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Art Buchwald

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Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald
Art Buchwald at the Miami Book Fair International of 1989
Born Arthur Buchwald
(1925-10-20)October 20, 1925
New York City, New York, US
Died January 17, 2007(2007-01-17) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C., US
Alma mater University of Southern California
Occupation Writer
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Ann McGarry[1]
Parents Helen and Joseph Buchwald

Arthur "Art" Buchwald (October 20, 1925 – January 17, 2007) was an American humorist best known for his long-running column in The Washington Post, which in turn was carried as a syndicated column in many other newspapers. His column focused on political satire and commentary. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary in 1982 and in 1986 was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Journalism 2.1
    • Film 2.2
  • Personal life 3
    • Coming to America lawsuit 3.1
    • Illness and death 3.2
  • Awards 4
  • Books 5
    • Autobiography 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Art Buchwald was born to an Austrian-Hungarian Jewish immigrant family. He was the son of Joseph Buchwald, a curtain manufacturer, and Helen Klineberger, who later spent 35 years in a mental hospital. He was the youngest of four, with three older sisters—Alice, Edith, and Doris. Buchwald's father put him in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York when the family business failed during the Great Depression. Buchwald was moved about between several foster homes, including a Queens boarding house for sick children (he had rickets) operated by Seventh-day Adventists. He stayed in the foster home until he was 5. Buchwald, his father and sisters were eventually reunited and lived in Hollis, a residential community in Queens. Buchwald did not graduate from Forest Hills High School, and ran away from home at age 17.

He wanted to join the United States Marine Corps during World War II but was too young to join without parental or legal guardian consent, so he bribed a drunk with half a pint of whiskey to sign as his legal guardian. From October 1942 to October 1945, he served with the Marines as part of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. He spent two years in the Pacific Theater and was discharged from the service as a Sergeant. He said of his time in the Marines, "In the Marines, they don't have much use for humorists,they beat my brains in."[2]



On his return, Buchwald enrolled at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on the G.I. Bill, despite not having his high school diploma. At USC he was managing editor of the campus magazine Wampus; he also wrote a column for the college newspaper, the Daily Trojan. The university permitted him to continue his studies after learning he had not graduated high school, but deemed him ineligible for a degree; he received an honorary doctorate from the school in 1993.[3]

In 1949 he left USC and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. Eventually, he got a job as a correspondent for Variety in Paris. In January 1950, he took a sample column 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". Buchwald’s columns soon began to recruit readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In November 1952, Buchwald wrote a column in which he attempted to explain the Thanksgiving holiday to the French, using garbled French translations such as "Kilometres Deboutish" for Miles Standish; Buchwald considered it his favorite column,[3] and it was later re-run every Thanksgiving during Buchwald's lifetime.[4]

Buchwald also enjoyed the notoriety he received when U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's press secretary, Jim Hagerty, took seriously a spoof press conference report claiming that reporters asked questions about the president's breakfast habits. After Hagerty called his own conference to denounce the article as "unadulterated rot," Buchwald famously retorted, "Hagerty is wrong. I write adulterated rot."[5] 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."

While in Paris, Buchwald 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. Presley's impromptu performances at the Le Lido 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 was syndicated by Tribune Media Services. His column appeared in more than 550 newspapers at its height, and he published more than 30 books in his lifetime. He also contributed fumetti to Marvel Comics' Crazy Magazine which tore apart statistics regarding 1970s campus life.

In 1982, Buchwald's syndicated newspaper column won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Critics, however, called the column hackneyed, tiresome and not humorous; when the Dallas Times Herald canceled it in 1989, the editors did not receive a single letter of protest.[6]


Besides some literary cameos in renowned movies (an example of which is Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, at the start of which an issue of Paris Herald-Tribune is shown in close-up to highlight a column bylined by Buchwald about jewel thefts on the French Riviera setting up the plot)[7] Buchwald also participated to the English dialogues of Jacques Tati's Play Time. Buchwald also had a cameo role in an 1972 episode of TV's Mannix, "Moving Target".

Personal life

Buchwald and his wife Ann, whom he met in Paris, adopted three children and lived in Washington, D.C.. He spent most summers in his house in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard.

Coming to America lawsuit

Buchwald was also known for the Buchwald v. Paramount lawsuit, which he and partner Alain Bernheim filed against Paramount Pictures in 1988 in a controversy over the Eddie Murphy film Coming to America; Buchwald claimed Paramount had stolen his script treatment. He won, was awarded damages, and then accepted a settlement from Paramount. The case was the subject of a 1992 book, Fatal Subtraction: The Inside Story of Buchwald v. Paramount by Pierce O'Donnell and Dennis McDougal.[8]

Illness and death

In 2000, at age 74, Buchwald suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized for more than two months.

On February 16, 2006, the Associated Press reported that Buchwald had had a leg amputated below the knee and was staying at Washington Home and Hospice.[9] The amputation was reportedly necessary because of poor circulation in the leg.

Buchwald invited radio talk show presenter Diane Rehm to interview him. During the show, which aired on February 24, 2006, he revealed his decision to discontinue hemodialysis, which had previously been initiated to treat renal failure secondary to diabetes mellitus. He described his decision as his "last hurrah," stating that, "If you have to go, the way you go is a big deal." He reported that he was "very happy with his choices" and was eating at McDonald's on a regular basis.

Buchwald was later interviewed with Miles O'Brien of CNN in a segment aired on March 31, 2006. Buchwald discussed his living will, which documents his wishes for his doctors not to revive him if he fell into a coma. As of the date of that interview, Buchwald was still writing a periodic column. In the interview, he described a dream in which he was waiting to take his "final plane ride."

Buchwald was interviewed by Fox News' Chris Wallace for a segment on May 14, 2006's edition of Fox News Sunday.

In June 2006, Buchwald was again interviewed by Diane Rehm after leaving the hospice. He reported that his kidney was working and that he "blesses him every morning. Some people bless their hearts, I bless my kidney." He reported that he was looking forward to getting a new leg and visiting Martha's Vineyard.

In July 2006, Buchwald returned to his summer home in Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard. While there, he completed a book titled Too Soon to Say Goodbye, about the five months he spent in the hospice. Eulogies that were prepared by his friends, colleagues, and family members that were never delivered (or not delivered until later) are included in the book.

On November 3, 2006, television news reporter Kyra Phillips interviewed Buchwald for CNN.[10] Phillips had known Buchwald since 1989, when she had first interviewed him. On November 22, 2006 Buchwald again appeared on Rehm's show, describing himself as a "poster boy for hospices - because I lived."

Buchwald died of kidney failure on January 17, 2007, at his son Joel's home in Washington, D.C.[11] The next day the website of The New York Times posted a video obituary in which Buchwald himself declared: "Hi. I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died."[12]


In 1977, Buchwald received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[13]


  • Paris After Dark (Imprimerie du Centre 1950. Also Published by Herald Tribune, European Ed., S. A., 1953)
  • Art Buchwald's Paris (Lion Library 1956)
  • I Chose Caviar (Victor Gollancz 1957)
  • The Brave Coward (Harper, 1957)
  • More Caviar (Victor Gollancz, 1958)
  • A Gift From the Boys (Harper 1958)
  • Don't Forget to Write (World Pub. Co., 1960)
  • Come with Me Home: Complete Novel Also by Gladys Hasty Carroll and Jerrard Tickell (Nelson Doubleday, Inc, 1960)
  • Son of the Great Society (Putnam 1961)
  • How Much is that in Dollars? (World Pub. Co., 1961)
  • Is it Safe to Drink the Water? (PBK Crest Books 1963)
  • I Chose Capitol Punishment (World Pub. Co., 1963)
  • ... and Then I Told the President: The Secret Papers of Art Buchwald (Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1965)
  • Son of the Great Society (Putnam, 1966)
  • Have I Ever Lied To You? (Fawcett, 1968)
  • The Establishment is Alive and Well in Washington (Putnam, 1969)
  • Counting Sheep; The Log and the Complete Play: Sheep on the Runway. (Putnam Pub Group 1970)
  • Oh, to be a Swinger (Vintage, 1970)
  • Getting High in Government Circles (Putnam 1971)
  • I Never Danced at the White House (Putnam, 1973)
  • I Am Not a Crook"(Putnam, 1974)
  • The Bollo Caper: A Fable for Children of All Ages (Doubleday, 1974)
  • Irvings Delight: At Last! a Cat Story for the Whole Family! (DAVID MCKAY COMPANY, INC. 1975)
  • Washington Is Leaking (Putnam Adult 1976)
  • Irving's Delight (Avon Books, 1976)
  • Down the Seine and Up the Potomac (Fawcett Crest 1977)
  • Best cartoons of the world Miller Collection (Brown University)(Atlas World Press Review, 1978)
  • ' 'Art Buchwald by Leonard Probst Transcript of an interview conducted by Leonard Probst, March 31, and April 1, 1978.(American Jewish Committee, Oral History Library, 1978)
  • The Buchwald Stops Here (Putnam 1979)
  • Laid Back In Washington With Art Buchwald (Putnam 1981)
  • Seems Like Yesterday (Berkley Pub Group, 1981)
  • While Reagan Slept (Fawcett 1983)
  • You Ask, Buchwald Answers (Listen & Learn U.S.A.!, 1983)
  • The Official Bank-Haters' Handbook Also By Joel D. Joseph (Natl Pr Books, 1984)
  • You Can Fool All of the People All the Time (Ballantine Books, 1986)
  • I Think I Don’t Remember (Perigee Trade; 1st Perigee Ed edition 1988)(Putnam, 1987)
  • Whose Rose Garden Is It Anyway? (Putnam 1989)
  • Lighten Up, George (Putnam, 1991)
  • Leaving Home: A Memoir (Putnam, 1994)
  • I'll Always Have Paris: A Memoir (Putnam, 1995)
  • Stella in Heaven: Almost a Novel (Putnam, 2000)
  • We'll Laugh Again (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2002)
  • Beating Around the Bush (Seven Stories, 2005)


  • Too Soon to Say Goodbye (Bantam Books 2006) ISBN 1-58836-574-3, ISBN 978-1-58836-574-3

See also


  1. ^ "Ann Buchwald, 74, Writer and Ex-Agent". The New York Times. July 5, 1994. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Severo, Richard; Brozan, Nadine (January 19, 2007). "Art Buchwald, Whose Humor Poked the Powerful, Dies at 81," The New York Times.
  4. ^ Le Grande Thanksgiving, Art Buchwald, The Washington Post, November 24, 2005
  5. ^ "Art Buchwald" (obituary), Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2007.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dirda on Books "If you've seen To Catch a Thief ... you'll remember that the return of The Cat is covered in the Paris Herald Tribune. If you look at the author of the article, it's Art Buchwald."
  8. ^ O'Donnell, Pierce;  
  9. ^ Washington Home and Hospice; Retrieved on 2007-01-18
  10. ^ Buchwald interview; Retrieved on 2007-01-18
  11. ^ "Columnist Art Buchwald dead at 81".  
  12. ^ The Last Word: Art Buchwald; Retrieved on 2007-03-11
  13. ^

Further reading

  • The Official Bank-Haters' Handbook Also By Joel D. Joseph (Natl Pr Books, 1984)
  • You Ask, Buchwald Answers (Listen & Learn U.S.A.)
  • While Reagan Slept (Fawcett 1983)
  • Laid Back In Washington With Art Buchwald (Putnam, 1981) ISBN 0-399-12648-1 ISBN 9780399126482
  • Seems Like Yesterday (Berkley Pub Group, 1981)
  • 100 years of the Paris trib: From the archives of the International Herald Tribune Author: Bruce Singer; introduction By Art Buchwald. Harry N. Abrams: New York 1987. ISBN 0-8109-1410-7 ISBN 978-0810914100

External links

  • Art Buchwald, Barry Crimmins, Paul Krassner, Kurt Vonnegut - Beating Around the Bush: An Evening of Satire recorded on October 6, 2005 at The New York Society for Ethical Culture, 63 min., mp3 format
  • Diane Rehm interviews Art Buchwald in his hospice room (February 24, 2006) RealAudio, Windows Media
  • The Final Days of Art Buchwald: A Visit by Suzette Standring - Editor & Publisher
  • Shafer, Ronald G. (March 4, 2006). "The Genius of Art Buchwald". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  • Hold the eulogies, he's not ready to sign off yet The Boston Globe July 16, 2006
  • "Art Buchwald Dies With Funny Bone Intact"
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