Sunday, February 27, 2011

I am feeling a bit lazy today... I will let Dick Cavett take over for me:

Please watch the whole thing to the end (in fact, everything after 2:41 provides the best entertainment) and pay attention to the last two comments Cavett makes to Mailer.

Some notes to guide you through these epic three minutes:

  • Cavett is a legendary TV talk show host from the 60's who always managed to snag some of the biggest personalities. People like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Janis Joplin and Marlon Brando appeared on his show.
  • Norman Mailer (the guy with the horrible hair-do in the video above) was a twice pulitzer-winning American author of works like The naked and the dead (about a bunch of seamen in the pacific theater in WWII). And yes he actually did stab his wife. Somewhat of a brute.
  • Gore Vidal was a leading public intellectual of his time (and a bit of a snob). The reason he is fighting with Mailer is he wrote an uncomplimentary review of Mailer's work in a magazine. 
  • Janet Flanner (the one with white gloves, in case you didn't notice it) was a journalist for the New Yorker. Mind you, she just won't have it! 

Finally, "Why don't you fold it five ways and stick it where the moon don't shine" has got to be one of the best insults in the entire universe of insults. Of course, "Perhaps you would like two more chairs to contain your giant intellect" is a close second.

For the intrepid, here are a few additional links that act as further research to this very intriguing sparring:

Noted stabber, verbal abuser and brawler Norman Mailer .

Suave, nasally and bossy Gore Vidal .

Dedicated Francophile Janet Flanner .

The wizard of witty one-liners Dick Cavett .

And here is Cavett joyfully reminiscing about this memorable event: Cavett's blog .


  1. Not that I'm an expert on the context of all this, but Norman Mailer was a brilliant (and deeply flawed, of course) man, and Gore Vidal was an academically spotty gasbag.
    Just saying.

  2. True. In this case Mailer came drunk on the show, eager to pick a fight with Vidal over the book review. Plus he came off as a huge jerk (his comments abt being intellectually bigger). In any case, I posted this just because Cavett is so quick on his feet and Flanner's outburst is hilarious.