“GEORGE Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the founders were almost to a man isolationists. We had a big country, it was new. We had a lot to do. We have no business fighting a war. It’s none of our business …
“The word democracy is never mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, or the Declaration of Independence. We are not a democracy. The founders hated democracy. We are a republic. And the only thing the founding fathers hated worse than democracy was majority rule, and tyranny and so everything we have is calculated to be anti-democratic …. We have more fools, of course, today.
“We must bring democracy to the Middle East. And what about the Eskimo? Are we going to leave them out? Don’t they want to have the politics of Cook County, Illinois? Don’t they want the fake balloting machines, we’re now specializing in, the ones that are rigged. We have a real mess on our hands at home and foreign wars are not the way to solve it.”
These are the words of the late intellectual writer Gore Vidal, celebrated last week at the Schoenfeld Theater on Broadway, with people reading from his works.
Gore’s remarks were offered to us by none other than the fabled talent Elaine May. She said at first when she came backstage, “… I thought this was just another tribute to Mike Nichols.”
Elaine startled the audience by her opening. They burst into laughter when she said, “I only recently found out that my speech could only be two minutes long. I’m not even going to try to keep track of it. I’ll just know my time is up when I hear the music … I met Gore Vidal many years ago under the most shocking never-before-told circumstances — which, unfortunately, I still can’t tell … because of the time … and what a hoot.”
The excerpts Elaine May did read were from an interview Gore Vidal gave a few years ago from a show titled “Witnesses.” It hasn’t aired yet.
All the mostly-famous readers were funny, sane and intelligent. They seemed appreciative to be appearing in the Jeff Richard’s produced tribute at the same theater where Gore’s play “The Best Man” is set to close on September 9th.
It is still a big hit but theater space is scarce.
OH, AND Elaine May ended with this: “I wish I had the time to tell you what the slightly more mellow Gore said about FDR, NATO, Truman, the CIA, homosexuality, the New York Times (except for Paul Krugman), the surprisingly liberal domestic policies of Richard Nixon, and his stunning revelations about Mickey Rooney … which is really good reading!”
Miss Elaine May, ever a sketch and Gore would have so appreciated her appearing.
I do wish I had the exact words to relay to you what the agnostic Gore said about death and dying and the meaninglessness of us all — as “dust.”
But it was uncanny to come home to my apartment, where my letters from the famous are being reviewed for sending to the archives of the U. of Texas and find one dated July 2003, lying on my desk from the late William F. Buckley, Jr. He was one of Gore’s enemies and a great Roman Catholic.
This letters reads, as follows: “Dear Miss Smith: Mr. William Buckley, who has very good connections up here, has interceded in your behalf. Your sentence is reduced to a mere 100,000 years. That won’t begin for decades. (signed) Love, Saint Peter.”
My word — the famous men I have known are really something and I miss them all these days.
I AM heartened by the avalanche of mail we are receiving by speaking up against the GOP war on women. Here’s a typical response from Nelson Devonshire of Palm Beach:
“Thanks for standing up for women. I thought this election was supposed to be about the economy, not a return visit to the land of social re-engineering. We have let our obsession with untalented celebrities obscure the frightening drive for economic domination by the too-big-to-fail banks and right wing extremists who now control the political process through unlimited PAC contributions to subservient politicians.
“Never thought I would adopt the language of a modern day Sinclair Lewis as I value the many opportunities that a great education and privileged background have provided me. To see our middle class so eviscerated and women, minorities and children marginalized so that the readers of an 800 page Vogue magazine can drool over Birkin bags is depressing to say the least.”
HAVING SEEN Ellen DeGeneres in stand-up during her “fallow” years — after her controversial coming out as a lesbian and the cancellation of her sitcom — I was sure she was simply too nice, too slyly low-key to really survive this often terrible business we call “show.” She wasn’t mean enough. Wrong. (That is, she’s not mean, but she did survive.) This month Ellen marks her first decade as the host of her wildly popular daytime talk show. With no end in sight.
To celebrate this, The Hollywood Reporter put her on its front and back cover, along with a six-page story inside. Ellen tells writer Lacey Rose how she thought she might never work again, the incredible hate mail, the death threats. But, she won, simply by being herself — a woman who just happened to be gay. Activists at times criticized her for not being “gay enough.” But when something is known and admitted, why talk about it every second?
She is exactly who she is. Ellen says, “I know that every time I list something that I am, I am potentially alienating a whole group of people. Publicists and managers will encourage you not to say what political party you belong to, what you eat, what you don’t eat, who you sleep with. I just think it’s dangerous. People need to have all kinds of examples and heroes who stand for something.”
THE HOLLYWOOD Reporter also pays tribute to the late Phyllis Diller. Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett and producer George Schlatter comment. Also Carl Reiner, who remarks, “She was one of the sweetest women ever. In fact, she was too sweet to be in comedy.” Like Ellen, I guess. Sometimes good girls do finish first.
This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 8/27/12