Tom Wolfe was the last of the Gadflies. There were others—Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol, Diana Vreeland, Muhammad Ali—to name only a few. These, some of the brilliant characters who inhabited and influenced the last half of the 20th century, are all gone. Each made their own specific dent in history, in style, in the way we think, in the way we looked at life.
Tom Wolfe was at the forefront—emulated by many, surpassed by none. Please tell me who there is today who can compare—somehow I can’t count today’s 20-somethings as being in the same league.
Thinking of a common thread among those who have had a huge influence, they all had style—in the way they used their talent, the way they spread paint on canvas, the way they placed words on paper. Others dreamed of emulating them—dreamed of even meeting them—hoping to have a little bit of the talent and the glitter rub off.
Although Tom Wolfe and I were only acquaintances, my wife, Gigi, and I are good friends with the talented artist Elizabeth Thompson, who was a longtime friend of Tom and his wife, Sheila. When we asked her to tell us how she remembered him, she thought for a moment and replied:
“Tom was one of kind and kind. Sheila was Tom’s sounding board, reader, muse, and soul mate. Delight, surprise, and comet-force twinkle were as natural as breathing, especially when Tommy and Alexandra (their children) were within range. Everything about him was real—impeccable manners, that inimitable style, endless imagination, and friendship. How lucky we were.”
We agree. How lucky all of us were to have encountered, even in a fleeting moment, his brilliance.