Art Buchwald: A Daughter Remembers
Thursday, January 18, 2007; 3:00 PM
Jennifer Buchwald, daughter of Art Buchwald who died today at age 81, and a fellow writer, will be online Thursday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. ET to answer questions and take comments about "the funny man with two lives."
A transcript follows.
Jennifer Buchwald: I'm Jennifer Buchwald and I want to thank everybody for their calls and caring from the whole Buchwald family.
Fairfax, Va.: Did Art ever run out of ideas for what to write about?
Jennifer Buchwald: No, all he had to do is look at the front page of the Post and he had a story.
St. Louis, Mo. : You have my sympathy ...
Your father had been "dying" for several months in '06 and even went so far as to check himself into a hospital and wait for his time to come. Of course, being the humorist is was, he bounced back. Was that period of time odd for your family?
Jennifer Buchwald: I think anyone experiencing that kind of situation it would be odd for. He was a miracle and we were very lucky about that.
Washington, D.C.: Will there be a public funeral in Washington, D.C., or only one for the allegedly very important people?
Jennifer Buchwald: Plans are being made for a memorial service in late February/early March, but arrangements are not final.
Falls Church, Va.: Ms. Buchwald, my heartfelt condolences to you and your family, to all of us. It must have been hard for your family to accept his life decision. He has given us all much to think about. My six-year-old daughter and I had the pleasure of visiting your father at the hospice last spring and would like to share this letter I took to him. We also brought along a French music CD and a jar of Turkish rose petal jam which put a big smile on his face! Subsequently, my family attended the very emotional event organized by Politics and Prose in D.C.
I am grateful that I was able to meet him and to have made him laugh during that visit at the hospice.
Sincerely, Aysegul Acar-Dreyer
May 5, 2006
Dear Mr. Buchwald,
'Why not a Merci Donnant to Mr. Buchwald?' I thought, for my gratitude letter writing assignment in my positive psychology / authentic happiness class. Dr. Martin Seligman filled a much needed void by making us focus on the positives and showing us we have choices and hope; and you have done the same as you may soon finish your last chapter. Over so many years you touched so many, making us question and think of the possibilities through laughter.
Every day at breakfast you lifted many out of darkness by enlightening and giving us simple joys. Life in Washington won't be the same without you, indeed, 'la vie est dure sans confiture...'
Thank you Mr. Buchwald for being yourself, for being a true Mensch.
Dear Mr. Buchwald, as we say in Turkish to those setting out on a journey "go laughing, laughing"....
With love and gratitude,
Jennifer Buchwald: I remember reading your letter and I'm so glad that you and your child got to be spend time with my father. Every moment with him is a gift. And by the way, the jam was great. Thank you.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Yesterday afternoon, WaPo Book chatter Michael Dirda posted what may well have been the last media reference to you father while he was still alive -- a charming trivium in response to my question re travel/mystery author David Dodge (who also lived in France for a few years in the 1950s). Here's Dirda's reply, in relevant part:
Michael Dirda: I read Dodge's novel "To Catch a Thief" -set on the French Riviera] because I had so loved the movie... Do you realize that at the beginning of the film of "To Catch a Thief," there's a shot of an account of the cat burglar's activities in the Paris Herald Tribune. The author? Art Buchwald.
Jennifer Buchwald: (LAUGHS) Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. That's great, I didn't know that. It's so wonderful to hear new experiences about my father.
Harrisburg, Pa.: In looking back while growing up with your father, what are some of the funniest moments you recall?
Jennifer Buchwald: The funniest moments are his playfulness and not worrying about how he looked when he had the rabbit outfit at on Easter (he did this every year at the Ethel Kennedy's house) and being a Jewish Santa Claus (at home). And he was a "ringmaster" for choosing the best dog of the group at the Kennedy's and every dog wound up getting a prize And by the way, he hates dogs. Thank you very much.
Panama City, Fla.: Your dad went to high school in Queens; did he have anyone important thought about those days?
Jennifer Buchwald: I don't know about that but I know that he never got a high school diploma and he prided himself on that and then one year I called up his school and got him a real high school diploma.
Earlysville, Va.: Dear Ms. Buchwald,
After reading about what your father endured in growing up and in living all his life with mental illness, I am moved to say: What a man! We, who knew him only as a public figure, have lost much, but in him we had such a gift as well. I hope that those who knew him as a friend, parent, and family member realize how deeply we treasure him as exemplary lesson in how to live with grace and courage. Thank you.
Jennifer Buchwald: Dad came out about his depression and mania and he and William Styron and Mike Wallace traveled around the country talking about it (about 10 years ago). He's done so many different things to help people. One time a woman was listening to them talk about depression and that prevented her from killing herself. She went up and talked to my father and that prevented her from committing suicide. He was a wonderful person and thank you for acknowledging that.
International Herald Tribune: My deepest condolences to you and your family on your father's death. No matter how expected, the death of a loved one always comes as a terrible shock.
Just searched the International Herald Tribune on Buchwald, found the following in yesterday's edition -- proving that your dad's work has lived on:
The Times of London even penned an editorial in French reminiscent of Art Buchwald's annual column in this newspaper to mark le Jour de Merci Donnant, or Thanksgiving Day.
"Franglaises, franglais," the editorial said, spoofing Gordon Brown's quest for high office, "Chers compatriots. Mon nom est Gordon Brun and je suis running pour president de notre great pays de Frangleterre."
From, Alan Cowell, "Letter From Britain: Darker realities behind Britons' longing for Frangleterre":
Letter From BritainJJennifer Buchwald: That's his number one column.
Falls Church, Va.: Make us laugh he did! I just listened to/watched his video obit. I didn't follow his career much until he entered the hospice and started writing the wonderful pieces since then. I know he enjoyed his long goodbye, I wonder if you also enjoyed it, or was it particularly difficult having the good bye extended for so long?
To us he was a funny and intelligent guy but to you he was a dad/grandpa.
We will miss him.
Jennifer Buchwald: What was difficult was him almost dying and then not. And then it was great for a year. Every day was a gift. That made it easier for to accept his death last night. Thank you.
Gaithersburg, Md.: Condolences on your dad's passing, I know even if it is 'expected,' it is always difficult to believe. What were his spirits like in recent weeks? He was such a remarkable man, I hope he knows how much enjoyment his work gave to people.
Jennifer Buchwald: It was a very hard time for him with problems with his leg that had to be amputated last year. It got infected and it gave him a lot of pain and that was hard. But the renal failure ... there was no pain. While they were clearing up his leg from an infection he was having a lot of pain and then he started to go downhill and then there was no more pain.
Detroit, Mich.: I first started reading your Dad's columns in Paris in the International Herald Tribune when I was in high school. I seem to remember reading that he had lived in Paris at some point in time. Is that so, and did you live there as a family?
Jennifer Buchwald: He moved to Paris around '52 and immediately adopted the three kids from different countries and we lived there for six years. (My brother Joel is from Ireland, he was the first and the oldest. And my sister Connie, six months later from Spain and then I came about six months later from France.) Then we came to America, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.: Why did your father never marry after his divorce?
Jennifer Buchwald: He always loved my mother (Ann). And I respect him for listening to his heart.
Deale, Md.: Who was his favorite writer? Where was his favorite place?
Jennifer Buchwald: His favorite place is Paris which he visited many times after he returned to the states but it was never like it was in the '50s for him ... with Ernest Hemingway, Bogie and Lauren Bacall ... an incredible time to be in Paris. The whole gang of writer and actors and playwrights all hung out together and had a great life.
I don't know who his favorite writer was but he's mine.
Columbia, Md.: Ms. Buchwald, my condolences on your loss.
My favorite chapter in Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" was the one about your father. I wonder how many people who enjoyed your dad's work knew he was a Marine? His DI's description of your dad brought me to tears, as did (for a different reason) the story of their relationship. Did you dad ever talk about his military service?
Jennifer Buchwald: Oh yes, he has gigantic posters of him brushing his teeth and standing up tall and doing things out in the field and his scary story of him being told to drive the jeep when he didn't know how to drive. Marines stick together and the "supreme commander" visited him many times over the past year and a half and he's really proud of being a Marine and he always told us funny stories. When he was in hospice Marines would come off the street and go in a talk with him -- people he never knew but they connected immediately because they were Marines.
Santa Cruz, Calif.: I knew Joel when we were teenagers,running w/Bruce Oliver Tom True ,Trooper,Darrell Garza, etc. Art was about the only parent who was cool. I've read his columns most of my life. I was delighted when his stuff started appearing again. It's rare that someone brings such a ready smile to one's face .My condolences to your family.
Jennifer Buchwald: Thank you. Dad got cooler every day.
Kuwait City, Kuwait: My condolences, and I am sorry for your loss Miss Buchwald.
I once met your father at the Vineyard Haven Yacht club on Martha's Vineyard when I was a teenager. He thought it was funny that I grew up reading his column in a local newspaper all the way in Kuwait. It was an honor to have met him, and I have never forgotten the experience. I got the sense he was a man who loved laughing and appreciated the absurd. Do you think he knew what an influence he was to so many writers of political satire, that seem to follow in his footsteps today?
Jennifer Buchwald: Yes, he knew and he created a humorous academy of Russell Baker, the token white man and then Erma Bombeck was the token woman. There as token black man and dad was the token Jew. They ended up giving scholarships each year for the best writers at USC. In hospice, most of those people have written him and thanked him and their stories are incredible. Thank you.
Washington, D.C.: What did he think of the hospice?
Jennifer Buchwald: It was the greatest time in his life since Paris because he had friends come from all over the world to visit him. Some days there were 12 visitors a day. He just would sit there and be in charge and it was just story after story after story; it was just endless. There we were laughing in a hospice when we didn't' know if dad was going to make it or not. And I think that it was the humor and especially the love of all his friends and all the people in the world that wrote him that gave him that extra year of life.
He got a lot of mail, maybe a couple thousand letters and cards. His mind was not able to read or talk all the time but all of us read them to him and to each other and to ourselves and it was a joyous occasion -- very ironic.
Gaithersburg, Md.: More years ago than I want to remember I received a dog-eared copy of a paperback titled Paris After Dark, probably printed 1950. It wasn't my first Buchwald experience but it was my experience with the first Buchwald. I thought then, after reading it and making it more dog-eared than when I received it, of sending it to be autographed but didn't want to impose. It's somewhere in my house, I'll find it this weekend, and re-read it. The only thing I'm sorry about is that it won't be autographed.
Jennifer Buchwald: Yes, I'm sorry it won't be autographed either. He just died last night at 11:20 but you have a good experience with him so that's great and you have that to carry with you.
Arlington, Va.: Did he keep his social circle all his life, keep up with famous friends? Did their being famous matter to him?
Jennifer Buchwald: It has nothing to do with being famous. It has to do with laughing at his jokes. That's what he lived for.
He always loved jokes and he had a collection of them and this past week, going through his folders I found a folder of jokes which I have too and I didn't know we both collected jokes.
Arlington, Va..: This is a small point, but one that separates Art Buchwald from every other book writer I've ever seen. Art Buchwald was the only author I ever see show up for a book signing event and begin signing books--ahead of schedule. I never saw anyone else do that. I'm not certain what that says about him, but he's the only writer I saw who seemed to care about the people who were standing in line to buy books. And, by the way, lots of us fans love his books.
Jennifer Buchwald: He loved people and he loved people that loved him. He lived for people, to make people laugh. He'd talk to any stranger.
Lovettsville, Va.: Ms. Buchwald: Everyone in my family enjoyed your father's columns very much. But what we enjoyed almost as much was an aunt who took your father's satire literally. We could hardly wait for her take on his latest column - we got to laugh twice at each column. Our condolences to you and your family.
Jennifer Buchwald: I have never heard of anyone doing that and she must be very talented and a very fun person. You're lucky to have her. Thank you.
Los Angeles, Calf.: My deep sympathy on your loss. Your dad was a treasure. I was depressed myself a while back and he reminded me that I wasn't alone. The most important human trait is our sense of humor. Thanks, Mr. Buchwald.
Did he know Erma Brombeck? I usually find that people who have his books have hers, too.
Jennifer Buchwald: She did the kitchen humor and he did the political humor and between the two of them they got it all and they were fantastically great friends. My father spoke at her funeral.
Washington, D.C.: My Condolences --
Your father was the speaker at my college graduation baccalaureate and my father (who died in 97) always quotes his line about their generation: We gave you a perfect world - don't mess it up. When I think of my father, I always think of your's, too.
Jennifer Buchwald: That was one of his favorite lines and he always began a speech with "My fellow Americans ..." He was really a funny guy.
Alexandria, Va.: Ms. Buchwald: My impression of your father is of someone so outgoing and gregarious, who enjoyed being with people a great deal and was able to connect with all types of people. But, what did he enjoy doing in his alone, private time?
Jennifer Buchwald: Talking with people, making people laugh. That was his whole life. He read books, was an avid reader but he just loved talking to people.
Jennifer Buchwald: I'm very proud of my father for where he came from and what he became and how he never cheated on my mother and how he has a million people that love him and not one that hates him. That is a successful person. Thank you everybody for your condolences and your questions and comments.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.