American political humorist/ satirist
Born of Polish-Hungarian Jewish parents on October 20, 1925 at Mount Vernon, New York. Art's father was Joseph Buchwald, a curtain manufacturer by trade. Art's mother was Helen Buchwald, a woman troubled by mental illness (depression) and who was to spend 35 years in a mental hospital. She was committed soon after Art was born, and he was never to see her again. Art was the sibling of sisters Alice, Edith, and Doris.
During the Great Depression, Joseph Buchwald's business failed, forcing him to place his children into the care of the Jewish Orphan Asylum in New York. Buchwald was moved several times into different foster homes, including a boarding house for sick children, where he stayed until he was 5. He was afflicted as a child with rickets.
Finally Art, his sisters, and his father were reunited, living in Hollis, part of Forest Hills in the borough of Queens, New York City. Young Art didn't graduate from high school, instead running away from home at the age of 17.
Wanting to join the United States Marine Corps, but unable due to being underage, Buchwald bribed a drunk with half a pint of whiskey to sign him into the Corps, pretending to be Buchwald's legal guardian. Buchwald served from October 1942 until October, 1945 with the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, serving 2 years in the Pacific theatre, and mustered out of the Marine Corps with the rank of sergeant.
after the war
Returning to the states, Buchwald entered USC under the GI Bill, becoming editor of the campus magazine, Wampus. He also wrote a column for the campus newspaper The Daily Trojan.
Buchwald left USC without a degree in 1948 when he learned he could study abroad on the GI Bill.
getting a foot in the door
Buchwald bought a one way ticket to Paris, where he eventually became a correspondent for Variety magazine. In 1949, he gathered a sample column and took it to the European office of The New York Herald Tribune. The column was named Paris After Dark and included odd bits and observations about Paris nightlife. Buchwald was hired, and his column caught on rapidly. He followed up with another column in 1951 called Mostly About People. The two columns were joined under one title, becoming Europe's Lighter Side, and his work found readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Time magazine on August 24, 1959 reported that Buchwald's work had achieved an 'institutional quality'.
achieving his own celebrity
This was an exciting period in Buchwald's career. He was the only correspondent to delve significantly into Elvis Presley's doings, interviewing the soon-to-be sergeant. Presley had been inducted into the military with much fanfare, an event which interrupted his entertainment career. Buchwald was there to see Presley entertain in an impromptu afterhours setting at Le Lido, the world's most famous nightclub. Elvis played piano and sang, interacted with the showgirls, and generally cut loose. What Art heard and saw became part of the Presley legend with their inclusion in Buchwald's book I'll Always Have Paris.
Buchwald is also reported as having had a brief affair with Marilyn Monroe, during which he acquainted her with Judaism. Monroe later converted to the faith. There is speculation that there was in fact no affair between the two, but neither of them are talking, so the question remains open.
Buchwald left Europe and returned to the USA in 1962 where he made his home in the Washington, DC area. He worked for The Washington Post and his column was syndicated by Tribune Media Services. His work appeared in over 550 newspapers at the height of his career. Buchwald's stock in trade was political satire, offering humorous jabs at generations of politicians. His offbeat observations became legendary, making Buchwald an icon to millions of readers. He said of President Richard Nixon, who was one of Buchwald's favorite subjects, "I worship the very quicksand he walks on." Buchwald was also the author of over 30 books.
Buchwald met his wife Ann McGarry while in Paris. They had three children, each one adopted from an orphanage or child welfare agency in Ireland, Spain, or France. Buchwald, wife Ann, son Joel, and daughters Jennifer and Conchita made their home in Washington, DC. Buchwald and his wife Ann later separated, and she died in 1994. The family also had a summer home on Martha's Vineyard. Vineyard Haven was his base during the summer, where he was active in community events as well as the social life of the area.
a troubled mind
During his life, Art Buchwald also experienced his bouts with mental illness, being hospitalized in 1963 for clinical depression, and again in 1987 for manic depression. He quipped to friends that if he had another round of depression"I will be inducted in the Bipolar Hall of Fame."
A notable chapter in Buchwald's life occurred in 1988 when he, along with producer Alain Bernheim, filed suit against Paramount Pictures. They charged that Paramount had used Buchwald's script idea for the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America without giving them credit or compensation. Buchwald was victorious, winning the suit in 1992 for a settlement of $900,000.
the mind is willing, the body becomes weak
In 2000, at the age of 74, Buchwald suffered a stroke which confined him to hospital for over 2 months.
Despite his poor health, in 2005 Buchwald celebrated his 80th birthday at the French Embassy in Washington, DC.
Buchwald underwent surgery to have a leg amputated below the knee as a result of poor circulation in February, 2006. The circulatory problems sprang from his diabetes, which also was responsible for his renal failure, necessitating dialysis 3 times weekly. Buchwald, who had entered a Washington, DC area hospice following the amputation surgery, elected to discontinue treatment and end his journey. He described the hospice as "the place to go when you want to go". He continued to write his column throughout this period, mining the field of death and dying for laughs. His observations on the subject won him a whole new corps of fans while bringing him back into the spotlight with other devotees from decades previous.
journey's end delayed
The decision to end dialysis and his life proved to be premature, Buchwald found his kidneys functioning again, and left the hospice to summer at Martha's Vinyard once again. He wrote a novel about his experiences named Too Soon To Say Goodbye.
Buchwald died on January 17, 2007 at the Washington, DC home of his son Joel. He had survived almost a year following his decision to end dialysis.
Along the way on a career which spanned over half a century, Art Buchwald garnered a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for outstanding commentary. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. Buchwald was awarded the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, who referred to him as the patron saint of political satire. In 1983 Art's old alma mater USC awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Paris After Dark (1950)
I Chose Caviar (1957)
Son of the Great Society (1961)
Washington Is Leaking (1976)
While Reagan Slept (1983)
Yasmine is very nice and happy (1994)
Leaving Home (Putnam, 1994)
I’ll Always Have Paris (Putnam, 1995)
I Think I Don’t Remember (Putnam, 1987)
Stella in Heaven: Almost a Novel (Putnam, 2000)
Beating Around the Bush (Seven Stories, 2005)
Too Soon to Say Goodbye (2006)
Caroline la méchante fille (2007)