November 11, 2013

"The family of writer Gore Vidal has hinted he had sex with underage men in claims that have surfaced as they contest his $37 million will."

What's the connection between the validity of a man's will and evidence of criminal sexual behavior? Gore Vidal left all his money to Harvard University and the family is irked. Now — after it's too late to punish the man for any crimes he may have committed — they're leaking this material?

I would infer that he did not do the things the disappointed, would-be heirs are talking about. Wouldn't he have been more likely to leave them money if he'd had a motivation to shut them up? He left them pissed and litigious. That speaks of a clean conscience!

I'm noticing this story this morning because of the way it's trumpeted in The Daily News, but the source is this far more sedate article from 3 days ago in the NYT. The NYT begins with the news that Vidal kept a fire burning even on hot days, because he had a titanium knee and had experienced hypothermia in the Army in WWII. The second paragraph details the decor of his living room where he died. We learn about the chair where he, in his elderly weakness, peed.

A pissed and litigious disappointed would-be heir is described as "not angry... but... bruised and resigned." Vidal's gift to Harvard is portrayed as the product of dementia. I see that Vidal did not attend Harvard. He went into the Army instead and later quipped: "What was the point of going into another institution when I had already written my first novel?"

Eventually, you arrive at the material the Daily News cherry-picked, about a nephew Burr Steers and his mother, Vidal's half-sister Nina Straight. Straight claims to have paid a million unreimbursed dollars into Vidal's lawsuit against William F. Buckley. Buckley had called Vidal "a queer," but why sue when, in fact, one is homosexual? Truth is a defense to defamation, even if the truth is stated nastily. Here's the buried story:

Mr. Steers said: “I know Buckley had a file on him that Gore feared. It would make sense if that material was about him having underage sex. Gore spent a lot of time in Bangkok, after all. Gore also had a very weird take on the abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. He would say that the young guys involved were hustlers who were sending signals.”

Mr. Steers said: “I know Buckley had a file on him that Gore feared. It would make sense if that material was about him having underage sex. Gore spent a lot of time in Bangkok, after all. Gore also had a very weird take on the abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. He would say that the young guys involved were hustlers who were sending signals.”

After Mr. Buckley died, his son, Christopher (who declined a request for interview) wrote of throwing, with “a sigh of relief,” a filing cabinet marked “Vidal Legal” into a Dumpster. Other friends of Mr. Vidal told me they doubted he had sex with underage men.

33 comments:

MadisonMan said...

There is a certain calmness in knowing that one's parent's estate is not worth fighting over.

Martha said...

Whatever happened to that quaint custom of never speaking ill of the dead.

According to Wikipedia, the Greek aphorism τὸν τεθνηκóτα μὴ κακολογεῖν (“Don’t badmouth a dead man”) is attributed to Chilon of Sparta (ca. 600 BC).

Gore Vidal is not alive to defend his character.
Shame on his greedy relatives.

betamax3000 said...

From This I Gather That Vidal Had Sex With a Lot of Boys Who Went to Harvard. I Used Math to Arrive at This Answer.

Amexpat said...

Wouldn't he have been more likely to leave them money if he'd had a motivation to shut them up? He left them pissed and litigious.
That assumes that he cared about his moral reputation after he died. Any reason to think that he would?

That speaks of a clean conscience!
He struck me as someone who was driven more by ego than conscience.

Marc said...

Look at the year of the Vidal lawsuit against Buckley (requiescant in pace); I think that Vidal went to law then when e.g. twenty or even ten years later he would not have done so.

betamax3000 said...

From Wiki:

"Sassoon disinherited his son David, with whom he was estranged, stating in his will, "My son David Sassoon and his issue are hereby disinherited and shall take nothing under this will, and for the purposes of the will, shall be deemed to have predeceased me, leaving no surviving issue." He also left nothing in his will to his first three wives, Elaine Nations, Beverly Sassoon and Jeanette Sassoon."

The Problem is the Name Vidal.

Solved.

Bob Ellison said...

betamax3000, you may be on (to) some things.

Marc said...

Thailand is a beautiful country but I can't think why Gore Vidal, who I associate, perhaps wrongly, more or less exclusively with the effete urban lifestyle of salons and parties, would have travelled there repeatedly-- am not so willing to refuse to entertain the possibility that he visited for... immoral purposes. Which has precisely nothing to do with his testamentary choices or whether he could legitimately make them.

Ann Althouse said...

"That assumes that he cared about his moral reputation after he died. Any reason to think that he would?"

It's possible that he wanted to motivate them to tell because he wanted a new consideration of the old practice of old men having sex with teenagers.

rhhardin said...

Listen you pinko queer, I misremember Buckley saying.

rhhardin said...

I doubt sex with underaged boys was a big deal back then.

Child abuse was discovered as a meme in the 60s, and child sexual abuse in the 70s.

Boys being abused sexually is probably later than that, in the recent victim era.

It's whatever draws viewers, in any age. When it draws viewers.

Amexpat said...

It's possible that he wanted to motivate them to tell because he wanted a new consideration of the old practice of old men having sex with teenagers.

Wouldn't it make more sense for him to do that while alive? He liked controversy and didn't mind being a pariah.

Val said...

As I recall, Vidal sued Buckley not because of the "goddam queer" comment, but because he alleged in the Esquire article that Myra Breckinridge was pornography.

mtrobertsattorney said...

"Gore Vidal is not alive to defend his character."

Yeah, but he didn't so well when he was alive.

bbkingfish said...

Is "Althouse" the most lurid, sex-obsessed political/legal blog on the web? Or are others just as bad?

Sex trafficking, I get; it's a valid issue in current events. But Dr. Ruth and Gore Vidal? One is dead and the other hasn't been newsworthy in 20 years. It seems we're really reaching here.

madAsHell said...

He had a half-sister named Straight?
These stories just write themselves.

Levi Starks said...

You cannot truly shame a man for immoral behavior he is not ashamed of. The fact that he hid private details during his lifetime, it is only an indication that he feared reprisals. You might reach the decision that he was a coward because he didn't take a stand for something he believed in that was out of step with todays social standards. But don't worry, in the future there will be others more brave than him who will be willing to publicly bear the cross of NAMBLA.

Veronica Windholz said...

When in doubt, check a primary source.

Vidal wrote frankly about some of his sexual history and practices in his memoir Palimpsest.

William said...

I never read any of his novels, but I did read some of his essays. He seemed to like staking out an outrageous opinion and pretending it was the moral high ground. Child abuse was perhaps a bridge too far. He seemed very malicious when he wrote about his family. Writing them out of his will was one last speckle of venom to throw in their direction. A university--already well endowed--that he never attended was more deserving of his money than any family member. The ordinary bonds of family had no hold on Gore Vidal who lived in a higher realm.

David said...

"He left them pissed and litigious. That speaks of a clean conscience!"

Or no conscience. Sociopath.

David said...

I am not saying that Vidal was a sociopath. Just a possibility. He was for sure an egomaniac and intensely self centered. He was also a fine writer. He admired the Kennedys because they were able to get away with so much. He also must have taken very good care of his money if he died with $37 million.

Being a good liberal, he gave it all away so the government and his family could not have any.

David said...

Veronica, Vidal made everything else up. Even his historical novels are full of wild inventions. Indeed these inventions are crucial to the books.

Why would you assume that there is much truth in Palimlsest?

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James Graham said...

Aren't "underage men" boys?

Lydia said...

Just why we waste newsprint or blog comments on Vidal is beyond me. He was, after all, the guy who compared Timothy McVeigh with Paul Revere. Doesn't that say all that needs to be said about him?

rcocean said...

Vidal was a left-wing atheist who despised "bourgeois morality" - the idea of him having moral qualms about underage sex is absurd. And I doubt he was going to Thailand for the curry.

Of course, "underage" is defined much lower in Europe and Asia then in the USA.

And it *is* funny how Vidal or more less shut up about WFB after their out of court settlement.

rcocean said...

Harvard has a $30 Billion endowment. If Vidal wasn't demented, he was a prick.

A lot of worthwhile charities could have done a lot of good with $30 million.

jr565 said...

I wouldn't put it past Gore to have had sex with boys.

jr565 said...

rccocean wrote:
"Vidal was a left-wing atheist who despised "bourgeois morality" - the idea of him having moral qualms about underage sex is absurd. And I doubt he was going to Thailand for the curry."

Exactly! Though to be fair, Vidal may have partaken of curry while in Thailand in between the romps with the boys.

SOJO said...

Underage "men"?

Smilin' Jack said...

Now — after it's too late to punish the man for any crimes he may have committed

Actually, I doubt any "crimes" were committed, especially in Bangkok. The current enthusiasm for raising the age of consent to about 35 is a relatively recent and Western phenomenon.

gerry said...

"That speaks of a clean conscience!"

I've found most liberals substitute self-righteousness for conscientiousness, proving a malformation of conscience.

It is the reason such people supported Obama: improper formation of conscience resulted in failure to recognize immoral character, permitting them to vote for the hubristic fraud Obama.

Veronica Windholz said...

David,

Why would I assume there's much truth in Vidal's memoir?

Gee, I dunno. Maybe because I'm a professional close reader [editor] and this has been my territory for decades.

I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Why don't you read the book yourself and tell me what you think?

It's very pleasant reading, unlike his other work.

Vidal is frank about his sexual practices and habits.

He appears not to have been driven by sex, though of course he liked it. With rough trade in Italy in particular.