Before cable news, before reality TV, there was Gore Vidal. The best-selling author and television commentator died in his home in Los Angeles yesterday at age 86. He not only leaves behind hundreds of essays and several novels, he also leaves behind a trail of glorious television debates.
One classic appearance — preceding Jon Stewart’s Crossfire takedown by nearly 20 years — happened on the Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Right before going on the set, rival novelist Norman Mailer head-butted Vidal in the green room. Their feud went public when the cameras started rolling. His strategy: let Mailer dig himself into a hole.
The rest is TV history.