Society Dreams: Gore Vidal

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Hailing a taxi in the rain. 10 PM. Photo: JH

Diary, Friday 3_8_24. An often cloudy day just passed with brief moments of sunshine and occasionally some raindrops (Spring style). Temps in the low 50s but hey! That’s warmer. And better. Supposedly the rest of the week is going to be like this.

Today we are running the fourth installment of Lauren Lawrence’s Society Dreams. The dreamer in this nighttime tale of what’s up? is Gore Vidal. I am a forever Gore Vidal admirer. I’d read him frequently over the years, besides his books, his commentary in the New York Review of Books.  Besides being easy and fascinating for anyone to read about our history, he went everywhere and met everyone and had something to say about it all (if necessary).

Gore Vidal photographed by Jill Krementz.

I met him only once, albeit briefly, barely a meeting; back in the ‘80s at a Christmas holiday party  given by a prominent producer in Beverly Hills. When you arrived at the hilltop entrance to the mansion, you were greeted by a Santa Claus who looked amazingly like Dolly Parton. Because it was Dolly, all dolled up as Santa playing the role like the star she was and is, for our host (and her friend). That’s Hollywood for ya. Fabulous moments.

Aside from Santa Dolly, the only other memorable moment was seeing Gore Vidal enter the massive living room where he stopped briefly to talk to someone. I was so impressed to see him, so impressed by his thinking and talent, that I wanted to tell him. Otherwise I had really nothing to say to him. He stopped for me at that moment, I expressed my admiration like a somewhat embarrassed fan. 

I’ve met a lot of interesting creatures in this life of mine but rarely one of whom I was in awe. Gore Vidal, however, under the circumstances, thanked me for my compliment and moved on. Duh.

Lauren Lawrence, however, actually knew the man, knew his life, knew his domestic partner, knew what he thought and what he felt. He naturally loved conversation, as does Lauren. It was simply what he seemed to me as a follower/admirer/fan: smart, sharp, and clear thinking.  

Which is why the following will fascinate you. I hand you to Lauren:

“Gore was supposed to write the foreword to my coffee table book Private Dreams of Public People in late 2001, (he adored dreams), but when 9/11 happened, and writing assignments followed, he could no longer meet my publisher Assouline’s deadline, so he told me his dream instead. Gore was living in Ravello, Italy, at the time, with his partner Howard, in his house La Rondinaia set on a cliff on the Amalfi coast.”

Gore Vidal on the balcony of La Rondinaia in Ravello. SLIM AARONS

by Lauren Lawrence

The Dream: I have had a recurrent actor’s nightmare where I am on stage and I have forgotten my lines, and I panic not knowing what script I am supposed to perform. 

Gore Vidal in rehearsal for the stage production of Romulus, 1962. Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library.

The Interpretation: An actor’s nightmare is a performance anxiety dream. These dreams typically recur before an action (watched and judged by others) is required of the dreamer. Brought on by the fear of performing badly, these dreams worry over self-presentation, and, in their way, serve to prepare the dreamer for the situation at hand by stimulating a protective guardedness.

One would not have thought that the normally glib Vidal worried over being at a loss for words. Yet his dream is a tell: A measure of preparedness is necessary wherein the nightmare is the psyche’s last line of defense.

Whereas an actor’s script symbolizes the all important narrative, one understands that the script is not one’s own — it is written for them. The writer’s script represents the innermost voice of the persona. In this view, not knowing what script to perform reveals the intellectual choice involved in communicating the right ideas to the right audience at the right time. In other words, there is cunning involved.

In another view, seeing oneself on stage symbolizes the aesthetic elevation of the dreamer: Gore desires a higher level of self-understanding, a higher “stage” of development, if you will. He wants to know what part he is to play in life. Most importantly, it is essential that he not forget who he is.

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