The Day I Cracked Up WFB

I believe I may be the only human being alive who’s personally cracked up both Jimmy Buffett and William F. Buckley, Jr. The Buffett incident doesn’t bear repeating, but in honor of WFB’s retirement from National Review, here’s what happened:

In 1991, Buckley gave a speech at my alma mater, Auburn University, and took questions after his remarks. I’m sorry to say that most of the questions were terrible; psuedo-intellectual claptrap from students who’d cribbed a few big words from their philosophy texts. Buckley was visibly bored, and after four or five pointless efforts, the moderator motioned for the last student questioner.

Which was me.

My question: “Mr. Buckley, I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous observation of Sir Winston Churchill that a young man who is not a liberal has no heart, but an old man who is a liberal has no brain.

“Just before the last election [1988], a poll here found that 75 percent of Auburn’s students were voting for President Bush [41], while over 80 percent of the faculty were voting for Michael Dukakis.”

(Brief pause for breath, hopeful I wouldn’t screw up the punchline.)

“Given all those facts, would you say that Auburn is a school of heartless students, being taught by a brainless faculty?”

Brought the house down. When WFB finished laughing, his answer went so far over my head, it smacked into a guy six rows behind me. But I walked away with this oh-so-satisfactory thought in my mind, one that I’ll be able to take with me forever: I just cracked up Buckley!

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13 Responses to “The Day I Cracked Up WFB”

  1. Jim Says:

    Good one, Will! Say, I cracked Jimmy Hoffa up. No joke! I was five years old. My grandfather was with me and saw Hoffa in the St. Louis airport; they were vague acquaintances in the St. Louis business community. My grandfather took me over to him and introduced me. Hoffa says, “Would you like my autograph, son?” I say, “Not particularly.” Everyone cracks up. I think he got disappearded only a couple months later.

  2. Stephen Green Says:

    That’s a great story, Will.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look for Hoffa’s remains in Jim’s back yard.

  3. Jim Says:

    Heh. By the way, a hearty salute to a fellow ex-St.Louisan, Stephen.

  4. Matt Says:

    Nah. Hoffa’s an exit ramp on the New Jersey Turnpike. I got a friend of a friend …

  5. Will Allen Says:

    Along the lines of the Hoffa story, when I was five, I was introduced to my father’s portly boss, who was rather famous in his industry for being portly, along with being a tightfisted executive, particualrly with employee compensation. A walking, breathing, editorial cartoon caraciture, in other words. My mother said, “Will, I’d like you to meet Mr. “X”. I, having spent too much time observing Bugs Bunny, replied, “Howz’it goin’, fatso?”

    The rest of the evening was not pleasant for me.

  6. Stephen Says:

    “Nah. Hoffa’s an exit ramp on the New Jersey Turnpike. I got a friend of a friend …”

    Oh, surely not. They’d be crossing an eternal picket.

    (Will, it must be pleasant to be able to replay such a delicious event. Be proud!)

  7. andy Says:

    Good story, but… Au…Aub… Auburn?

    Steve, I’m afraid Will must be kicked off of your blog immediately.

    Roll Tide, ’94

  8. Outside the Beltway Says:

    Beltway Traffic Jam

    The Thursday linkfest: Dodd Harris reports the Senate was shut down to attend Fahrenheit 9-11. Dan Drezner thinks Michael Moore is “doomed.” Bill Hobbs argues that Michael Moore is Sister Souljah. Eszter Hargittai went to Paris and saw the …

  9. Steve W. Says:

    I was there! In fact, I was sitting about 6 rows behind you.

    If I recall correctly, WFB, with great urbanity, refuted your supposition. I think he also claimed that his presence could serve as evidence either for or against your argument, depending whether you were faculty or student.

    I do remember feeling rather smug that the best question was asked by a fellow AE and not some witless Young Democrat.

  10. pouncer Says:

    This does illustrate how very few such “questions” — whether of students to lecturers, journalists to political figures, or lawyers to witnesses — are designed to actually solicit new information from a source in a position to know.

    In similar position at a similar age, I might have asked Buckley –who admits that while sailing extra-territorial, international, “High Seas” law-free regions of the Atlantic he enjoys a good toke — where he BUYS his weed…

    I might, at the time, have had use for the info, you see.

  11. Physics Geek Says:

    Quote of the day

    Will Collier posted a story about how he made WFB laugh heartily. Excerpt: My question: “Mr. Buckley, I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous observation of Sir Winston Churchill that a young man who is not a liberal has no…

  12. Slartibartfast Says:

    Great story, Will.

  13. Mork Says:

    No doubt WFB was generous enough not to point out that Churchill never said anything of the kind!

    I think the saying originates with something that Georges Clemenceau said about socialists when his son became one.

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