Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Buchwald (October 20, 1925- January 17, 2007)

Art Buchwald has died.

America has lost a great writer who knew how to make you smile when you thought there was nothing funny left to laugh about. We shall miss him dearly.

Buchwald has a fascinating biography
"Art Buchwald was the son of Joseph Buchwald, a curtain manufacturer, with three sisters: Alice, Edith, and Doris. He grew up in a residential community in the Queens Borough of New York City. He did not graduate from high school, and ran away from home at age seventeen.

He wanted to join the Marines but was too young, so he lied about his age and bribed a drunk with half a pint of whisky to sign as his legal guardian. From October 1942 to October 1945, he served with the U.S. Marine Corps, attached to the Fourth Marine Air Wing. He spent two years in the Pacific Theater and was discharged from the service as a sergeant.

On his return, Buchwald enrolled at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill. At USC he was managing editor of the campus magazine Wampus; he also wrote a column for the college newspaper, the Daily Trojan.

In 1948 he left USC, without having earned a degree, and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. Eventually, Buchwald got a job as a correspondent for Variety Magazine in Paris. In January 1949, he took a sample column, on which he had been working, to the offices of the European edition of The New York Herald Tribune. Titled Paris After Dark, it was filled with scraps of offbeat information about Parisian nightlife. Buchwald was hired and joined the editorial staff. His column caught on quickly, and Buchwald followed it in 1951 with another column, Mostly About People. They were fused into one under the title Europe’s Lighter Side. The column in which Buchwald explains Thanksgiving Day to the French people in 1953 is reprinted every November with ceremonial regularity. Buchwald’s columns soon began to recruit readers on both sides of the Atlantic. On August 24, 1959, TIME magazine, in reviewing the history of the European edition of The Herald Tribune, reported that Buchwald’s column had achieved an "institutional quality."

During this particular time, while in Paris, he became the only correspondent to substantively interview Elvis Presley, both at the Prince de Galles Hotel, where the soon-to-be Sgt. Presley was staying during a week-end off from his Army stint in Germany, as well in places like "Le Lido", where Buchwald witnessed, first hand, Presley's interaction and that of his entourage, with the girls at the world's most famous nightclub. Presley's impromptu performance at the piano, as well as his singing for the showgirls after most of the customers had left the nightclub, became legendary following its inclusion in Buchwald's bestselling book, "I'll always have Paris".

Buchwald returned to the United States in 1962 and is at present syndicated by Tribune Media Services. His column appears in some 300 newspapers."
One of the things he liked to write about was the political scene. I found this column that ran in the March 17, 2005, Washington Post. It is an interesting perspective on the dirt that we now call American politics.

Thank you Art.

It's a Mud Mud Mud Mud World

By Art Buchwald

Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page C02

The truth is that there is more mudslinging going on in the country than ever before. But where do people get the mud?

One of the most successful mud-making factories in America is in Washington. I visited it the other day. The head of marketing, Ike Seller, showed me around.

Next to the factory was a railroad siding, where a freight car was pouring unrefined mud into the basement.

"Where do you get the mud?"

"From all over," Seller bragged. "We make the best mud of any factory in the land. When our customers sling it, it sticks."

"How's business?" I asked.

"Better than ever. We're now working three shifts."

"Is there a shortage of mud in America?"

"There is always a shortage of mud, particularly in a democracy. We got a big surge during the 2004 elections, when the Swift boat veterans ordered tons of it to sling at John Kerry."

"I knew they were slinging mud at Kerry, but I didn't know where the mud came from."

"We have a $10 million contract with the same Swift boat people for mud they can throw at AARP, the senior citizens' lobby that's fighting Bush's Social Security plans."

"What are they doing with the mud?"

"They use it to show that AARP is for gay marriages and against our boys in the armed services."

"Does the president know about the contract?"

"No, because his Social Security advisers in the White House want him to pretend he is above slinging mud at anyone who doesn't agree with his reforms."

We were given photo ID passes, then we walked through a door marked "Top Secret."

Seller said, "This is where we manufacture our mud balls. Each has to be perfect. We don't want the slinger to miss his target."

"Who are those people over there?"

"That's where we test the mud balls."

"But aren't you throwing them at senior citizens?"

"Yes, but they're paid $10 a day to be targets. It supplements their Social Security checks."

"Do you provide mud for the Democrats as well?" I asked.

"Of course. Mudslinging is the mother's milk of politics. There are no great mudslingers in the Democratic Party, and their only real target at the moment is Congressman Tom DeLay. The party is still waiting to see what Howard Dean will do."

"Do you supply mud for nonpolitical clients?"

"Either mud or dirt, whichever they want. The scandal sheets will take any kind, as long they can use it against Hollywood stars."

I said, "The Star, Enquirer and Globe must be your best customers."

"They are, and the beauty is, they will buy rejects that People magazine won't use."

We were coming to the end of the tour. Our guide gave us a bag of dirt and said, "Just add water and throw it at anyone you don't like."

The bag of dirt is back in my office. I can't wait to mix it up and sling it at one of my targets.

© 2005, Tribune Media Services"
Buchwald was an inspiration to many who cared about what was going on in America and the need to make things better.

As Buchwald stated shortly before his death,
"What's beautiful about death is you can say anything you want to, as long as you don't lord it over others that you know something they don't," he wrote in his March 14 column. "The thing that is very important, and why I'm writing this, is that whether they like it or not, everyone is going to go. The big question we still have to ask is not where we're going, but what were we doing here in the first place?"
We will miss you Art. There will be a few more smiles in Heaven with you around.



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