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Volume 26, Number 12 — December 2018

Remembering Art Buchwald

By Carl D. Clarke, Jr. | January 31, 2007

Reprinted with permission from the popular humor column "I Made It Up"
in the Washington County (VA) News, Abingdon, Va., Jan. 24, 2007


I never met the man. I never heard him speak. But for the eight years I lived in Washington, I read him religiously, three times a week. I admired his satire, his gentle humor, and the numerous devices he invented to poke fun at the famous.

Art Buchwald died last Wednesday at age 81. If you didn't read about him on Thursday, he started in Paris at the International Herald Tribune, with a column called "Paris After Dark." Over time, he wrote 8,000 columns and 33 books. His columns were syndicated in up to 500 newspapers here and abroad. His witty satire won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982.

In his last book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye, he laughed about moving into a hospice expecting to live only three weeks. When his kidney function returned, and he didn't die, he moved out to go on living life. But in the meantime, the National Hospice Association named him Man of the Year.

Art Buchwald always had a contact in government who would tell the real truth about what was going on. I modeled my all-purpose Washington leak, Willie Snitch, after many of his characters.

I admired the man, and learned much at his figurative knee. He gave me the license to interview non-existent people. It was only a small leap to interview historical figures, and I have reported on my conversations with Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant and Daniel Boone.

Thus, I was not surprised when Art stopped by the house a couple days after he died.

"For a guy who just died," I said, "you look good."

"In the afterlife," he said "you get to look like you did when you were at your best."

"So, what you doing now?" I asked.

"A new column. I'm calling it 'The Afterlife After Dark.' Whatcha think?"

"Nice alliteration. Three times a week?"

He unwrapped a big cigar and got it lit. "Whenever I feel like it. We in the afterlife don't have what you call a deadline."

"A lot of material in the afterlife?"

"It's a gold mine. America was only 400 years old. The afterlife has been going on forever. The bureaucracy is incredible. I got to fill out five forms to make a phone call."

"But you already know half the characters."

"They're all here...Ike, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon. Did you know that Tricky Dick is planning another comeback?

"I almost envy you."

"It's like I said at the hospice. I didn't know dying could be so much fun."

Carl D. Clarke, Jr. from Abingdon is a weekly columnist for the Washington County News. He may be reached at carlclarke@earthlink.net

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