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Parry and Thrust | Laphams Quarterly

In 1968 there existed in the U.S. two especially splendid exemplars of a now-extinct species: the celebrity intellectual. They were Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. Then in their early forties (they were both born in 1925), Vidal and Buckley became famous in a way that no intellectual is today. Both got onto the cover of Time magazine; both were regulars on Johnny Carsons Tonight Show ; both made much-publicized runs for political office; both provided fodder for stand-up comics. They were each of them patrician in manner, glamorous in aura, irregularly handsome, consumedly narcissistic, ornate in vocabulary, casually erudite, irrepressibly witty, highly telegenic, and by all accounts great fun to be around. They were powerfully connected, both politically and socially: Buckley was on close terms with Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon , and his wife, Pat, was the doyenne of Park Avenue society (she ran the Met Costume Gala, Manhattans most glittering annual social event, before Vogue editor Anna Wintour took it over); Vidal, the grandson of a prominent senator, was a stepbrother-in-law of Jackie Kennedy (after Vidals mother divorced her second husband, he married Jackies mother) and a confidant of her husband, the president, as well as an intimate friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Newman, Princess Margaret, and Tennessee Williams. Each spoke in a theatrical accent of his own invention: they did not merely have opinions, they pronounced them.