Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So sad.

One of my crushes just passed away.

Yes, that's right. Right after I finished the first stage of my massive crush on John Lennon (Part 1: the Help!/Rubber Soul period) I fell head over heels in love with William F. Buckley, Jr. This was not because he was a big conservative pundit--it was because he had such a big vocabulary.

With--I discovered after watching Firing Line for a while--a brain to match.

I fell in love with him when I was nine. I used to lie on the floor and watch him on my parents' little black and white television and go all goose-pimply over his dexterous use of four syllable words.

William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.

His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.

Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of Firing Line, harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.

Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.

"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, 'Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."

Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in 1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In December 1999, he closed down Firing Line after a 23-year run, when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the audience.

"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. I saw a fine documentary called "Stone Reader," which is a literary detective story that is in many ways a tribute to the love of reading, and in the extra DVD that comes with it is an old "Firing Line" interview of bad boy literary theorist Leslie Fiedler. Great stuff.

  2. I'm sad because there is almost no one left from that circle of NYC society...Babe Paley, Nan Kempner Mrs. Astor...that erudite, classy, bunch who were in the papers every morning. Well spoken, well bred.
    And there is no one to take their place to read about.
    I don't do People magazine.

    My mother used to swoon when he was on television.

  3. I had a crush on Bill and a totally unexplainable crush on Michael Tilson Thomas. He was the young conductor of my hometown BSO and I devoured stories about him. Now he's gay and gray. I have switched my allegiance to Essa-Pekka Salonen the conductor of the SF symphony. Have to love the name.


Gentle Readers:

For the time being, I've turned off comment moderation. Please don't spam; it's not nice.

xxx, Poppy.