|Bob Thompson Music|
Ah to be as erudite, witty, and smart (but not as insane) as Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr.! In an intellectual "Thrilla in Manilla", the verbal virtuosos of the left and right wings faced off during the Democratic & Republican Conventions of 1968. As much as things have changed, they duke it out over the same things we do now: foreign wars, empire, race, police brutality, sexual freedom, and economic equality.
There is "blood" in the ABC studio, although not the "real" kind on the streets where protesters waved the North Korean flag and were beaten by cops. The potential for a revolution in the US seemed to be a point of agreement, and Buckley was desperate to stop it and Vidal seemed willing to witness it with a knowing smirk.
Vidal calls Buckley a "crypto-Nazi". Buckley, like a blonde Great White Shark, snarls in response: "Now listen, you queeeeeeeer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." The reserved aristocrat had become an animal, exhibiting savagery with eloquence (save the gay slur). By not escalating the fight, a la Ali'sRope-a-Dope, Vital let his opponent punch himself out...to the horror of many in the audience and it turns out Buckley himself.
The pair had eerie similarities as pointed out in the excellent documentary Best of Enemies (2015). Both had were high-born (more so in the case of Vidal), hyper-eloquent, understood of the emerging power of TV as a medium, and a failed to gain elected office. The documentary plays out as a mutual tragedy where each falls victim to his own shadow (to borrow the Jungian term) and remain entwined in an sadomasochistic, psychosexual embrace. It is if the bile of each is destroying them and they cannot let go of each other, as evidenced by angry essays about each other and Buckley's slander lawsuit that dragged on for years.
If debate and politics are simply an alternative to war, so be it. In the "sock you in your goddam face" moment we see the violence behind words.
Spenser Thompson shares anecdotes, music, and videos from Bob Thompson's music career plus thoughts on artists from Duke to Devo.