- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

Wednesday’s party for author Christopher Buckley at Cafe Milano was to die for — almost literally.

“Boomsday,” the latest book by the popular humorist turns on a plot to entice the aging baby boomer generation to do themselves in — “voluntary transitioning,” it’s called — as a way of keeping Social Security benefits alive for their descendants.

This clever ruse is dreamed up by a 32-year-old No-Doz, Red Bull imbiber named Cassandra. Prophetic her name may be in this satiric contrivance that hits close to the bone, even if many of the party guests denied their boomer eligibility.

“I think of myself as a boomer but technically I’m not, so I’m not qualified to die,” vowed John Fox Sullivan, the Atlantic Media Co.’s group publisher and chairman who was among many of Mr. Buckley’s friends present with Yale University connections.

“Considering the problems the baby boomers gave their parents when they were young, they should pay a penalty,” joked former Rep. James W. Symington, who can lay claim to being one of the Greatest Generation even though he joined the Marine Corps at the “tail end” of World War II. (“The Japanese surrendered a week after I enlisted,” he said.)

Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Tony Dolan boasted of giving guitar lessons to a very young Mr. Buckley, when the former was an 18-year-old Yale freshman and the latter merely 13. “I was the only right-wing folk singer around,” Mr. Dolan commented, saying only of his pupil’s musical talent that “he was enthusiastic.” Mr. Buckley grew up to become chief speechwriter for former Vice President George H.W. Bush, in addition to other literary accomplishments, while Mr. Dolan now is absorbed in writing a book about the Reagan White House years. Journalist John Tierney and Mr. Buckley had been editors together of the Yale Daily News and have stayed close since then.

In spite of the book’s title, “Boomsday,” no arsenic was served at the launch, which also was the send-off for the first in a series of books from a new publishing venture called Twelve, from Hachette Book Group Inc. Among future titles, with a different one to be issued each month with heavy promotion, are works by Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”) and Sen. John McCain (“Hard Call.”) They are being edited by seasoned editor Jonathan Karp, whom Mr. Buckley praised in remarks as “an author’s dream … I think of him as another son.”

“We have transcended a first-name basis,” joked Mr. Karp about a relationship that goes back 10 years.

Critics have weighed in with plaudits for the book, with its lavish comic-book cover art, although “in truth, I don’t think AARP was amused,” Mr. Buckley, 54, recounted. The nation’s most powerful lobby for seniors rights and well-being has for years been sending him invitations to join, but so far he has resisted. “I’m in denial,” he admitted.

Other faces in an intimate crowd holding forth over wine, hors d’oeuvres and free copies of the book on the covered terrace included the party’s host, Cafe Milano owner Franco Nuschese (who said Mr. Buckley was one of the popular restaurant’s first customers), Ken Adelman, Barry Zorthian, Ann Compton, Nancy Bagley, Walter Isaacson, Gahl Hodges Burt, Al Eisele, Kate Gibbs and Sally Bedell Smith.

Kevin Chaffee contributed to this report.

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