"It's like watching the 'Thrilla in Manila,' except with words."
That's what Tom Graves, an assistant professor of literature and humanities at LeMoyne-Owen College, says about the infamous series of 1968 televised debates between conservative legend William F. Buckley and progressive man of letters Gore Vidal. The debates were broadcast live by ABC News as part of its presidential convention coverage that year, but will reappear in Memphis this week.
Graves acquired a copy of the rarely seen debates — which total roughly two hours across eight segments filmed at the Republican Convention in Miami and the Democratic Convention in Chicago — while researching a stage play based on the encounter. He'll screen them at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Brooks Museum of Art in what Graves believes will be the first full public showing of the Buckley-Vidal debates since their original broadcast.
We'll have more on this screening in Wednesday's print edition. Until then, here's a clip of the most famous and most widely seen segment, in which Buckley and Vidal's otherwise erudite exchange erupted into vicious name-calling and threatened fisticuffs: