Even I, a Roman Polanski apologist and let-it-go-already arguer, don’t agree with some of what Gore Vidal has told The Atlantic‘s John Meroney about the Samantha Geimer case in an 8.28 posting. There are, however, slivers of truth here and there.
Meroney: “In September, director Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland for leaving the U.S. in 1978 before being sentenced to prison for raping a 13-year-old girl at Jack Nicholson‘s house in Hollywood. During the time of the original incident, you were working in the industry, and you and Polanski had a common friend in theater critic and producer Kenneth Tynan. So what’s your take on Polanski, this many years later?
Vidal: “I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?”
Meroney: “I’ve certainly never heard that take on the story before.”
Vidal: “First, I was in the middle of all that. Back then, we all were. Everybody knew everybody else. There was a totally different story at the time that doesn’t resemble anything that we’re now being told.”
Meroney: “What do you mean?”
Vidal: “The media can’t get anything straight. Plus, there’s usually an anti-Semitic and anti-fag thing going on with the press — lots of crazy things. The idea that this girl was in her communion dress, a little angel all in white, being raped by this awful Jew, Polacko — that’s what people were calling him — well, the story is totally different now from what it was then.
“Hollywood once provided protection for some of its people. For example, Rock Hudson was heterosexual to the public until 1985, when he announced he had AIDS.
“Studios protect big moneymakers. The movies with Rock Hudson and Doris Day were profitable. Each star was given the Sheriff’s telephone number to say, ‘Lay off.’ The Sheriff wasn’t going to go fucking around with the talent. They were the income of Hollywood.”
Meroney: “During the 1970s, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and producer Robert Evans were celebrated for lifestyles of sexual extravagance.”
Vidal: “Well, they’re all virgins, every last one of them. I can testify to that. And the last one you mentioned, he’s a super virgin.”
Meroney: “They’ve certainly never been criticized and condemned for their sexual excesses. But Polanski was condemned even before he pled guilty to raping a girl.
Vidal: “Well, believe it or not, anti-Semitism is very strong out here, even though this is a Jewish business. L.B. Mayer was the worst anti-Semite of all.”
Meroney: “But he was Jewish.”
Vidal: “Well, Mayer’s view was, ‘The public will turn on all of us if they know that one of us has done anything.’”
Meroney: “You think anti-Semitism is motivating the prosecution of Polanski?”
Vidal: “Anti-Semitism got poor Polanski. He was also a foreigner. He did not subscribe to American values in the least. To [his persecutors], that seemed vicious and unnatural.”
Meroney: “What are ‘American values’?”
Meroney: “Lying and cheating. There’s nothing better.”
Meroney: “So you’re saying that a non-Jewish director wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught up in a sex crime scandal? Such a thing wouldn’t be an issue for Martin Scorsese?”
Vidal: “Well, he’s an absolutely sexless director. Can you think of a sex scene that he ever shot?”
Meroney: “Errol Flynn stood trial for raping underage girls in 1943, and was acquitted. Was he treated differently than Roman Polanski?”
Vidal: “Everybody liked Errol Flynn.”