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Gore VIDAL

American Gore VIDAL

born Eugene Luther Gore VIDAL

American writer known for his essays, novels, screenplays and Broadway plays

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on October 03, 1925 in West Point, New York, USA
Died: on July 31, 2012 in Hollywood Hills, California, USA


Biography

Vidal was born Eugene Louis Vidal, Jr. in West Point, New York, the only child of Eugene Luther Vidal (1895–1969) and Nina Gore (1903–1978). The middle name, Louis, was a mistake on the part of his father, "who could not remember for certain whether his own name was Eugene Louis or Eugene Luther." As Vidal explained in his memoir Palimpsest (Deutsch, 1995), "... my birth certificate says 'Eugene Louis Vidal': this was changed to Eugene Luther Vidal, Jr.; then Gore was added at my christening [in 1938]; then at fourteen I got rid of the first two names."

Vidal was born in the Cadet Hospital of the United States Military Academy (West Point), where his father, a 1st Lieutenant, was the first aeronautics instructor. He was christened by the headmaster of St. Albans preparatory school, his future alma mater. According to "West Point and the Third Loyalty", an article Vidal wrote for The New York Review of Books (October 18, 1973), he later decided to be called Gore in honor of his maternal grandfather, Thomas Gore, Democratic senator from Oklahoma. Vidal biographer Fred Kaplan states in Gore Vidal: A Biography (1999) that Vidal added the middle name Gore at the time of his baptism in 1938, as well the correct Luther, becoming Eugene Luther Gore Vidal. Later, at the age of 16, again according to Kaplan, Vidal dropped both of his first two names, saying, he "wanted a sharp, distinctive name, appropriate for an aspiring author or national political leader. 'I wasn't going to write as Gene since there was already one. I didn't want to use the Jr.'"

Vidal's father, a West Point football quarterback and captain, and an all-American basketball player, was director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Air Commerce (1933–1937) in the Roosevelt administration, was one of the first Army Air Corps pilots and, according to biographer Susan Butler, was the great love of Amelia Earhart's life. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a co-founder of three American airlines: the Ludington Line, which merged with others and became Eastern Airlines, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT, which became TWA), and Northeast Airlines, which he founded with Earhart, as well as the Boston and Maine Railroad. The elder Vidal was also an athlete in the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics (seventh in the decathlon; U.S. pentathlon team coach).

Gore Vidal's mother was a socialite who made her Broadway debut as an extra in Sign of the Leopard in 1928. She married Eugene Luther Vidal, Sr. in 1922 and divorced him in 1935. She later married twice more; one husband, Hugh D. Auchincloss, was later the stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and, according to Gore Vidal, she had "a long off-and-on affair" with actor Clark Gable. She was an alternate delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention.

Vidal had four half-siblings from his parents' later marriages (the Rev. Vance Vidal, Valerie Vidal Hewitt, Thomas Gore Auchincloss, and Nina Gore Auchincloss Steers Straight) and four stepbrothers from his mother's third marriage to Army Air Forces Major General Robert Olds, who died in 1943, ten months after marrying Vidal's mother. Vidal's nephews include the brothers Burr Steers, writer and film director, and painter Hugh Auchincloss Steers (1963–1995).

Vidal was raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended Sidwell Friends School and then St. Albans School. Since Senator Gore was blind, his grandson read aloud to him and was often his guide. The senator's isolationism contributed a major principle of his grandson's political philosophy, which is critical of foreign and domestic policies shaped by American imperialism. Gore attended St. Albans in 1939, but left to study in France. He returned following the outbreak of World War II and studied at the Los Alamos Ranch School in 1940, later transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. Roy Hattersley writes, "for reasons he never explained, he did not go on to Harvard, Yale or Princeton with other members of his social class." Instead, Vidal enlisted in the US Navy, serving as a warrant officer, mostly in the North Pacific. After three years, he contracted hypothermia, developed rheumatoid arthritis and became a mess officer.

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