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Celebrated gay author Gore Vidal dies at age 86

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Gore Vidal, one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century, died Tuesday night at his home in the Hollywood Hills, a family member told reporters. Vidal was 86.

Burr Steers, Vidal's nephew, said Vidal died of complications from pneumonia and had been sick for some time. Entertainment Weekly reported that Vidal's health went downhill in 2006 after the death of his longtime partner, Howard Auster.

The openly gay author, playwright, screenwriter, political commentator and erudite talk show guest was a huge celebrity in his own right, a literary giant who outlived his contemporaries including Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and his conservative rival William F. Buckley.

Vidal's bestsellers including history-based novels such as "Burr" and "Lincoln." He frequently included gay characters in his novels, including the groundbreaking 1948 novel "The City And The Pillar," featuring a gay relationship, something rare during that time when most other authors and playwrights such as Tennessee Williams often masked homosexuality in no uncertain terms. Vidal also was unafraid of tackling the scandalous topics, and his tome "Myra Breckenridge," about a transgender movie star, shocked America when it was published and made into a motion picture.

He was a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show," and host Johnny Carson was a big fan and loved his witty proclamations. Vidal often appeared on "The Dick Cavett Show" and enjoyed butting heads with Mailer and Buckley.

His political drama, "The Best Man," first staged in 1960, was revived on Broadway in 2012 to critical praise. The revival starred James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury.

Vidal opposed America's war machine, starting with Vietnam, and spent many of his years abroad. He also dabbled in politics, though never successfully, and once ran against Jerry Brown for California governor.

Born Oct. 3, 1925, in West Point, N.Y., Vidal was the son of Gene and Nina Vidal. His grandfather was Sen. T.P. Gore of Oklahoma.

Additional reading

To read the New York Times obituary, click HERE.

To read the Los Angeles Times obituary, click HERE.