Mostly Credited As: Gore Vidal
Birth Name: Eugene Luther Gore Vidal
Date Of Birth: October 03, 1925 (Age 86)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: West Point, New York
Date Of Death: July 31, 2012
Cause Of Death: Complications from pneumonia
Height: 5' 11 ½" (1.81 m)
Born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal on October 3, 1925, Gore Vidal is a well-known author and playwright. As a child, Vidal attended St. Albans School and often read for his grandfather, Senator Gore, who was blind. In doing so, Vidal was able to get an inside look to the American government and was exposed to the Senator's isolationism, which continues to be a critical part of Vidal's political philosophy. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, Vidal enlisted with the U.S. Army Reserve in 1943 at just 17 years old.
In the Army, Vidal was assigned as a warrant officer on a ship in the Aleutian Islands. While on the ship, they ran into an arctic storm that badly damaged Vidal's knee. As he recovered in an Army hospital, Vidal wrote his first novel, Williwaw, at the age of 19. After Vidal's 20th birthday, his novel was published, making him one of the few World War II soldiers to get their works published. In 1946, Vidal was discharged from the Army.
Following his discharge, Vidal joined E.P. Dutton as an editor in New York City and got his break into the literary world. Soon after, Vidal published his second novel, In A Yellow Wood, which was well received by critics and fans. Feeling pressured by the fast-paced New York literary life, Vidal headed to Guatemala in order to finish his third novel, The City and the Pillar, in solitude. His third novel portrayed homosexuality, which was a large taboo in America at this time. Though it sold well, critics condemned the immorality in the book. In addition, the book led The New York Times to refuse to review any of Vidal's works for the next decade. His fourth novel, A Season of Comfort, didn't sell well due to the media blackout in reaction to The City and the Pillar.
After his fourth novel, Vidal began to travel between America and Europe. Due to the controversy of The City and the Pillar, Vidal's name had a stigma attached to it in America, but in Europe, his novels were well-received and he continued to write novels. During the 1950s Vidal wrote several works, including A Search for the King, Dark Green, Bright Red, The Judgment of Paris and Messiah. The books sold well, but the press continued to ignore his work.
During the mid and late-50s, Vidal began to write a series of mystery novels under the pseudonym Edgar Box. Unlike his previous controversial works, critics praised the mystery novels. Vidal also made a transition into the television world during this time, writing episodes for various anthology series and adapted several other novels for the anthology series episodes. Vidal achieved one of his greatest successes in the fantasy novel, Visit to a Small Planet, which he would later adapt for the Broadway stage where it was an immediate success.
Vidal's break into television and Broadway brought him press and made him a public figure after several guest appearances on nighttime talk shows including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His dry wit and no-holds discussions on taboo topics made him one of the most sought after couch guests during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Hollywood also proved to be a success for Vidal. He wrote many screenplays, including the hits The Catered Affair, Suddenly Last Summer, and an uncredited contributing writer for teh Academy Award winning Ben Hur.
In 1960, Vidal's mother divorced Hugh D. Auchincloss, who later married Janet Lee Bouvier, mother of future First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. When Jacqueline married then Senator John F. Kennedy, Vidal and Kennedy were introduced, which inspired Vidal to write The Best Man, a play that was later made into an acclaimed film. At this time, Vidal also became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt, along with JFK, encouraged Vidal to run for State Senate in a strongly Republican area. After a long campaign, Vidal lost the election, but gained more insight to the political world.
During the first year of John F. Kennedy's presidency, Vidal remained close to the First Family, but was ready to break away from politics and return to writing. Vidal moved to Italy where he wrote Julian, which made the bestseller list for 1964. 1967 brought more best-selling work, including Washington, D.C. and Myra Breckenridge.
In 1973, Vidal wrote the novel that many consider his best work – Burr, which was based on the life of Aaron Burr, the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. After Burr, Vidal continued to write “American Chronicle” books, which included 1876, Lincoln, Empire, Hollywood, and The Golden Age.
Over the years, Vidal has been outspoken on wars America has been involved in, taking an anti-war stance on Vietnam and the current war in Iraq. During Vietnam, Vidal helped to form the People’s Party, who nominated Dr. Spock as their 1972 presidential candidate. Vidal ran for U.S. Senate in 1982 in California, but lost in the primary.
Currently, Vidal lives in Los Angeles where he has been living since the death of his longtime partner, Howard Austen in 2003. Vidal has retired from writing novels, but released two memoirs, Palimpsest in 1995 and Point to Point Navigation in 2006, and continues to public speak.