tv Humorist Art Buchwald Political Satire CSPAN April 11, 2021 3:21pm-4:01pm EDT
had contacted me recently who is developing an archive of film shot by soldiers who experienced the vietnam war. i'm not sure i'll number of black soldiers had done this, i just happen to be at the right place at the right time. >> wonderful. announcer: american history tv on c-span3. every weekend documenting america's story. funding for american history tv come from these companies who support c-span3 as a public service. ♪ announcer: art buchwald was a satirist. his pulitzer prize-winning category was syndicated in 500 newspapers. up next, mike -- michael hill
tells the story of ellen all's history. the university of mary provided the video. >> michael hill received his ba in political science from kent state university, and subsequently a jd degree from that same university. he later earned a -- from the kennedy school of government and is currently a freelance author based here in fredericksburg. as a historic researcher, he has assisted such authors as john meacham, sebastian younger, nathaniel filby, john mccain and michael best los. that is an all-star lineup of writers. he won an emmy on the ken burns
civil war series on pbs. he served as an historical consulted on the hpo minute series john adams produced by tom hanks and the abc miniseries challenger, about the space shuttle disaster. hill is author of a biography of 19th-century diplomats issued by simon & schuster. he also published a life of alan seger and his rendezvous with death, which was described by the wall street journal as a painfully touching biography. he is currently completing a book which will be published later this year by random house. it is a pleasure to introduce my good friend mike l.
>> good evening thank you for that very kind introduction. it is a pleasure and honor to be part of a great lineup. the great lives program as is so wonderful contribution to the fredericksburg community and you deserve so much credit and thanks for what you do and what you have done. thank you very much. before stephen colbert and jon stewart, there was art buchwald. many of you watching tonight will remember him. i bet many of the younger members in our audience tonight will not. that is ok, whether you remember him or not, i hope we can have some laughs together.
i am pretty certain that good old already buchwald is looking down tonight and saying, the way things have been going down there, you people sure need some laughs. let's see what we can do tonight to make the old boy proud. during his career as a political humorist, satirist, art buchwald was called a modern-day mark twain. for over 50 years, his pulitzer prize-winning column of political satire and biting wit made him one of the most widely read american humanists of his age. at the height of his career, his pop -- his column was syndicated in 550 newspapers and 100 different countries around the world. the power of his wit was legendary.
some describing him as will rogers with chutzpah. the venerable washington wise man once called him the greatest satirist in the english language since pope and swift. james michener once said that buchwald once had the sharpest wit he had ever known. his many admirers included robert frost and justice william o douglas, who once cited a buchwald column in one of his u.s. supreme court opinions. much like mark twain, james --, dorothy parker and will rogers, buchwald was truly an american legend. to his credit, his barbs could get a chuckle out of politicians from all sides of the political spectrum. from william f buckley to arthur/and your to john f.
kennedy to dwight eisenhower to ronald reagan. senator barry goldwater, the archconservative from arizona once told buchwald, you are one of those people who have the ability to make us think, laugh, cry and love our fellow man. for that, i thank you. but who was the man? before talking about his life and career, i would like to play a clip from a radio interview he did in new york city in 1964. this is courtesy of the w nyu archives in new york in the interview, he talks a bit about his approach to humor, his early life and how his career as a humorist came to be. many of you who remember ellen wald will recognize that
distinct truth accent. >> this is patricia marx. my guest is a man who has been called the most comic american since mark twain, mr. art buchwald, columnist and author of the recent, "i chose capital punishment. -- punishment." >> i never wrote too seriously. they say humorists usually have unhappy childhoods. in my case that might be true. at an early age, i sort of had a different outlook on things than most other kids did. i made use of it. >> in what way did you have a different attitude? >> i don't know how to explain it. i was a foster child and i figured all the other kids were
in and i made up my mind early in life that i was an out, on the outside looking in. therefore, everything i did was kind of a guy looking at other people rather than participating. it worked. i found i could get attention early in life as a child by making others laugh. >> was at the same kind of thing for your writing? >> yeah, i was always making fun of the teacher. the teacher was the establishment. i think i have always been against this -- the establishment, whatever it is. most humorists should be. whoever is in power, whichever is the right thing to do, you should be against.
>> why? >> i had a feeling we get too serious about our establishments and take them too seriously and you have to keep putting pins in these balloons to bring people down-to-earth. it is the job of the humorists to stick the pin into the balloon. >> as he mentioned in that interview, buchwald had a difficult childhood. shortly after he was born in mount vernon, new york on october 20, 1925, his mother was taken away take osi alum. for years she had suffered from chronic mental illness and finally his father had her committed. on top of that, his father who sold curtains, could not afford to take care of art and his older sisters. through the social services agencies of new york, his father sent them to a series of foster
homes. as you well imagine, the loss of his mother and being sent to foster homes made him feel abandoned and lonely. he learned early on that laughter and a smile could help overcome just about anything life could throw his way. and with that, make people like him. it was early in his childhood when he saw the bleakness of his life all around him, he said to himself, this stinks, i am going to become a humorist. low and behold, his dream came true. after serving in world war ii and enrolling for a time at the university of southern california where he wrote for the college humor magazine, buchwald got his first big break when he made his way to paris in 1948, and astoundingly talked his way into a job at the paris
bureau of the international herald tribune. at the time, one of the most powerful papers in the world. it was there he wrote columns about paris nightlife. cafes, theater and films. american celebrities living in or traveling through paris. buchwald quickly developed a distinctive style to his humor and satire. he was a little bit like mark twain, an innocent abroad who despite the fact he did not speak a word of french, was always able to somehow stumble through life in paris. it was each of those amusing adventures depicted in his columns that became the essence of his appeal. soon, his writings were so popular on both sides of the atlantic, he became the man to
read if you wanted to know about the glamour of paris. in no time, he became the man to see if you are a celebrity in paris and wanted attention. in 1959 when elvis pressley was in the u.s. army and stationed in germany, buchwald got an exclusive interview with the rock and roll superstar when he was on weekend leave in paris. buchwald knew ernest hemingway and would share drinks and stories with him at the ritz bar in paris. he knew ingmar bergman. he was friends with humphrey bogart and his wife lauren bacall, dining with them often. buchwald even played chess with bogart during slow days at the office. one of the things i learned about -- humphrey bogart was evidently a fantastic chess player. lauren bacall finally brought
art and his wife and together and brought about their marriage in paris. that was john steinbeck -- a huge fan. while researching my book, i found a fan later that steinbeck had written buchwald in the mid-1950's. telling him how much he enjoyed his columns and his style of humor. many of you have probably never noticed that in the opening scene of alfred hitchcock's 1955 film "to catch a thief," art buchwald's byline makes a cameo appearance at the beginning of the film in the form of a fictitious column about the main character of the film, the cat burglar played by cary grant. in addition to his life and adventures in paris, he had a number of walter mitty ask
adventures. he went to spain iran with bulls at pamplona with george plimpton and peter matheson. he sang songs with john houston and gregory peck when they were in ireland filming moby dick. buchwald once hired a limousine to take him from paris into the heart of communist russia, where upon his arrival he burst into a huge gathering of communist officials and introduced himself to a dumbfounded nikita khrushchev. by the early 1960's, art buchwald was getting bored with paris and writing about celebrities. he was starting to feel that his writing was getting stale. in 19 60 when john kennedy was elected president, buchwald saw from abroad the style that president kennedy and his wife
jacqueline were bringing to the white house and washington. buchwald thought perhaps this would be a good time to move and cover something different than paris nightlife and celebrity. he saw the new frontier as a challenge. some warned him that if he went to washington he would get massacred. how could he possibly compete with common -- columnists like arthur kroc and joseph allsop. despite the warnings, buchwald made the leap in 1960 two and to his immense credit, within a few years his brand of humor and satire and his comic easy-going personality made him a national journalistic celebrity. from then on until he died in 2007, art buchwald would entertain people from around the world with his wit, humor,
insight, satire and above all good cheer. for over five decades it seemed as if everyone began their day by eating -- reading art buchwald as he lampooned the powerful and the pompous, and poked fun at 10 different presidents of the united states, beginning with dwight eisenhower through george w. bush. when he did it three times each week, he made it look so easy. in part because he loved doing what he did. just as importantly, with his -- in this colorful and crazy world of ours, he had great material to work with. as he once said in the 1990's, "you can't make up anything anymore. the world is satire, all i am doing is recording it." i would like to read you an
example of buchwal's style, one of his targets were the occasional overreach of the federal bureaucracy in washington and the frustrations and difficulties people could run into when dealing with faceless bureaucrats. the following was from a piece he wrote in december 1970 six before the christmas holiday about our man at the north pole, santa claus, who had run afoul of the occupational safety and health administration. a federal agency set up in the -- to set and regulate guidelines and safety standards for businesses, corporations and workplaces around the country. in his column, buchwald took direct aim at the agency and the absurdities of its bureaucratic overreach with his toy factory in the north pole.
in his column, buchwald wrote it in the form of a federal complaint letter letter to santa because. i >> article seven division for than rule 105 registration number 90087. our inspectors have discovered that your wife, who helps you make toys, does not ever -- does not have her own bathroom facilities. under section five, a male and female bathroom must be provided on the ground floor of a house engaged in the production of stuffed animals. i also regret to inform you
received a negative report from an inspector a lot -- for the space allotted to your reindeer. each reindeer must be tethered in his own stall of 10 feet by eight feet covered with 1.6 feet of hay. donner and blitzen's stalls were only nine feet long and our inspector measured 1.4 inches of hay in donner's stall and 1.3 inches in blitzen's stall, in contradiction of reindeer regulation. it has been brought to our attention that on the evening of december 24, you intend to deliver the toys manufactured in your plant by reindeer sled, climbing on roofs and sliding down chimneys. our safety coordinator advises me that if you go ahead with this delivery, you would commit several infractions that could subject you to fines and imprisonment. if you arrive on any roof with a
clatter, you will be violating our regulation regarding noise. any clatter over 1.9 decibels will not be permitted. our inspectors will be out on the night of december 24, and any infractions of the rules will be dealt with severely. we hope you accept this letter and the spirit in which it was written and let me take this opportunity to wish you and mrs. claus and merry christmas. sincerely, e scrooge, director of osha. i hope you enjoyed that, it is one of his best. while his barbs could be sharp and caustic, he was never mean or vicious, he understood that with his style of humor came in measure of power and influence. a power he recognized and respected. "my style is different from a lot of comedians, he said.
i don't try to be off-color, i don't go for the jugular, and if i do, i sugarcoated. the author of dunes berry once told buchwald that the gentleness of your satire is one reason you are so beloved he also felt that with his satire he might be doing something helpful and useful for his country. as he told an interview in the late 1960's, a very turbulent time much like today, he said this, "this is a very uptight country. everybody is kind of uptight and if you can take some of the pressure off, maybe you are doing a bigger service than changing things. my friend and mentor david mccullough once said that one of the great joys he had in researching his books was
reading other people's mail. one of the great joys i have had while working on my book about art buchwald, was reading his mail. his papers are at the library of congress, a treasure trove of nearly 100,000 items encompassing his entire life and career. some of the true jewels of the collection are his amazing assortment of correspondence that he had between himself and a rich and colorful who's who of political, literary and hollywood legends from the early 1950's to the beginning of the 21st century. i would like to read you a couple of examples from those files. these items i'm going to read you have never been published.
when they come out in my book to be published, this will be new material. this first is a letter he wrote to russell baker, he was a columnist for the new york times and although he was a competitor , they were very close and dear friends. in february 1990 three, many of you will remember it was announced that russell baker would replace alastair cook as the host of public television's masterpiece theatre. when that was announced, buchwald decided he was going to write a letter of congratulations to his friend russell baker, thrilled he had launched a new career in television. he wrote this on february 24, 1993, congratulations on getting the job with masterpiece theatre. i turned it down because i couldn't stand the sex and violence on the mcneil layered newshour.
i suggested you as a second choice. i think you made the right decision. writing for a living is old hat and nobody gives a dam anymore about the written word. the baby boomers love a pretty face and god knows you have one. i have experience with television so i would like to give you tips. always look into the camera, even though you know your fly is down. pretend you are talking to one person instead of the millions who have nothing better to do. don't worry if you get the title of the play wrong because 50% of all pbs audiences go to the bathroom when the hostess talking anyway. your most important role as host comes at the end of the month, during the fundraising drive. it is then that you are expected to be sincere and persuasive. i think that's why they hired you anyway because everyone says you can squeeze money out of a
turnip. you can't get a pulitzer by producing factory on television, but there are plenty of emmys out there. i hope you become a household face. remember your friends who chose to stay with the printed word, knowing there was no money in it. walking down the street won't be the same. little old ladies will be stopping you for your autograph and asking whether you knew jane eyre. in addition to his call meant being a television and radio celebrity, buchwald also had a very extensive speaking schedule around the country. he was a toastmaster and a commencement speech. he once delivered the commencement address here at marymount -- mary washington college.
occasionally, if a friend of his cannot fulfill a speaking engagement, buchwald would fill in. such was the case when he filled in for cokie roberts. many of you will remember him from abc television and pbs. he was also -- she was also an acclaimed writer, writing several best-selling books about the founding mothers of the early american republic. february 1993, buchwald filled in for cokie roberts and after he returned wrote this report. you probably heard i filled in for you in fresno. i thought you might want to know how it went. i flew from washington to kansas city where he joined a mule train on its way to salt lake. it started to snow, so i rented
a dogsled and made it to tulsa where someone stole my dogs, so i had to buy a horse and make my way to colorado where i had to build a raft to cross the colorado river. i got to the other side, but i was held up by bandits and they took all my money and my close, so i worked in a copper mine for a month to buy new ones. then i bought another horse and was almost killed by indians in arizona. i finally made it to the outskirts of fresno with mexican -- exit can outlaws shot my horse out from under me. i crawled the last five miles on my hands and knees to the chamber of commerce. when i got within six feet of the building, a hush fell. a man wearing a black hat and smoking a cigar looked down at me and said angrily, where is cokie? so much for show business. cheers, art. in addition to his letters and
correspondence, buchwald would experiment with verse and little ditties. such was the case in march of 1984 when dr. seuss, below it author of so many wonderful popular children's books. in march 1980 four, dr. seuss was celebrating his 80th birthday. buchwald thought instead of sending a card, or giving a phone call, he would write his own dr. seuss steady. here is what buchwald sent to dr. seuss. what does one do with a birthday susa. you can stuff a moose. you can choose a wine that is fine, but you can't drink moody's and you can't drink mine. you can raise a glass and say something bright, if you can't think fast you can always sit
tight. a toast, hail master of grinches and star bellied's natures, cats and top hats with all that it teaches. praise turtles in year goals and knox's and boxes and chicks to do tricks with faxes and saxes. pray tell dear dr., now that you're fed, which side does is sues smear his butter on bread? art buchwald was not just a funny man, he was a much more complex person. what people don't understand is that he's not just a funny man, his friend and fellow columnist once said he cares very deeply about many things. buck wild was a fierce defender of the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of satire even when editors urged
him to temper his wit or sarcasm about a political figure or issue, he refused. in the 1950's, at the height of senator joe mccarthy's anti-communist crusade, buchwald mocked him in a column he wrote, claiming the senator was causing a lot of people grief in america because he hails from a bad strain of the maccarthy clan in ireland. when he'd submitted the article to his editors at the tribune who were afraid of mccarthy, they killed it. undeterred, arch sold it to the new republic. in his professional life, he had a deep sense of right and wrong, a conviction at the heart of his david and goliath struggle against hollywood and the buchwald versus paramount lawsuit. many of you would remember the box office hit starring eddie murphy, "coming to america."
you probably don't remember is the lawsuit that came as a result, which was covered by media around the world. what happened was that art buchwald rode a film treatment which was optioned by paramount, promising him credit and royalties if they went ahead and made a film based upon his treatment. they told him they were killing his idea, but then paramount announced they were making a film with eddie murphy called "coming to america," which was strikingly similar to buchwald's treatment. buchwald tried to reach a settlement with paramount, so -- but they refused, so he sued, saying coming to america was based on his treatment. after a horrible and costly seven-year legal struggle, he prevailed.
he had beaten hollywood. in the last part is his battle with depression. he had a very difficult childhood with the loss of his mother and being in foster homes. so, he tried to deal with these memories throughout his life. he was manic depressive, bipolar. there were two episodes in his career that were so serious he had to be hospitalized for several weeks for treatment. each time, he overcame his depression, became a stronger person, and this strength he gained allowed him to help other people, particularly his close friends william styron and mike wallace. after the three of them went
public, they dubbed themselves the blues brothers and they would give speeches and talks and panel discussions around the country, which helped many people deal with their own battles with depression. in december 2005, the buchwald saga enters its final chapter. it was during that month in 2005 that he started to have circulation problems in his legs. during that, he had the lower part of his right leg amputated and dr. said his kidneys were failing and he was going to have to go on dialysis. buchwald refused. the doctor said, you are going to die. surprisingly, he didn't die. weeks and months went on and soon he became as the man who wouldn't die. he started giving interviews to
television and radio and newspapers and so forth about his experiences and how he faced his condition and the fact it was predicted he was going to die. many people commended the fact he had faced his situation with courage. in january 2000 seven, his kidneys finally failed and he died at his home in washington, d.c.. when art buchwald past, he was -- more than 10 years after his death, his friends still miss the man who made them laugh. i had several discussions with buchwald's lawyer in the paramount lawsuit and he told me he adored arch buchwald and even now can't remove his phone number from his speed dial because it allows him to still have some connection with the
friend that made him laugh and that he so adored. senator gary hart, who appreciated his humor, had told me in an email, my dear friend already buchwald -- rt buchwald was a dear man in a more decent and humane time. his life may or may not ever be seen again. we can try to keep his legacy alive by taking time in these troubled times to enjoy a joke, laugh, and laugh at ourselves. e.b. white, writer and essayist for the new yorker magazine once said, whatever else an american believes or disbelieves, he is absolutely sure he has a sense of humor.
wise words at the heart of buchwald's work and career. on we go with a smile and a hearty laugh. i am certain art buchwald would want it that way. thank you very much. announcer: it is customary for newly elected president to address a joint session of congress early in his term. president biden has not yet scheduled his. sunday, we will feature speeches from two of his predecessors. here's a preview. >> our nation needs a clear strategy to confront the threats of the 21st century. threats that are more widespread and less certain. they range from terrorists who threaten with bombs to tyrants in rogue nations intent on developing weapons of mass destruction. to protect our own peepers that, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses. [applause]
>> as we transform our military, we can discard cold war relics and reduce nuclear forces to reflect today's needs. [applause] >> a strong america is the world's best hope for peace and freedom. yet the cause of freedom rests more on our ability to defend ourselves and allies. freedom is exported every day as we ship goods and products that improve the lives of millions. free-trade brings greater political and personal freedom. each of the previous five presidents is had the ability to
negotiate trade agreements. tonight, i ask you to give me the strong hand of trade promotion authority, and to do so quickly. [applause] announcer: watch the full program sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, 5:00 p.m. pacific. announcer: american history tv, every weekend documenting america's story. funding comes from these television companies and more including conch -- comcast. >> comcast is partnering with 1000 community centers. students of low income families can get the tools they need to be right for anything. announcer: comcast supports american history tv on c-span3 as a public service.
announcer: directed by african-american filmmaker william greaves and narron aided by a much -- ricardo monta bond, where dreams come true is a 1979 film highlighting the contributions of women and minorities and can -- encouraging others to pursue a career. research psychologist patricia cowings and ruben ramos and former astronaut frederick gregory. much of the work depicted in this film relates to the fledgling space shuttle program, which was two years away from its first mission. >> you are a little girl and you want to be an astronaut when you were up, it is like wanting to -- you grow up, it is like wanting to be a policeman when you grow up or in some cases wanting to be a doctor when you grow up. you are told that is not an appropriate goal for a little girl. why don't you want to be something else? be a nurse, do not be a doctor.