The iconic author, essayist, playwright, commentator and intellectual celebrity Gore Vidal is dead at age 86.
Author of novels such as Lincoln and Myra Breckenridge and plays including The Best Man, Vidal also was a politician and a combative, activist commentator who was bitter and brutal in his criticism of American government, media and pop culture.
Though he rubbed elbows with high-profile figures from John F. Kennedy to Orson Welles to Mick Jagger, he was a fiercely independent thinker — and outcast — who even became a pen pal of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Watch these videos to get a taste of his manner and perspective. Read more on his life including his “1,000 sexual encounters with both men and women” before age 25 in the New York Times obituary.