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tv   Humorist Art Buchwald Political Satire  CSPAN  April 19, 2021 11:37pm-12:14am EDT

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lincoln died, jean shaw the president as he watched to play across the street at ford's theater. watch tuesday beginning at 8 pm eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. up next author and historical research, or michael, hill tells the story of buckled career, life, and legacy, the university of washington hosted this talk as one of the great live lecture series, they also provided the video.
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>> michael hill received his be eight in medical science from -- university. and subsequently a.g. j.d. degree from the same institution. he later -- from the kennedy school of government. he's currently a freelance author and his research is based here in fredericton. as a historical researcher, he has assisted such offices as david, john, sebastian, nathanael, evan thomas, senator john mccain, and -- , eight all-star lineup of writers as you know. he won a emmy for his work. he also served as a historical consultant on both the hbo many series, john adams, produced by tom hanks, and the abc many
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series, challenger, about the disaster. hill is the author of the biography of 19th century diplomat, wash, burn which was published in 2013 by sheerest, or authored by historian, -- . the published were poet, and his rendezvous with up which was described in the wall street journal as quote a painfully touchy biography. he is currently completing a book which will be published later this year by random house. it's a genuine pleasure to introduce, the outstanding researcher and biographer, my colleague, mike hill.
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it's a pleasure and honor to be part of such a great lineup for 2021. the great lives program is a wonderful contribution to the fredericksburg community. and you deserve so much credit and thanks for what you do and what you have done. so's thank you very much. before stephen colbert and john stewart, there was our buck walled. many of you watching here tonight will remember him. but i bet many of the younger members in our audience tonight will not. but that is ok. whether you remember him or not i hope we can have some laughs together here tonight. i'm pretty certain that good old our tea book walled is looking down from above tonight and saying boy, the way things
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have been going down there, you people sure need some laughs so let us see what we can do tonight to meet the old boy proud. during his long curry career as a political humourist and satirist, art buchwald was called a modern-day mark twain. for over 50 years, his pulitzer prize-winning column, a political satire and biting wit made him most of the widely read american humorous of his age. at the height of his career has column, published three times a week was syndicated in 550 newspapers in 100 different countries around the world. the power of his wit it was legendary. some describing him as will rogers with hud spa. do you not just, and that venerable washington wise man once called buck walled, the
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greatest satirist an english language since pope and swift. the acclaim novelist james mitch nurse said buchwald had one of the sharpest which he had ever known. as many admirers included poet robert frost and supreme court justice william or douglas, who once, if you could possibly believe it cited a buck wild column in one of his u.s. supreme court opinions. much like mark twain, james the kykrv parker anl rogers art buchwald was truly an american legend. and to his credit, bought his barbs could get a chuckle out of politicians from all sides of the political spectrum. from william f buckley to arthur slush unger, to john f. kennedy, to dwight eisenhower, to ronald reagan. senator barry goldwater, the arch conservative senator from
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arizona, once told buchwald, you are one of those people who have the ability to make us think, make us laugh, make us cry, and love our fellow man. and for that, i thank you. but who was art buchwald the man? before talking about his extraordinary life and career, i would like to play a clip from a radio interview he did in new york city in 1964. this clip is courtesy of knee w. and why you 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 humorous came to be. many of you remember art buchwald, will recognize his accent. >> this is patricia marks. my guest today is a man who has been called the most comic american since mark twain. he is mr. art buchwald.
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columnist for the new york herald tribune and the author of the recent book, i chose capital punishment. mr. buchwald, did you always write as you do know? >> well, yes. in a sense i did. i never wrote too seriously. you know they say that says humorous usually have unhappy childhoods. in my case it might be true. at an early age i sort of had a kind of a different outlook on things than most other kids did. i prodded it or made use of it. >> and what way did you have a different attitude? >> i saw things, i don't know how to explain it. i was a foster child. i was one of the outs. all the other kids were and in. i made up my mind early in life that i was and out on the outside looking in. and therefore, i just sort of
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-- everything i did was a guy looking at other people rather than participating. and it worked, because i found i could get attention early in life as a child by making other people laugh. >> was it the same kind of thing with your writing? >> yeah, i was always making fun of the teacher. the teacher was the establishment at the time. i think to me, i have always been against the establishment, whatever it is. i think most humourists should be, against the establishment. who's ever in power, whichever is the right thing to do, you should be against. >> why? >> because i had a feeling that we would get too serious about our establishments. and we take them too seriously, and you have to keep putting
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pins in these balloons to bring people down to earth. and it is the job of the humourist to stick the pin into the balloon. >> as he mentioned in that interview, buchwald had a very difficult childhood. shortly after he was born at mount vernon, new york on october 20th, 1925, his mother was taken away to an asylum. 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 for a living, could not afford to take care of art buchwald and his older civil big -- sister, so the agencies sent them to a series of foster homes. as you can well imagine, the loss of his mother and then being sent to a number of foster homes made him feel abandoned and lonely.
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so he learned early on that laughter and a smile could help overcome just about anything life could throw his way. and with that made people like him. in fact, it was early in his childhood when he saw the bleakness of his life all around him that he said to himself this stinks. i am going to become a humourist. and lo 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, art buchwald got his first big break when he made his way to paris in 1948, and astoundingly and with typical buchwald chutzpah, talked his way into a job at the paris bureau at the international herald tribune at the time, one of the most powerful newspapers in the
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world. and it was there that he wrote columns about paris nightlife. the café's, it's theaters, its films. and about american celebrities living in or traveling through paris, buck wild quickly developed a distinctive style to his humor and satire. he was a little bit like mark twain, and innocent abroad, who despite the fact that he did not speak a word of french, was always able to somehow, some way stumble through life and paris. and it which each of those amusing and comical adventures depicted in his columns that became the essence of book walls appear -- appeal. sun his writings were so popular on both sides of the atlantic, he became in a way, the man to read. if you wanted to know about the hotspots and glamour of paris. then in no time he became the man to see if you are a celebrity in paris and wanted
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some attention. just to give you a few examples, 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 pressley was on weekend leave in paris. buchwald new earnest hemingway and which share drinks and stories with him at the red spar in paris. he knew ingrid bergman. he was friends with humphrey beauregard and his wife actress lauren buckle, dining with them. often buchwald would often play chess with vogue art during slow days at the herald tribune offices. one of the things i had learned while i was working on my book about art buchwald, was that humphrey beauregard was evidently a fantastic chess player. it was lauren but call who finally brought art and his right-hand together and brought about their marriage in pairs. john stein back, the novelist was a huge fan of art buchwald,
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and while researching my book about art, i found a fan letter that staying back had written buchwald in the mid 19 fifties, very early in his career, telling him how much he enjoyed his columns and 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, starring carrie grant and grace kelly, 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 in the film, john, the cat burglar, played by carey grant. in addition to his life in paris and adventurous in paris he also had a number of adventures throughout europe. he went to spain and ran with the bulls, with peter matheson. he saying irish songs with
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director john houston and actor gregory pack when they were in ireland filming moby dick and buchwald once hired a show for the limousine to take him into paris in the heart of communist russia, he burst into a huge gathering of communist officials and introduced himself to a totally dumbfounded the kia. in the 1960s buchwald was getting bored in paris and writing about celebrities coming through europe. he was starting to feel that his writing was getting stale. in 1961 jfk was elected president buchwald saw the style that john of kennedy and his wife, jacqueline kennedy, referring to washington. buchwald thought perhaps this is a good time to move and cover something different then
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paris nightlife and celebrities. he saw the new frontier is a challenge. but some warned him that if he went to washington he would get massacred. how could he possibly compete with columnists like -- , arthur crock, james, and stewart. despite the warnings, buchwald made the leap anyway in 1962, and to his immense credit within a few years has brand of humor and satire, and his comic, easygoing personality made him a national journalistic celebrity. from then, on until he died in 2007, buchwald we would entertain people from around the world with his, whipped his, humor insight, satire, and above all, his good cheer. for over five decades it seems as if everyone began their day
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by reading art buchwald as he satirized political scoundrels. lampooned the powerful and the pompous. and over his long career, poked fun at ten different presidents of the united states, beginning with dwight eisenhower through george w. bush. and when he did, it three times each, week he made it look so easy. in part because he loved doing what he did. and just as importantly, with this colorful and crazy world of ours, he had great material to work with. as he once said in the late 1990s, you cannot make up anything anymore. the world is a satire. all i'm doing is reporting it. i would like to read, you if i may, an example of buchwald's satirical style. the overreach and observes of
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the bureaucracy in washington. the difficulties that people could run into when dealing with faceless burke. rats the following is from a pc wrote in december of 1976 just before the christmas holidays. about our man in the north pole, santa claus, who had run afoul of the occupation, safety, and health administration known as osha. a federal agency set up in the early 1970s, 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 santa's toy factory in the old tight hole during the christmas season. in his column, buchwald wrote it in the form of a federal complaint letter to santa claus. subject, violation of osha
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codes. dear sir, our inspectors have just completed a study of working conditions at your toy factory in the north pole. and find you in violation of section c paragraph b article seven, division, four of safety factors d slash h registration number 9087. to be more specific our inspectors have found that your wife who helps us make toys doesn't have own bathroom facilities. in section code of -- a male and female bathroom must be provided on the ground floor of a house engage in the production of stuffed animals. i also regret to inform you that we received a very negative reports from inspector x in regard to the space a reindeer. it reindeer must be tethered in
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its own style of eight feet by eight feet, covered by six feet of hay. in the case of donald and bloodstain, our inspector measured 1.4 meters of hay in -- in contravention of reindeer regulation 43. it has been brought to our attention that on the evening of december 24th you intend to deliver the toys manufactured in your plant by reindeer sled. climbing on roofs and houses and sliding down chimneys. our safety coordinator advises me that if you indeed go ahead with this form of delivery you will committed several infections that will subjected to fine and possible imprisonment. the first is that you arrive on any move with a clutter you will be violating a regulation regarding noise. any clutter over 1.9 decimals cannot be permitted. our inspectors will be out on
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the night of december 24. any infections of the rules will be dealt with very severely. we hope you accept the letter in the spirit and which it was written and let me take this opportunity to wish you and mrs. claus a very merry christmas. sincerely yours, scrooge, director, christmas division, osha. i hope you enjoyed that. it's one of his best. while buchwald could be sharp and caustic, he was never vicious. he adjusted with his style of satire and humor became a measure of power and influence. a power he recognized and respected. my style is very different from a lot of comedians he was said. i don't try to be off-color. i don't go for the jugular. and if i do, i try to sugarcoat it. cartoonist gary trudeau of doonesbury once said it best
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when he told buchwald that the gentleness of your satire is one reason that you are so beloved. and he also felt that with his satire he may be doing something helpful and useful for his country. as he told a interview in the late 19 sixties, a very turbulent time, much like the turbulent time we're going through today buchwald said this in the late 1960s. this is a very uptight country right now. and everybody is kind of uptight. if you can take some of the pressure off maybe you are doing a bigger service then changing things. the great historian and my dear friend and mentor, david, once said that one of the great joys that he had in researching his books was reading other peoples male. i have to tell you one of the great guys that i've had while working on my book about buchwald was reading buchwald's
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mail. his papers are now in the library of congress. it's a incredible treasure trove collection of nearly 100,000 items encompassing his entire life and career. and some of the true rituals of that collection are the amazing assortment of correspondents that he had between himself and a rich and colorful veritable who's who of journalistic, literary, and hollywood legends from the early 19 fifties to the beginning of the 24 century. i would like to if i could read just a couple of examples from those correspondents files. and these three items that i'm going to read you have never been published before. so when they come out in my book to be published by reattain house this will be new material. this first is a letter that buchwald wrote to russell
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baker. many will remember him. he was a writer for the new york times. they were very close and very dear friends. in february of 1993 many of you will remember this, it was announced that russell baker would replace alistair cook as the host of public televisions masterpiece theater.
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