Vidal had over 40 film and television writing credits to his name, including Joseph L. Mankiewicz' subversive 1959 thriller "Suddenly Last Summer," in which Elizabeth Taylor faces lobotomy, MGM epic Oscar-winner "Ben Hur" (1959), Richard Brooks' 1956 "The Catered Affair," starring Ernest Borgnine (who also recently died) in one of his best dramatic roles as a struggling cabbie forced by pushy wife Bette Davis into a costly wedding for daughter Debbie Reynolds, and Jose Ferrer's Dreyfus biography "I Accuse!" His play "The Best Man" and novel "Myra Breckinridge" were adapted into movies ("The Best Man" is enjoying a Broadway revival now), while "Lincoln" and "Dress Gray" also spawned mini-series. (See trailers below.)
Back in 2006 I had the pleasure of covering a packed Royce Hall at the LAT Festival of Books, as an adoring Arianna Huffington engaged the witty historian, who sat in a wheelchair. She called him "the conscience of America right now." Vidal described how he was "marinated in politics" as a young Senate page who read to his grandfather, a blind Senator from Oklahoma.
"One thing about being a Washington kid is you are not impressed by any of these people...to talk about this administration is almost too sad for words. It's made me a creationist. Here I am a born-again atheist. From George Washington to George W. Bush makes a monkey out of Darwin...It will take two generations to recover from what he's done to us..he's president Jonah. He's plainly jinxed. ..It's looney tunes. It's humiliating, here we were the number one global power on earth. Suddenly we have this embarrassment. ..The Republic is a good thing as long as elections aren't stolen. Benjamin Franklin said, 'in time all republics grow corrupt and turn to tyranny.'"
Vidal said that the majority of the American people are always against foreign wars. "I put it down to the corruption of the media, which is owned by corporate America for its own wicked ends--to make money. We could make ethanol. The cost of fuel will be the next issue. Not immigration. We'll have to transfer over to another form of power."
The Republicans "get us to vote against our own interests every time," he said. "People are shrewd about their own business, but they are full of nonsense put in their heads by talk shows." Vidal also criticized the NYT: "They don't question power unless the roof is falling in," he said. "And the Washington Post is a court circular." He said that he had counseled Hilary Clinton to run for a Senate seat in her home state of Illinois instead of New York, where there are too many lobbyists.