Sunday, February 27, 2011


The website for Musso and Frank has many pictures of famous folk visiting the restaurant, such as the one above.  I think I’ve never seen any true superstars there.  The most famous person I’ve ever seen was Tim Curry, and I’ve certainly never seen Gore Vidal.
When it comes to food and sex Vidal has always seemed pro-sex, though not especially pro-sensuality, wanting to get both jobs done without too much fuss.  I can see why Musso might suit him.
Back in the days when he lived in the famous villa in Ravello, a Time magazine profile wrote: “Everyday details are handled by Bronx-born Howard Austen, 47, Vidal's companion for 26 years. Vidal rises most mornings between 9:30 and 11, has a small breakfast and then writes until 3 p.m., pausing only to consume a boiled egg for lunch. Next comes 30 to 45 minutes of weight lifting, a daily regimen to keep his 6-ft. frame tolerably within range of 180 Ibs. When this fails, he adopts a last resort: holing up in a hotel where he hates the food.”
Yes well: this was written in 1976.

Howard Austen must surely have had a lot to put up with, but he does seem to have been something of a sensualist.  He wrote, with Beverley Pepper, The Myra Breckinridge Cookbook, the title, of course, coming from Gore Vidal’s most famous novel.

It’s not clear from internal evidence how much involvement Vidal had in the writing of the book, if any.  It contains a foreword written, as it were, by Myra which I could well believe he wrote, but I can’t imagine he had much of a hand in the recipes.  In some ways the book is a good deal more serious and usable than you might expect, but then it has recipes with names such as Flaming Faggot Trout, Cod Pieces, Cumin Covered Cock and Koo Chi Minge.  I suppose that last one was Beverly’s influence.  In any case, Vidal’s sense of humor was and is rather dryer than this, I think.

Like everyone else, I’m more familiar with Vidal’s non-fiction than his fiction, but there is wonderfully memorable passage in his novel Kalki that refers to drink.  He’s writing in the voice of the narrator Theodora (Teddy) Ottinger,

“I must have felt something for him once, I thought, staring through the martini’s first comforting haze at my ex-husband’s pale double chin.  Tears came to my eyes.

The martinis at Musso and Frank are, as discussed, the very best. 

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