copyright by morgan McFinn
Have just been informed that Gore Vidal died. Oh dear, oh dear! A second rate writer on a good day and a first rate spoiled, self-indulgent ego-maniac nearly every day. An inveterate name-dropper, as well. Orson Welles was one of his favorite names to drop and here’s a little anecdote to illustrate Welles’ drop on Vidal…
Fifteen years ago I met a fellow named Ned at an outdoor bar in Bangkok. Ned was a sixty year old American who had recently married a twenty year old Thai shop girl…not a bar girl. His first wife had died of cancer many years before but, not before they had had three children. Only one of the children accepted the invitation to the wedding. The other two disapproved of their father remarrying someone so young. His twenty-nine year old son did attend the wedding. During the party following the Buddhist ceremony the son told his father how much he was enamored of the young bride.
Ned was thrilled and extremely grateful to hear his son express affection for the woman he loved.
“She just such a sweet and lovely girl, Dad. And, very pretty, as well.”
“You know that I adored your mother,” said Ned. “Still, I consider myself to be so lucky to be in love again. I never thought it would ever happen.”
“You’re lucky to have each other.”
Then his son asked a question that made Ned laugh so hard that tears cascaded out of his eyes.
“I was just wondering,” said the son, “does your wife have any older sisters?”
Ned is one of those gentle, unassuming souls that I have always found to be so ingratiating. When his first wife died in Arizona where they lived it broke his heart. He was working for a major conglomerate at the time and asked to be transferred as far away from Arizona as was possible. His employers obliged by sending him to Rome. There he was ensconced in a comfortable, well furnished apartment. Ned soon became a regular patron of a neighborhood restaurant where he dined nearly every night.
Oddly enough, the restaurant was a frequent haunt of Orson Welles. Ned always sat at the same table along the wall and often observed Welles saunter by with an entourage in tow. Eventually, Ned and Welles began to nod to each other as a simple token of polite acknowledgement.
Then one evening, Welles went back to where Ned was sitting.
“I see you in here every night,” said Welles. “Who are you?”
“Oh,” replied Ned, “I’m nobody.”
Apparently Welles took umbrage at that remark.
“Don’t ever say you’re nobody.”
Of course, if I had been Welles I would have said, “Well, congratulations, ‘nobody’s perfect’.”
As it is, the only thing I will ever have in common with Orson Welles is that someday I’ll be as dead as he is now…move over ‘Ozymandias’ (Shelley).
In any case, Welles invited Ned to join his party for dinner. Ned gratefully accepted and was seated between Welles and Gore Vidal. The usual assortment of idle chatter ensued and then Vidal asked Ned if he knew who he was. That is, did Ned who Vidal was. Ned replied that, indeed, he knew who Vidal was. When asked if he had read any of Vidal’s books Ned said that he had read one of them.
“Only one?” Vidal retorted in his haughty manner.
“Yes, only one.”
With that, Vidal abruptly got up from the table and waltzed off to the men’s room. Presumably to void his bowels but, one can never be sure in his case.
Thereupon, Orson Welles leaned over towards Ned and whispered, “Don’t let that guy bother you. He’s the biggest pompous ass I’ve ever known and, believe me; I’ve known many of them.”
Several years ago I happened to meet Ned again in Bangkok. He and his wife were still very much in love and had two children…a boy and a girl. We enjoyed a good laugh when I reminded him of the Gore Vidal anecdote.