- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who wrote of life and death and indignities and outrages between, died Wednesday night at 81. He left a typically wry parting shot at his own mortality.

“Hi,” he said in a video posted at the New York Times Web site only moments after his death was announced. “I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died. I was put on Earth to make people laugh. If you make people laugh, you get all the love you want.”

It was a fitting finale for Mr. Buchwald, attired in a pink-striped shirt and wearing his trademark horn-rimmed glasses, grinning into the camera. He offered similarly droll observations on life before death for more than a half-century, starting his career in Paris in 1949 and ending it with a final column written from a Washington hospice, released yesterday. He wrote 30 books, including “Too Soon to Say Goodbye,” written last year as he was dying from kidney failure. He took himself off dialysis and confounded his doctors’ predictions that he had only weeks to live. His last days were buoyed by famous friends and close family members.

“Art’s commentaries graced the pages of newspapers around the world for more than 50 years,” said a spokesman for Tribune Media Services, which syndicated his column to 500 newspapers.

Capital politicians hurried to contribute eulogies. “His title as the ‘wit of Washington’ was well-earned; he always made fascinating company,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy called Mr. Buchwald, not noted as a novelist, “the Mark Twain of our time.”

Mr. Buchwald, who won the Pulitzer for commentary in 1982, was a jaunty, cigar-wielding fixture at his favorite tables at once-fashionable and now-bygone restaurants such as Sans Souci, La Maison Blanche and the Jockey Club. “I’m not a Democrat or a Republican,” he once said. “I’m just against whoever is in power.”

For all his breezy cachet, Mr. Buchwald had grit and hardscrabble moxie. Born to an immigrant New York drapery maker, he was raised in foster homes and quit high school before getting his diploma. He lied about his age to join the Marine Corps in 1942, and served with the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. Discharged as a sergeant at the end of World War II, he tried his hand at writing columns, and his wit and originality quickly attracted audiences here and abroad.

Mr. Buchwald journeyed to Turkey for a Turkish bath, chased goats in Yugoslavia and escorted Elvis Presley to a Paris nightclub — all to get material for his column. In 1988, he sued Paramount Pictures, accusing the studio of lifting from one of his columns, without credit or cash, the idea for the movie “Coming to America.” Mr. Buchwald prevailed, and won $1 million.

Last year, he won the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, which deemed him the “patron saint of political satire.”

Mr. Buchwald’s wife, Ann, died in 1994. He is survived by son, Joel Buchwald of Washington; daughters Jennifer Buchwald of Roxbury, Mass., and Connie Buchwald Marks of Culpeper, Va.; and five grandchildren. His body will be buried in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where he often spent summers. A memorial service will be held later in Washington.

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