19 Other Dead Gay People Probably Fighting With the Ghost of William F. Buckley

Recently deceased gay man Gore Vidal was once called a queer on television by conservative pundit William F. Buckley. If there is a Heaven (or Hell, depending on where you think gay people and Republicans end up after they die), I’d like to imagine a Jean-Paul Satre-like situation in which William F. Buckley is confronted by other dead gay people to whom he can toss around anti-gay slurs. 

 

 

1. Freddie Mercury

2. Liberace

3. Paul Lynde

4. Rock Hudson

5. Sylvester

6. Sally Ride

7. Quentin Crisp

8. Charles Nelson Reilly

9. Gertrude Stein

10. W.H. Auden

11. Dusty Springfield

12. Oscar Wilde

13. Divine

14. Robert Reed

15. Andy Warhol

16. Halston

17. John Gielgud

18. Truman Capote

19. Robert Mapplethorpe

A Few Gems From the Recently Late, Great Gore Vidal

Any attempt to fit writer, activist and man of unflinching words Gore Vidal’s entire career into one post would be a fruitless endeavor. There’s a whole lot to cover in his 86 years, which sadly ended on the evening of July 31st at his home following complications from pneumonia.

There was the Gore Vidal on the page in The City and the Pillar and Myra Breckinridge, his words on the stage in An Evening With Richard Nixon, behind the camera as a screenwriter of the epic Ben-Hur and in front of the camera, always animated, figuratively when combating his eternal sparring partner William F. Buckley Jr. or animated literally on The Simpsons and Family Guy (Lisa Simpson once notably quipped, "These are my only friends: grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will."). His most iconic novel was one of the first American works to address homosexuality openly and frankly, caused certain literary circles to balk and an editor to tell him, "You will never be forgiven for this book. Twenty years from now you will still be attacked for it." He appeared in a Fellini film and on Da Ali G Show. What a career, no? What a life. 

As with any great writer, it’s only so much to speak on his behalf, but it’s sometimes best to let his beautiful, sharp words speak for themselves. Here are a few gems and passages from Vidal’s works to get the uninitiated started on what should be quite the literary journey. This is by no means comprehensive, but 86 years of material is quite a lot, and hopefully these snippets inspire you to search for more. 

“If one starts with the anatomical difference, which even a patriarchal Viennese novelist was able to see was destiny, then one begins to understand why men and women don’t get on very well within marriage, or indeed in any exclusive sort of long-range sexual relationship. He is designed to make as many babies as possible with as many different women as he can get his hands on, while she is designed to take time off from her busy schedule as astronaut or role model to lay an egg and bring up the result. Male and female are on different sexual tracks, and that cannot be changed by the Book or any book. Since all our natural instincts are carefully perverted from birth, it is no wonder that we tend to be, if not all of us serial killers, killers of our own true nature." —from "The Birds and the Bees," first printed in The Nation, October 1991 
 
“The idea of nothing frightened him, and death was probably nothing: no earth, no people, no light, no time, no thing. Jim looked at his hand. It was tanned and square, and covered with fine gold hairs. He imagined the hand as it would be when he was dead: limp, pale, turning to earth. He stared for a long time at the hand which was certain to be earth one day. Decay and nothing, yes, that was the future. He was chilled by a cold animal fear. There must be some way to cheat the earth, which like an inexorable magnet drew men back to it. But despite the struggle of ten thousand generations, the magnet was triumphant, and sooner or later his own particular memories would be spilled upon the ground. Of course his dust would be absorbed in other living things and to that degree at least he would exist again, though it was plain enough that the specific combination which was he would never exist again.” —from The City and the Pillar
 
“Life would certainly be better for everyone in a world where sex was thought of as something natural and not fearsome, and men could love men naturally, in the way they were meant to, as well as to love women naturally, in the way they were meant to.” —from The City and the Pillar
 
"But like so many others nowadays, poor Julian wanted to believe that man’s life is profoundly more significant than it is. His sickness was the sickness of our age. We want so much not to be extinguished at the end that we will go to any length to make conjurer-tricks for one another simply to obscure the bitter, secret knowledge that it is our fate not to be." —from Julian

 

“Love and hate are so confused in your savage minds and the vibrations of the one are so very like those of the other that I can’t always distinguish. You see, we neither love nor hate in my world. We simply have hobbies.” —from Visit to A Small Planet and Other Television Plays

"Lincoln turned to General Scott, who came to massive attention in his chair. "You are to instruct General Butler…that he is to wait upon the legislature [in Annapolis] and if an ordinance of secession is passed, he is to interpret this as an incitement to take up arms against the United States, and those legislators–who would incite the people to take up arms against us…shall be promptly arrested and held in prison at the government’s pleasure."

 
Sir, with what are they to be charged?"
 
"I don’t think we should be too specific."
 
"I myself testified at Richmond in the course of the trial of Colonel Aaron Burr, who was no more guilty–"
 
Seward interrupted the old man without even a show of courtesy. "Mr. Lincoln, you are willing to arrest and to hold men indefinitely with ever charging them with any offense? But on what authority?" Seward felt as if two millennia of law had been casually erased by this peculiar lazy-limbed figure, now twisted in his chair like an ebony German pretzel." —from Lincoln

And someone on YouTube has put the entire 1968 Republican convention debate between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal online for your viewing. It’s heated, but one of both parties’ most iconic moments and considering the way most political discourse is right now in this country, probably comparably fairly tame. 

Thomas Moffett Shrinks Hollywood Down to Size

Thomas Moffett is a new face in the game, with only Steve Clark’s recent directorial debut, The Last International Playboy, under his screenwriting belt. His second script, Shrink , is a star-studded take on individuals facing depression and emotional ruin in Los Angeles and the broken people the film industry attracts. Pretty good for a guy who’s just broken into Hollywood. The film stars big-screen heavyweights Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams, with Saffron Burrows, Mark Webber, and famed novelist Gore Vidal; it releases this Friday, July 31.

When did you start writing? I’ve always written … it’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do or been semi-good at. I grew up in Indiana, and I always wanted to live in New York ever since I read Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey and all those Salinger stories. I went to NYU and then worked as an assistant for George Plimpton, editor of the Paris Review. During that time, I started writing screenplays, and then a few of my scripts got close to being made. I started thinking, “Maybe I can do this.”

Have you spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, where the film takes place? No. When I knew I was going to write the script, I spent about two months house-sitting for the producer of the film in the Hollywood Hills. It was this amazing place to just soak everything in. I spent two months trying to get a feel for things, which helped a lot in terms of the characters the movie.

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What’s the premise of the film? The movie’s about a therapist who practices in LA and has a lot of clients who are in the movie industry. I wanted it to be about these people who happen to live and work in Hollywood, but their problems are the kind of problems that you could have anywhere. They’re just magnified because of the narcissistic nature of Hollywood. I really wanted to avoid making it like Entourage, so I think the fact that I live in New York and not in LA helped me look at things from a more objective view and not get caught up with making it about LA. I wouldn’t have been able to do that very well.

How’d the concept come about? One of my best and oldest friends is an actress named Pell James, who’s in the film. She’s married to a guy named Michael Burns, who’s the producer of the film. He approached me and said, “I have this idea and it involves these types of characters and this setting. Maybe you could find something to do with it?” So, I stared at it for three months and I couldn’t figure out how to write something that didn’t seem Entourage-y. I had a breakthrough when I started thinking about the therapist character, played by Kevin Spacey. I started thinking, what if he’s going through a breakdown that’s worse than his patients? It started organically that way, and then all the LA stuff came later. Once we got Kevin on board, the whole movie started coming to life, and the other actors started signing on. He just threw himself into the character, and the film and worked for a fraction of what he usually works for. He really lead us all by example.

Do you have a personal relationship with psychiatric help? I went to therapy for the first time five years ago. I was really depressed and just felt overwhelmed and had a lot of anxiety and panic and all these different things. I have a bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, which one of the characters also has, so it was fun to take elements of things that I’ve gone through and write about them in a way that was kind of cathartic. I think the saddest things can be really funny and the funniest things can be really sad.

How was Robin Williams involved? He came and did three days of work with us, and that was the highlight for me. The director and I were just standing there and watching Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams do a scene on the second or third day of filming. It felt like a dream come true. I was lucky as a writer to be on the set every day which was unusual. Jonas [Pate] was really generous as a director and very collaborative.

What’s Robin’s character like? Robin got involved and said he was interested in one character. I rewrote the character with him in mind. It was really cool that he was game for that because the character is dealing with some problems and going through a divorce and some things that were going on in Robin’s life. In one of the scenes between him and Kevin, Kevin got to a very vulnerable spot. It’s a very intense scene and Robin Williams has this smile, this very sad smile that breaks your heart when you see it.

How many times did you have to shoot that one? A couple of times but not because anything went wrong. Only because Robin and Kevin would play around, and Robin would improv these amazing lines. There’s this scene where he’s at a press junket. Robin plays an actor in the film, and we just let him go in terms of improv-ing. He’d make these great riffs about the fake movie. In it, he plays a Viking, and there’s a really funny poster in the background of him in a Viking beard. Robin went off making all these jokes about long axes and how he couldn’t have guns because it would have been a short film, and the women had hairy armpits. We were all in awe of him.

Did you have actors in mind while you were writing the script? I definitely had Kevin in mind, but it was very much wishful thinking. When you’re writing a script and sitting alone in a room, you have no idea if anyone will ever see it. But you get these fantasies of different actors playing the characters, and Kevin was someone who early on we all talked about.

And for the other characters? I wrote this character named Daisy for my friend Pell. In the first draft of the script, Daisy’s in her late 20s and starts dating another character in the film, but then Pell became pregnant partway through the process of pre-production. I really wanted her to be in the movie, so I rewrote the character as pregnant, which was definitely a challenge because I had to then tell the love story of her and this struggling writer. We also knew that we wanted Keke Palmer to play the young girl. She was 15 when we were shooting. She’s in Akeelah and the Bee. She has her own show on Nickelodeon, and she’s got a rap album. She makes you feel like such an underachiever.

Was it a constant comedy on and off set? Well, Kevin can do fantastic impressions of different actors. He can do an amazing Jack Lemmon, Johnny Carson, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino. He’s constantly slipping into a Marlon Brando voice to keep the crew entertained. We did one scene with the writer Gore Vidal and Kevin. Later, Gore had all of us over to his beautiful house for drinks. Gore was great friends with Johnny Carson and would go on The Tonight Show all the time back in the 70s. There was this wonderful moment in Gore’s living room where Spacey starts being Johnny Carson and pretending to interview Gore, who started doing a routine on present-day topics like Sarah Palin and talking about the election.

What was it like having this at Sundance? That was incredible. We were in the Eccles Theater, which holds 1,300 people, and we were oversold both the first night and the next morning. It was cool to see it with an audience because we were in such a hurry editing that none of us — myself, the director, Kevin — had seen it on anything other than our computers.

What’s next for you? I did an adaptation of a play that Liev Schreiber proposed to me. He and a friend had a one-act that they put on at Yale and had been trying figure out a way to expand into a film for years. It’s an amazing play, and I just fell in love with it. Liev gave me open reign to expand it from a one-act that takes place in a single kitchen to something that takes place all over New York.

What are your spots in New York? I love this vegetarian restaurant called Counter in the East Village. And I love The Mermaid Inn. I also like this cupcake place called Babycakes. It’s like the Magnolia Bakery for vegans.
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