Trimble was his “ideal brother,” his “other half,” Mr. Vidal said, the only person with whom he ever felt wholeness. Jimmie’s premature death at Iwo Jima in at once sealed off their relationship in a glow of A. E. Housman-like early perfection, and seemingly made it impossible for Mr. Vidal ever to feel the same way about anyone else.
The 29th Congressional District was a Republican stronghold, and though Mr. Vidal, running as Eugene Gore on a platform that included taxing the wealthy, lost, he received more votes in running for the seat than any Democrat in 50 years. And he never tired of pointing out he did better in the district than the Democratic presidential candidate that year, .
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. was born on Oct. 3, 1925, at the at West Point, where his father, Eugene, had been an All-American football player and a track star and had returned as a flying instructor and assistant football coach. An aviation pioneer, Eugene Vidal Sr. went on to found three airlines, including one that became T.W.A. He was director of the Bureau of Air Commerce under President . Mr. Vidal’s mother, Nina, was an actress and socialite and the daughter of Thomas Pryor Gore, a Democratic senator from .
Some of his political positions were similarly quarrelsome and provocative. Mr. Vidal was an outspoken critic of ’s treatment of the , and once called , the editor of Commentary, and his wife, the journalist Midge Decter, “Israeli fifth columnists.” In the 1990s he wrote sympathetically about , who was executed for the bombing. And after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he wrote an essay for Vanity Fair arguing that America had brought the attacks upon itself by maintaining imperialist foreign policies. In another essay, for The Independent, he compared the attacks to the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, arguing that both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and knew of them in advance and exploited them to advance their agendas.
Janet moved with her girls to Merrywood, Auchincloss’s stately Georgian house with terraced gardens overlooking the Potomac River in northern Virginia, and they spent summers at Hammersmith Farm, his sprawling, 50-acre wooded estate in Newport, Rhode Island.Suddenly thrust into a family with four step-siblings (Auchincloss had a son, Hugh, from his first marriage, to Maya de Chrapovitsky, and a son and daughter, Thomas and Nina, from his second marriage, to Nina Gore, who had a son of her own, Gore Vidal), Jackie and Lee were no longer the center of Janet’s fierce attentions.
Gore Vidal wrote, “Ari was more charming and witty than she, and in the glittering European circus, where, to her credit, she did not particularly want to shine, the word was, ‘What on earth does he see in her?’ ”What he saw in Jackie was the ultimate trophy—world-famous beyond Lee and Maria Callas, in need of his protection, and ennobled by her tragic history.
The White House cast demands like these as unnecessary perks, and the public sympathized with Reagan, the chagrined Gipper (or, as Gore Vidal called him, “our acting President”).