PARKERSBURG -The passing of acclaimed author Gore Vidal gave pause to Parkersburg Art Center Director Abby Hayhurst.
Vidal, who died July 31 at age 86, spent a few days in the area almost 40 years ago. Hayhurst served as his driver.
"He was quite fascinating," she said. "Scary intelligent."
Because of Hayhurst's mother, Mimi Seaman, Vidal came to Parkersburg on Nov. 6, 1974, and spent a few days in the area.
According to Hayhurst, Seaman began a correspondence with Vidal after reading his 1973 historical novel, "Burr."
"She read the book, admired it, wrote the man and started a correspondence," Hayhurst said.
Seaman was the founder of the Blennerhassett Historical Park Commission. According to Hayhurst, Seaman had been commissioned by then-Parkersburg Mayor William P.A. Nicely to work on a city bicentennial.
"She determined that one of the things the commission should do is work on Blennerhassett Island."
That led to inviting Vidal to visit Parkersburg.
"At some point he agreed to come here and give a talk on the subject," Hayhurst said. She said he also wanted to see Blennerhassett Island. To see what he had written about.
Aaron Burr visited Blennerhassett Island in 1805, meeting with Harman Blennerhassett on Burr's way to tour the west. The visit became part of the story surrounding Burr's trial on a charge of treason, of which he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Vidal flew into the area and was accompanied by a camera crew from CBS' "60 Minutes."
"Our job was to be his host while he was here," Hayhurst said. "We hung around with him for three or four days. I was the official driver."
Vidal visited Blennerhassett Island and then spoke to a large crowd in the Parkersburg South High School auditorium.
According to a newspaper account, Vidal gave the audience a choice of listening to his prepared remarks or he would take questions regarding Blennerhassett Island.
Vidal gave the speech, which focused largely on what he thought was wrong with the country. He voiced opinions on then-President Richard Nixon, Blennerhassett Island and the Kanawha County textbook religion-based controversy.
After the speech, he was the guest of honor at a reception held by Dr. Fay Green in Vienna. Green was the president of the Blennerhassett commission.
Vidal stayed the night at the Blennerhassett Hotel and made a stop at the Pitzer-Herring Bookstore before going to Marietta.
Hayhurst said Vidal had a reputation as acerbic, but she found him charming. She described Vidal as fascinating and "blindingly intelligent."
Hayhurst said Vidal and her mother got along well. They could both speak a number of languages and would converse in them, she said.
Vidal sent Seaman a thank you for the stay.
"I felt kind of a tinge when he died, although we never heard another word out of him," Hayhurst said.