Allegations have surfaced suggesting that eccentric late writer Gore Vidal was a pedophile. The claims have been made by his half-sister, author Nina Straight, and his nephew, Hollywood actor and director Burr Steers, who are in the process of contesting the essayist's will.
Vidal died last year, aged 86, from pneumonia and left his entire estate, estimated at $37 million, to Harvard University. In a feature that appeared in the New York Times, Ms Straight - who had a 'turbulent though close relationship' with Vidal - said the openly-gay author had had sex with underage men. She described the alleged circumstances as 'Jerry Sandusky acts', referring to the former Penn State assistant football coach convicted of child molestation.
Mr Steers - who directed the Zac Efron film Charlie St Cloud - said that conservative columnist William F. Buckley - who had a long-running public feud with Vidal, which also played out in court - had evidence linking Vidal to the alleged crimes. Vidal was said to be 'terrified' about the information Buckley had against him. 'I know Buckley had a file on him that Gore feared,' Mr Steers said in the New York Times article. 'It would make sense if that material was about him having underage sex. 'Gore spent alot of time in Bangkok, after all.' The Thailand capital is known for child prostitution, with an estimated 2000 children said to be forced into the industry.
In 2012, Buckley's son Christopher wrote in an essay for New Republic that he had disposed of a file his father kept on Vidal. 'When WFB [William F. Buckley] died, in 2008, I found in his study, more cluttered than King Tut's tomb, a file cabinet bursting to the seams, labeled 'Vidal Legal',' Christopher wrote. 'Into the dumpster it went, and I still remember the sigh of relief upon heaving it in.'
The New York Times article also says that the ever-opinionated Vidal had a strange and controversial take on the abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. 'He would say that the young guys involved were hustlers who were sending signals,' Mr Steers said. However the author of the article, Tim Teeman, wrote that 'other friends of Mr. Vidal told me they doubted he had sex with underage men'.
In 2009, Vidal hit headlines for referring to the 13-year-old victim in the Roman Polanski rape case as a 'young hooker'. Vidal suffered from dementia and alcoholism towards the end of his life. Mr Steers said he would drink single male scotch 'until he collapsed'. Vidal also had 'wet brain' - proper name Wernicke-Korsakoff - a syndrome characterized by a number of symptoms, including confusion and hallucination.
It is this illness that Ms Straight is using in challenging Vidal's will, saying he was not mentally competent when he filed it. Vidal changed his will the year before his death to give his entire estate to Harvard University, where he once gave guest lectures but was never a student. Having written 25 novels and 26 non-fiction works, Harvard also receives profits from the continued sales of Vidal's books. Ms Straight said she is owed around a million dollars by her half brother after she paid his legal fees for his court battle with Buckley. Mr Steers, who claims that Vidal had promised him his Los Angeles house, said Vidal's 'brain had gone'. He accused his nephew of being a C.I.A. spy who was trying to kidnap him.'He had all this fluid that was filling up inside him,' Mr steers said. 'They'd drain him every day. 'He had congestive heart failure.'It was really miserable.'Gore was on a planet all his own.'