On Art Buchwald… – Mike Argento


By Mike Argento, NSNC President

(This first appeared in the York Daily Record January 22, 2007)

Jan 22, 2007 – Art Buchwald appears at the Pearly Gates and is told by St. Peter to take a seat.
“Mr. Buchwald, it’s about time you got here.”

“Call me Art, please.”

“OK, Art. It’s just that you’ve been dying for some time and we’ve been waiting for you. We were about to lose hope that you’d get here at all. We thought you’d never die.”

“What can I say? I don’t know what the delay was. As I told people, dying is easy, parallel parking is hard. Maybe it wasn’t as easy as I thought.”

“Good one.”

“Thanks. Say, where’s the buffet? I’m kinda hungry. Can I get a Big Mac over here?”

Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald

“We were told you like to eat and you liked Big Macs. We’ll get to that. First, though, we have to review your life and see whether you’re worthy of passing through the Pearly Gates.”

“I never really thought about it. People kept asking me what I thought about where I’d go when I die, I told them that I was still trying to figure out what I was doing here – I mean, you know, on Earth.”

“I’m sure we’ll get to that, Art. Now, to review …”

“You want to hear the Elvis story, don’t you.”

“Elvis story?”

“Or the story about how I got my job at the International Herald-Tribune in Paris.”

“I don’t think I know that one.”

“I was in Paris, after being in the Marines, and I saw that the paper didn’t have an entertainment columnist. So I went and talked to the managing editor and he said yes, the paper doesn’t have an entertainment column and if it did, I wouldn’t be writing it. So I heard not long after that that the managing editor had left town and I went back in and told another editor that the managing editor and I were talking about me writing an entertainment column and he put me to work. The managing editor came back and was surprised to learn he hired me. True story.”

“And the Elvis story?”

“When I was in Paris, Elvis was visiting, on leave from the Army, which had him stationed in Germany then. I interviewed him and asked him what he was doing that night and offered to take him out on the town. The showgirls at the Lido loved him. He was shy. I remember being backstage at the Lido with Elvis and the showgirls. They were all over Elvis. Me, not so much.”

“You know, Art, I could sit here and listen to you tell stories all day long …”

“You heard the one about the column I wrote about Eisenhower’s press secretary showing up for a news conference hung over?”

“Art, like I said, I could listen to you tell tales all day long, but we’re here to review …”

“Tell me, St. Peter, is Nixon up here?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Just checking. Actually, I loved the guy. He made me rich. But I’m still kind of ticked that he never put me on his enemies list. When he said, ‘I’m not a crook,’ I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

“Speaking of which …”


“OK, Art, let’s review. What are you doing?”

“Lighting a cigar. You mind?”

“Um, Art, this is a non-smoking area.”

“And you call this heaven?”

“Sorry, Art, rules are rules.”

“I’ve heard that. Never paid much attention to it”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You seem to not take many things very seriously.”

“Yeah. Is that a problem?”

“You’ve made fun of politicians and the elite and people who were full of themselves and even death itself. It’s just that we’re concerned that you wouldn’t take this seriously.”

“How can I take this seriously when you won’t let me have a cigar?”

“I guess you have a point. Look, you’ve written best-selling books and were one of the greatest newspaper columnists of the 20th century and won a Pulitzer and all of that. How do you think people you left behind will remember you?”

“I hope they all think I was a wonderful guy, that I made them laugh, that I was a pretty good guy, someone who enjoyed a good meal and a cigar and laughing with friends. But really, I just hope they remember me at all.”

“Oh, they will. They will. Go on in. They’re waiting.”

Buchwald heads into a saloon and sidles up to the bar, where he joins Mike Royko, H.L. Mencken and Murray Kempton. Robert Benchley’s there too, as is James Thurber.

“Hey, Artie,” Royko says, “we saved a seat for you.”

Buchwald lights up a cigar, takes a sip of Scotch and says, “This is just like I thought it’d be. Hey, is that Elvis over there?”

Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Fridays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints of the York Daily Record in Pennsylvania, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com .Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike or at his blog, Argento’s Front Stoop at http://www.mikeargento.com/

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