I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess. Clad only in garter belt and one dress shield, I held off the entire elite of the Trobriand Islanders, a race who possess no words for "why" or "because." Wielding a stone axe, I broke the arms, the limbs, the balls of their finest warriors, my beauty blinding them, as it does all men, unmanning them in the way that King Kong was reduced to mere simian whimper by beauteous Fay Wray whom I resemble left three-quarter profile if the key light is no more than five feet high during the close shot.
The above is the opening to Myra Breckinridge, which instantly sucked me into the world of Gore Vidal. I was a teen bored with the literature at school, as well as the fluff young-adult horror I was reading in my spare time, when I somehow stumbled on his book. Vidal's words were a beacon of light. Sure, there is more to Myra than rabid, powerful, and Amazonian femininity, but that was irrelevant because Vidal's novel was a gateway into the world beyond rural suburban life -- women with power, intelligence mixed with pulp, a crumbling gender barrier, Hollywood, and the vast world beyond cows and K-Mart. All of these years later, at the age of 82, Gore is reentering the world of the big screen since his last cameo as First School Headmaster in Igby Goes Down. Jessica posted that he'll be one of Kevin Spacey's patients in Shrink, and Elisabeth noted that his father Gene (played by Ewan McGregor) will be part of Amelia. Gore cameos and Papa Vidal are wonderful, but frankly, we need more.
We've gone through Capote -- twice, Burroughs, Woolf, Shakespeare, Kafka, Marquis de Sade, Miller and Nin, Parker, Wilde. The list is practically endless, and these writers all deserve their dramatic features, but there is no man more linked to a myriad of slices of our culture -- one who has enough stories to fuel a whole collection of features.
First, there is his family. He's the son of Eugene Vidal, who was the lover of Amelia Earhart and co-founder of airlines like TWA, and Nina Gore, an actress and socialite who later married Hugh D. Auchincloss, stepfather to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. (Not to mention her affair with Clark Gable.) His familial ties, of course, tie into the Kennedys and the Gores, as well as even newer names like Burr Steers (Igby director, who was also Van in The Last Days of Disco).
But beyond the web of his family, there is his romantic past. He had a relationship with Anais Nin, and he was once engaged to Joanne Woodward, before she married Paul Newman, but it's his boyhood love that really stands out. As a youth, he was in love with his close boyhood friend Jimmie Trimble, a star baseball player from DC who later died on Iwo Jima. He's the man who The City and the Pillar was dedicated to. Vidal wrote a lot about their relationship in Palimpsest, and it's certainly a story of doomed romance that would make a beautiful journey on-screen.
But we can't forget what made him truly famous -- his writing, which was not just relegated to the confines of novels, essays, and memoirs. His pen helped to bring us films like Ben-Hur, the film version of Suddenly, Last Summer, Is Paris Burning?, and Caligula, as well as adaptations of his work like Myra Breckinridge and Lincoln.
But even as a writer, Vidal's story would be ripe for the big screen. There's Pillar, which is considered one of the "definitive war-influenced gay novels," there's Breckinridge, which took the theme down an entirely different road, and later came a number of novelizations of history, from the previously mentioned Lincoln to the world of Burr.
And none of the above even covers his political pursuits, private personal pursuits, and every other slice of the puzzle. Gore Vidal's life is like a large treasure chest of cinema-worthy tales, from the seedy and sensational to the intelligent and passionate. It's time he got his own spotlight; it's one that could garner a myriad of glances without falling into the realms of the repetitive and tired.