Thursday, 2 August 2012

Gore Vidal

I was sad to hear on the radio news this morning of Gore Vidal's death at his Hollywood home on Tuesday.

Back in 1998 I had the slightly intimidating privilege of photographing Gore Vidal for the Daily Telegraph (London) in a Miami Hotel. At the time he was going through a phase of not giving regular interviews so the paper had considered the opportunity something of a coup.

I was warned that he could be quite sharp with photographers, that he had a well deserved reputation of not suffering fools lightly, and that consequently I was to keep my mouth shut as much as I could manage.

The oppressive heat of July in Miami just picked me up and sucked the energy right out of me, even on the short trip from the cab to the hotel lobby. Then the aircon nearly froze me like a popsicle (ice-lolly) as I walked through the swishing doors of the hotel and spa.

Arriving pretty much bang-on the allotted time, I was ushered immediately up to the tiny room where the interview had been held.

Earlier that day, feeling slightly lacking in fresh portrait glass, I had dashed round to Adorama before setting off for the airport and impulsively splashed-out on a Canon 135mm lens specifically for the job.

Now finding myself in the rather 'bijou' room with the light flooding through white wooden shutters, it was plain that the 135 was massively too long! I could just about get far enough away for minimum focus length if I jammed my head awkwardly sideways against the far wall and imitated a gecko.

So it was that I photographed a man who "never suffered fools lightly" while contorting myself into the most unbelievably foolish and precarious pose.

But, as is so often the case, those with the fiercest reputations are generally the easiest and most charming people in person. He seemed slightly amused at the ridiculous figure I cut.

We exchanged pleasantries about America and Britain over the short time of the shoot and at the end he looked me square in the eye and spoke.

"If you wish to succeed in America, all you need to do is tell everyone you meet that you are a Person of Integrity," he proclaimed in deep, mellifluous tones, stressing the last part in that slightly theatrical manner that was perhaps his trademark.

"It matters not a bit whether you actually are," he added, "Just so long as you keep telling everyone."


Drew Gardner said...

A Fascinating piece Justin

Justin Sutcliffe said...

Thank you Drew. Glad you enjoyed it.