Remembering Art Buchwald
Thursday, January 18, 2007; 12:00 PM
Ben Bradlee, vice president and former executive editor of The Washington Post, was online Thursday, Jan. 18, at Noon ET to discuss the life and work of Art Buchwald.
Washington, D.C.: Mr. Bradlee, thank you for coming on today. What was your relationship with Art Buchwald over the years and did you have regular contact with him? How long was his association with The Washington Post?
Ben Bradlee: He was never employed by the Post, he was always syndicated by someone else.
Because we were such friends that everybody thought it might be better if the professional relationship was handled by somebody else. I met him first in Paris in the summer of 1950 and we had adjoining offices in the same building and he ran the column, I think it was called Paris After Dark, it was kind of nightclub column. We played a lot of gin rummy together. Eventually he got married and our wives became friends and I helped him decide where to settle in America when he got sick of Paris. I think he thought of going to L.A., to New York but he decided to come to Washington and we sort of maintained our friendship. Didn't play as much gin rummy but saw a lot of the same people
Harrisburg, Pa.: How good a gin player was Art Buchwald? What are some of your favorite gin games stories of Art Buchwald?
Ben Bradlee: (LAUGHS) He wasn't any good at all and neither was I -- not to put on a too fine about it. It really was a way of being together and shooting the breeze and talking about what the hell was going in Paris.
Montreal, Canada: Art Buchwald rarely made me laugh out loud, but he always made me smile, and feel a little joy, if only for how much joy he was taking in what he wrote. There is something revealing in that. Maybe, a consistent smile beats a laugh somehow? Care to comment?
Ben Bradlee: I think that's very smart about Art. I think his column got to be quite structured. He would say something for about three paragraphs and it would make you smile. Not all that much in life does that. And then he would sort of work it over again and again. His columns were never long and you felt, when you got through, you could move on to the next thing in your life but look forward to the next column.
Miami, Fla.: Mr. Bradlee,
My condolences on the loss of your close friend. From reading your book what really seemed like a great time were you, Mr. Buchwald's and Edward Bennett Williams lunches at Duke Ziebert's. When you got scoops like Lombardi coaching the Skins or other more political scoops - did Art also use it in his reporting? You must have some awesome memories.
Ben Bradlee: The three of us had a lunch club which only had one reason for being which was to keep other people out. Katharine Graham who was friend of ours and my boss was desperate to join and we kept saying that one or the other of us had blackballed her. And finally one day Williams told her that she had been admitted to membership and then he told her the only trouble was that the club had a 65-year-old age limit and since this was her birthday and she was 65 she had to leave the club.
Houston, Tex.: Mr. Buchwald wrote a book "We'll always have Paris" or something akin to that. You were there with him during the Paris years. What did Paris do to him?
Ben Bradlee: It did to him what it did to the rest of us. We were comparatively young. The freedom of relations, behavior was attractive to those of who were in our early 30s at that time. It's a very seductive place to live. We had a good time.
Iowa: Looking back on Mr. Buchwald's career, do you think we will ever see a satirical columnist with his gifts receive such wide appreciation? (Thinking of how hard it is these days to get people to laugh when it's their ox being gored.)
Ben Bradlee: You'll never see another one exactly like him but whether there will be a humor columnist who has a mass audience like his ... may be but it'll be different.
St. Petersburg, Fla.: How was Art Buchwald able to remain firmly grounded over such an extended period of time when he came into contact with the most powerful, influential and charismatic people of his and my generation?
Ben Bradlee: You have the ability to stay grounded no matter how famous your friends are or you don't and if you don't have it you're not gonna last long in this town.
Chicago, Ill.: Greetings,
Will the Buchwld obit in tomorrow's paper be above the fold, even if Castro doesn't survive the day?
Ben Bradlee: I'm sure there will be some mention of it plus a picture on page one. Whether it's above the fold, I don't know. It depends upon whatever else is happening in the world.
He was a big cheese in this town. He'd been here 40-some years, in a prominent position.
Chantilly, Va.: I forever remember the great love affair that Mr. Buchwald had with his wife. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Ben Bradlee: He had a very stormy relationship with Ann. They actually got divorced before she died but I don't think he ever stopped loving her. He's going to be buried next to her in Martha's Vineyard.
Ulaan Batar, Mongolia: I was in high school when "Sheep on the Runway" opened in Washington, at the National Theater. I gather I was one of the few people to see it. Did Art share with you any thoughts on his experience as a writer for Broadway?
Ben Bradlee: It was a lot of work for him. It sort of divided the town. It was a thinly veiled caricature of Joe Alsop and Alsop had a lot of friends in this town. Art was absolutely right (in the play) in describing the hero as a "stuffed shirt."
washingtonpost.com: This concludes our discussion with Ben Bradlee. Please consult the Live Online schedule for more discussions about Art Buchwald.
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