Reid told great stories, and relished the great stories of others. (The two talents are related — when we come across someone else’s good story, we make it ours by repeating it.) One of his very best concerned the time he took Norman Mailer to lunch with his mother and aunt. These two ladies, both born and raised in New Orleans, kept the novelists in their place with girlish/grande-dame chatter about the old days. Finally, one of them (the aunt?) goaded her sister to tell how waste was removed back in the day. A man with a cart came by to pick up each household’s leavings — I guess pre–World War I New Orleans did not have municipal plumbing. He was known as the presidente de la merde, and was so hailed by all the children of the neighborhood as he made his rounds: Voici le presidente de la merde!
Their old-lady naughtiness stopped Mailer, who wrote a lot about merde, in his tracks. “Damn you, Buckley,” he said afterwards, “you always have something up your sleeve.”
A great story, with four performers — the ladies, Mailer, and Reid, the onlie begetter of it all. R.I.P.