Walter Mencken 1:04 p.m., Sept. 4
William F. Buckley Dead at 82; In San Diego, He Complained of the Wine's Quality
William F. Buckley, the elegant, articulate political conservative, is dead at age 82, according to the New York Times. Buckley "marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American discourse," says the Times. Don Freeman, retired columnist for the Union-Tribune, interviewed Buckley several times, both in New York and San Diego. "He spoke and wrote beautifully, but English was his third language," says Freeman. Buckley was born in Mexico where his father made a fortune in oil. The young man learned Spanish. Then the family moved to Paris where Buckley learned French. Then the family moved to the U.S., and English came to the fore. Freeman remembers that Buckley had a New York apartment at 72nd and Park Ave., as well as his Connecticut home. Freeman interviewed him at the apartment in the morning, and was going to the theater that afternoon. But it was Columbus Day, and cabs weren't available. So Buckley took his son's "motorcycle-like vehicle" and wheeled Freeman, riding in the back, to the theater. Freeman asked Buckley why he used such big words. "Because they are in the dictionary," replied the author/polemicist. After giving a speech in San Diego, Buckley was given a bottle of wine by his hosts, who apparently didn't know Buckley was a wine connoisseur. "He said it was inferior," recalls Freeman. Actually, "he had a lot of personal warmth, a feeling for people that you wouldn't think someone in his economic position would have."