"Litigation takes the place of sex at middle age." Gore Vidal

"So where did we leave off yesterday?

Oh yes, Truman Capote, having demolished his former best friend "the divine, the beautiful, the exquisite, the sensitive Principessa Radziwilla" had left us with the fair warning, "This fag happens to be alive and well in New York City."

Today, for the stouthearted, Capote will take on Gore Vidal, and perhaps we will be able to sneak in some of the really serious dirt the lawyers made us take out of yesterday's story, "In Hot Blood."

To recap: Gore Vidal, best-selling author, is suing Truman Capote, best-selling author, for $1 million because Capote told Playgirl magazine Vidal had once been thrown out of the White House after a dinner party given by the Kennedys for Princess Lee Radziwill and her husband, the late Prince Stanislas Radziwill.

Capote says Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, told him the story. He says she at first was willing to testify for Capote, then changed her mind and decided to sign a deposition for Vidal, saying she didn't remember ever telling Capote the story.

This "treachery" moved Capote to go on television Tuesday in New York to denounce Radziwill by turning himself into a "Southern Fag" and oozing bitchiness about the hapless Princess.

Scattered in between his diatribe at Radziwill, who was his major concern Tuesday, were occasional swipes at Vidal, the original protagonist in this whole story, or antagonist as Capote considers him.

Naturally, we had to call Ravello, Italy - where Vidal is ensconced in his seaside villa working on a screenplay - to give him a chance to get his licks in.

He was not reluctant to talk.

It is only fair to give them equal time.

So why did Vidal decide to sue Capote anyway?

VIDAL: "Truman had committed a libel. It was time to take a stand. I did it. It was quite expensive. I'll probably never get anything out of it. He was drunk when he gave the interview (to Playgirl). We got a soundtrack of the interview.He was completely sloshed and babbling."

CAPOTE: "It's his psychosis where I'm concerned. It's not aging very well. And like any almost-senile person, they go to litigation on almost anything."

VIDAL: "It's his psychosis. He has one about me. I have said several times that on his shoulders has fallen the feather boa of Hedda Hopper."

Vidal is reminded of a story he once told about going to a dinner party and, because he was not wearing his glasses, sitting down on what he thought was a stool but it turned out to be Capote.

"Actually I used the word ottoman," corrects Vidal.

CAPOTE: "I think Gore went to the White House, got very drunk - and he's not a person who can handle liquor - became vituperative, was asked to leave and was escorted out."

VIDAL: Sigh. "I drove back with Arthur Schlesinger, George Plimpton and Ken Galbraith, with whom I had come to the party. But you know that everything Truman says is untrue. It's absolutely eerie. Everything I read that Truman writes on any subject I know about is wrong. And I'm not even speaking now out of malice."

CAPOTE: "This case is costing me a lot of money. And what nobody realizes is that I'll never get it back.What difference does it matter to Gore. This is a nuisance suit. It's just as cheap as that. Gore wanted to let this case drag on. He thought in the end I'd cave in because of the legal fees."

VIDAL: Sigh. "I haven't seen Capote in seven years and before that it was five years. I haven't seen Lee in 20 years. I think I've met Capote twice in the last 25 years. I don't know Lee at all. When I talk about these people I'm talking about people I read about in the newspapers. This whole thing is the performing arts. It's just not my game."

CAPOTE: "Gore is a hack. He hacks out all these things. I'm a writer who works with considerable care.It's not the same thing."

VIDAL: "Answered Prayers" (Capote's novel-in-progress about many of his social New York friends) is just terrible stale gossip."

CAPOTE: "Gore tells everybody I have this great sense of rivalry with him. Well, I couldn't care less. His books are totally mediocre. He says I envy his looks and his family background. Well I certainly don't envy his looks, and he has the thickest coarsest features. As for his family background. Ha. I've seen a relative staggering drunken and toothless through the streets of Easthampton. But it would require days, hours, weeks, to tell that story."

VIDAL: "Ha. Truman is the one who first said to me (he imitates Capote's high, sibilant voice over a bad connection to Ravello), 'If I've ever envied you, Gore, over the years, it's for your looks.'

"I did once say that Capote has spent most of his life with some success trying to get into a world I have spent most of my life with some success trying to get out of."

CAPOTE: "I remember when the Kennedys were in the White House and Gore was living in Connecticut. He would invite people up to his house and on a table was a photograph of Jackie lovingly inscribed to Gore. It was a forgery. Then he would tell people he was going to Washington for a dinner party and he'd say, (Capote imitates Vidal now) 'Oh I really didn't want to go but Jackie insisted.' Then he'd spend the night in a motel and come back the next morning."

VIDAL: "That's pretty funny. Because it's true of Truman. I don't believe Truman ever set foot in the White House when the Kennedys were there. Jackie never liked him. He had one story about how he had spent the weekend at Buckingham Palace and then flew in for a White House dinner. It's interesting that he would project all of this on me."

CAPOTE: "I think why this whole lawsuit hit Gore so is that it hit him in his amour propre which is the Kennedys. And coming from me it gave him a chance to air his psychotic hatred of me and his relationship with the Kennedys. It (the White House episode) was a terrible blow to him. You see, behind his facade he's really just a bowl of not-quite-congealed jello. Full of terrors and high anxiety. But I'm the one who has real anxieties."

VIDAL: "This is pathology. Real nut-house stuff." CAPTION: Picture 1, Truman Capote; Picture 2, Gore Vidal