that was when I made a list of books any intelligent person should read before he or she dies. I put A Tale of Two Cities at the top of the list and couldn’t get through the first chapter. Indeed, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of books.”
Like Dickens, Vidal as a writer was never my cup of tea, but he was a great man.
(On the other hand, I’ve read everything from Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving three times and anxiously await Vonnegut’s newest—it must be just about time).
I continue to read and truly enjoy Douglas Brinkley’s great biography of Cronkite (see other posting).