Monday, March 17, 2008

William Buckley

I think this may be my favorite William Buckley anecdote:
William F. Buckley was a man who had a great capacity for fun and for amusing himself by amazing others.

Example: Dick Clurman of Time magazine, an affable gent, was a guest on the Buckley yacht in the Caribbean. After dinner, Bill B., leafing through a TV log, announced that “The Wizard of Oz” would be starting in half an hour — in English, broadcast from Puerto Rico. Clurman was delighted and confessed to never having seen it.

At the appointed time the set was switched on, but to everyone’s chagrin it seemed the movie had already been on for a good half hour. Bill had read the starting time wrong. Clurman’s disappointment was visible.

“Let’s see if my name cuts any ice down here,” his host said. The incredulous Clurman later described how his friend grabbed the phone, rang up the station in Puerto Rico, managed to get through to the engineer, explained his guest’s disappointment, and asked if it would be too much trouble to start the movie over!

In disbelief, Clurman saw the screen go blank, followed by a frantic display of jumbling and flashing. And then — the opening credits and the comforting strains of “Over the Rainbow.” The movie began anew. Clurman declared that never until then had he known the full meaning of “chutzpah.”

I think Bill decided to let a year go by, giving Clurman time to regale all his friends and acquaintances with the tale of the Oz miracle. It was then, still reluctantly, that the magician revealed his secret. The movie had not been broadcast at all that night — except on Bill’s tape deck, which he had secretly manipulated with his unseen left arm while “talking on the phone” using the other.


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