Los Angeles Times columnist Gale Holland attended the wake held for Gore Vidal by LAVA, the Los Angeles Visionaries Association, at Musso & Frank in Hollywood last Thursday night. Here is a sample of her reporting on the event:
It was a spectacle Vidal most likely would have loved. For all his high-WASP breeding, his mandarin hauteur, Gore Vidal was a populist. He ran for office several times and never stopped trying to convince the American people to reverse what he saw as a disastrous course of empire-building, engineered by politicians from his own patrician class.
Vidal was a public intellectual at a time that such figures, not Snooki or the Kardashians, were celebrities. He spent so much time on Johnny Carson’s couch that he was offered a guest host chair, the New York Times noted in its obituary
At the homage, music publisher Robert Balter dated his admiration for Vidal to the author’s televised debate with his conservative nemesis, William F. Buckley Jr., during the 1968 Democratic convention. Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi.” Buckley flung back “queer.”
It’s on YouTube; watch it. Or better yet, look at the other online clips that show the erudition of Vidal and Buckley, who had been hired by ABC to cover the convention. Then try to picture anything like it when the Republicans roll into Tampa on Aug. 27, or the Democrats come to Charlotte on Sept. 3…
I attended the Vidal memorial with a touch of regret. I had been trying for months to interview the author and see if he would turn his acerbic brain on the Romney-Obama presidential campaign …Now I discovered that I might have found Vidal in his wheelchair at Musso’s Table No. 2, waiting out what he called “the Cedars-Sinai years,” and holding forth to the entire ragtag Hollywood crowd. His populism wasn’t a front. This was a man who graciously entertained any admirer who approached him, humored celebrity hunters, and shared the insights that made him famous with anyone who had the good luck to fall into conversation with him. I could have been one of them …
Perhaps the most poignant tribute came from Sergio Gonzalez, the red-jacketed Musso waiter who served Vidal for many years, bringing him his favorite Crab Louie, creamed spinach and eggplant.
Gonzalez sat down for an interview at an empty table. Vidal told Gonzalez he was a model for the “Aztec terrorist” in the author’s 1983 novel “Duluth,” a wicked parody of Reagan-era America. “He would say, ‘We’ve got to take over Los Angeles pretty soon,’ ” Gonzalez said. “You bring your army and take Echo Park, and I’m going to bring my navy and take Silver Lake.”
“He was such a nice guy to me,” said Gonzalez, striking his heart with his fist several times.
And yes. Vidal was a good tipper.
“Very,” Gonzalez said. “He used to give me $100.”
- Aug. 16, 2012