Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald

Buchwald, Art, 1925-2006, American humorist, b. Mt. Vernon, N.Y. He began (1949) a syndicated entertainment column for the New York Herald Tribune while living in Paris. In 1962 he returned to the United States, where from 1967 to 2006 his humorous column were syndicated by the Los Angeles Times and (after the Times was sold in 2000) Tribune Media Services; his column appeared in more than 500 newspapers at its peak. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for outstanding commentary in 1982. In 1988 he and movie producer Alain Bernheim successfully sued Paramount Studios on charges that Paramount denied them credit for and profits from Buchwald's story idea "King for a Day," upon which Paramount based the movie Coming to America. Buchwald's columns have been collected in more than 30 anthologies. He also wrote two memoirs, Leaving Home (1993) and I'll Always Have Paris (1996). A decade later he suffered a severe health crisis and, preferring to avoid the dialysis he was told his life depended on, moved to a hospice. After making a surprising recovery, he detailed the experience in Too Soon to Say Goodbye (2006).

See P. O'Donnell and D. McDougal, Fatal Subtraction (1992).

Arthur Buchwald (October 20, 1925 – January 17, 2007) was an American humorist best known for his long-running column that he wrote 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.

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.

In February 2006, Buchwald checked himself into a Washington, D.C.-area hospice. Although his kidneys were failing, he elected to forego dialysis. 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 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 till later), are included in the book.


Art Buchwald was born to a Austrian-Hungarian Jewish family. He was the son of Joseph Buchwald, a curtain manufacturer, and Helen Klineberger, who later spent 35 years in a mental hospital. He had three 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, so he lied about his age and 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.

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.

In 1948 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 1949, 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". The column in which Buchwald explains Thanksgiving Day to the French people in 1953 is reprinted every November. Buchwald’s columns soon began to recruit readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

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." 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."

During this particular time, while in Paris, he 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, as well in places like Le Lido. Presley's impromptu performance at the 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. It was also during this period that Buchwald was rumored to have a short-lived affair with Marilyn Monroe. The affair, if it occurred at all, apparently only lasted a few weeks, and it was said that Buchwald introduced Monroe to Judaism (to which she later converted). Monroe is said to be the basis in part for a character in Buchwald's novel A Gift From The Boys published in 1958.

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.

In 1982, Buchwald's syndicated newspaper column won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Buchwald and his wife Ann, who 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.

Final illness and death

In 2000, at age 74, Buchwald suffered a stroke that left him in the hospital 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. The amputation was reportedly necessary because of poor circulation in the leg.

Buchwald invited 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 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.

Once again a Buchwald interview with Diane Rehm aired on her show on June 7, 2006. Soon afterward, Buchwald's kidneys began working again. He summered at Martha's Vineyard, where he completed his book, Too Soon To Say Goodbye.

On November 3, 2006, Kyra Phillips interviewed Buchwald for CNN. 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. 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.


  • 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!
  • 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
    (Random House 2006)
    (Bantam Books 2006), 2006
    Bantam BooksISBN 1588365743
    Bantam BooksISBN 9781588365743

See also

  • 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 0399126481
    ISBN 9780399126482
  • Seems Like Yesterday
    (Berkley Pub Group, 1981)


External links

ISBN 978-0810914100

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