When Gore Vidal died last month, Xeni posted the classic TV highlight (lowlight?) of the writers' infamous heated exchange on ABD during the 1968 Democratic convention. Over at Las Vegas CityLife, BB contributor Mark Dery dives into that fiery media moment and what it revealed about both men. From Las Vegas CityLife:
"A sock in the face: A look back at Gore Vidal’s famous feud"
The Vidal-Buckley dust-up, dissected ever after by the two combatants and their partisans, is wonderfully instructive. Buckley is at his best, by which I mean his worst — mesmerizing for all the wrong reasons, as he is in his 1969 Firing Line debate with Noam Chomsky on American involvement in Vietnam. In that episode, Buckley is a one-man freakshow of WASP eccentricities, Ivy-League affectations and subliminal seductions, obscenely flicking that reptilian tongue, languorously attenuating the last word in a sentence, flashing a sly wink at Chomsky in mid-debate, flaring his eyes suggestively at the mention of Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures. (Who knew that a double entendre lurked in the title of that classic book on the admittedly steamy subject of generative grammar?) To the self-assurance of the manor-born and the entitlement of the prep-schooled, Buckley adds an invigorating jigger of weirdness, a snaggletoothed leer that hints at a redeeming depravity behind all that high-church, God and Man at Yale conservatism.
Suddenly, as in the near-knockdown with Vidal, we glimpse a less charming depravity. Prehensile tongue in cheek, Buckley commends Chomsky for his “self-control” in debating the Vietnam question, to which Chomsky jokingly replies, “sometimes I lose my temper; maybe not tonight.” Says Buckley, “Maybe not tonight, because if you would I’d smash you in the goddamn face.” A flash of that awful dentition assures us it’s all in good fun, a wry allusion to the Vidal Affair. But the manic glitter in the eyes, and the thuggishness of the only half-mocking threat, say otherwise.