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When heroes pass, especially ones that kept the light of conscience and reason so bright for our collective paths; sadness seems inadequate to express the loss we all now recognize. Gore Vidal RIP – Thomas Hampson.

THIS one of thousands of tributes posted on the internet over the past couple of days following the news that celebrated gay atheist Gore Vidal had died of pneumonia at his home in Hollywood Hills.

I found Hampson’s words particularly touching, as it appears from the photograph (below) on this acclaimed opera singer and recording artist’s Facebook page that he had the pleasure of recently meeting Vidal, an intellectual giant who directed so much of his time efforts to combating the forces of religious extremism and homophobia.

Gore Vidal flanked by Michael Tilson Thomas, left, and Hampson

Google "Vidal quotes", and you will find a treasure trove of words that indicate what an incisive, rational mind Vidal possessed. One of my favourite, which reflects his utter disdain for religion, is:

Once people get hung up on theology, they’ve lost sanity forever. More people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ than any other name in the history of the world.

More Vidal quotes here.


Vidal, described in this report as a giant of American intellectual life in the second half of the 20th century, was Honorary President of the American Humanist Association. He succeeded satirist Kurt Vonnegut Jr as the Association’s HP in 2009.

Vidal wrote 25 novels, including scandalous best-sellers like Myra Breckinridge and scholarly, historical works such as Burr and Lincoln. Vidal also wrote more than 200 essays, seven plays and numerous TV and movie scripts, including an uncredited rewrite on the 1959 classic Ben-Hur.

This report adds that Vidal will also be remembered for his position in history as:


An unflinching voice for homosexuality.

He left mainstream critics reeling with his novel The City and The Pillar in 1948, which centred on a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality. Vidal’s portrayal of a gay protagonist who was well adjusted and not presented as the typical symbolic warning about the defiance of social norms, was a boundary-breaking statement.

The book caused a scandal, as critics railed against Vidal’s decision to present a balanced view of a lifestyle viewed as immoral and unnatural during the period.When the book was published, Vidal was told by an editor at EP Dutton:


You will never be forgiven for this book. Twenty years from now, you will still be attacked for it.


nstead of shrinking from the critical venom, Vidal thrived on it, claiming that he aimed to shock. Nonetheless, for the best part of the next decade he was forced to write under pseudonyms, as he found himself blacklisted by publishers.

Eventually his popularity saw him writing under his own name again. He also wrote screenplays, including Last Summer, Is Paris Burning and Suddenly.

But throughout his career, Vidal sought to incorporate gay themes. He revealed, while being interviewed as part of the documentary The Celluloid Closet, that he worked a gay subtext into the theatrically masculine screenplay for Ben Hur, starring the icon of traditional masculinity, Charlton Heston.

Speaking to Esquire in 1969, he said:


Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word natural, not normal.

Vidal described hi style as:


Knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.