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• 02.28.08 11:29 am


William F. Buckley, Jr. died yesterday. He was perhaps the most famous political conservative this country has every known. At first glance he was just the greasy, dander-headed old right-wing crank who founded The National Review. But the guy was more than that: He was mischievous. 

(Buckley threatens to punch Gore Vidal “in the goddamned face”)

William F. Buckley, Jr. died yesterday. He was perhaps the most famous political conservative this country has every known. At first glance he was just the greasy, dander-headed old right-wing crank who founded The National Review. But the guy was more than that: He was mischievous.

For starters, he originally distributed each copy of his publication wrapped in brown paper. He knew he was pedaling juicy porn for conservatives and he made conservatism alluring. He had the cagey grin and bright eyes of someone who could and would say anything while daring you to take umbrage. Oh, and like yours truly, he liked to use funny words.

On his aptly-named TV show Firing Line, he’d lock the enemy in that waggish gaze, and despite knowing they were about to be insulted or defamed, there wasn’t goddamn thing they could do about it. They’d melt. It was just like a Billy Jack movie if Billy Jack had been an ivy-league topsider-wearin’ white due with an annoying accent instead of a denim-wearing injun—both of them took no prisoners, but did it with a discernible twinkle in their eye. Seated across from his prey with his jacket slipping off and his shirt a mess, he would slide so far forward in his chair so as to be horizontal to the floor. His guests were often more worried about his slippage than his probing.

Speaking of probing, Buckley got off some interesting takes on public policies such as universal health care: “Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to prevent common needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of homosexuals.” And does it get any better than when he told Gore Vidal, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I will sock you in your goddamn face, and you will stay plastered”? (see above.) Vidal was known to be fond of a tipple or twelve so perhaps Buckley had a point. And I like Vidal.

Buckley was originally christened William Francis Buckley, but perhaps sensing the beckoning power of his spitfire tongue, he changed his middle name to “Frank”—a perfect characterization of his oratory style. His sister pointed out that there was no saint named Frank, and she was right. Despite his frequent playing the harpsichord in public, Buckley was no saint. Thank goodness.

Norman Mailer may have nailed Buckley’s mixed bag persona with, “No other act can project simultaneous hints that he is in the act of playing Commodore of the Yacht Club, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Mitchum, Maverick, Savonarola, the nice prep school kid next door, and the snows of yesteryear.” But as they say, if you got the goods you gotta make a party, and I am here to tell you William F. Buckley, Jr. made one a hell of a party. Demand a recount!

  1. Rory Sabatini says:

    Buckley was home schooled in Connecticut so you know he was concerned about the victimization of homosexuals because Connecticut is the only state where truckers regularly get raped; ie plastered. Ah, to be back in good ole Bridgeport.

  2. john says:

    didnt he write a book about a crocodile or an alligator or something?

  3. muthafutha says:


  4. LIP$ says:

    Punk fucking rock.

  5. the miracle says:

    R.I.P. WFB (11.24.1925 – 2.27.2008)

    Standing “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop’ at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it.” Mr. Buckley, moreover, would only fly on a plane with two right wings.

    Cheers, Mr. Buckley. You will be missing.

  6. Mush says:

    What an amazing man, at what age did his finger become stuck in his ear?

  7. scott heflin says:

    wonderfully written, this edgar fella should be posting more!

  8. thobey campion says:

    this is the first cogent thing Ive read by Gavin in quite some time. good shot.

  9. el schwab says:

    Very nice! If I had a nickel for every time I tuned in to Firing Line and was lulled into a hypnotic trance by WFB’s style of speaking, I’d probably own a BQ joint in Plano. Listening to him talk was like watching Jason Kidd run an offense. Did you catch Charlie Rose’s tribute to him last night? Really cool. He was logos to Mailer’s was gnosis. Who’s going to replace these guys in American culture? Andy Dick? Eminem? The fat guy from the Subway commercials? Eddy Moretti?

  10. Blondie says:

    WFB was certainly an American Icon……Mr. Burns presented him with very clever words, while remaining realistic, yet respectful.

  11. Sharky Favorite says:

    This guy’s got the gift. Can’t wait to croak.

  12. muthafutha says:

    the guy was a fucken goof and this whole ‘obit the dust’ was an experiment to see how many of us are actually fucked in the head. so far, none of us!

  13. vladimir poontang says:

    really? guy was a bullshit artist. he had style, but rubes take him way too seriously. gavin is funnier.

  14. vapid says:

    “Frank” was his dad’s middle name. Lil’ William just wanted to be a ‘Jr.’ really bad.

    PS “Why We Fight” is an even dumber book than “The Way Things Ought to Be,” imo.

  15. Dr. Aidstein McGillicudy says:

    I think it’s really cute when Gavin or other vice affiliated people try to talk about politics. Adorable, even.

  16. AS Steve says:

    They say he died of emphysema but I suspect he simply ran out of hot air.

  17. christian says:

    on the other hand, his main policy views were pure evil.

    but yeah you’re right, he did talk funny.

  18. Lyndonjames says:

    Nice wordsmith my dear obituarian! I really loved is poor posture more than anything else. He musca gone though a 100 of those cheap Pier 1 director chairs by leaning sideways. And God and how much gin did that fucker drink?

  19. 3M says:

    very entertaining article about a very controversial man

  20. mr.wilson says:

    I’m surprised that Bill was concerned enough about the junkies, queers and liberal media to post warning signs on buttocks and for arms. Anyone who can threaten someone while reclined in a horizontal position gets my respect. The man had no need for chest bumping or lapel grabbing. Just the threat of his wrath was enough to make you stay plastered.

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