The Corner

Culture

Arts with Craft

WFB and Ronald S. Berman on Firing Line, June 3, 1974 (via YouTube)

Today on the homepage, I have a piece called “The Arts: Who Needs ’Em?” The subtitle is “Asking and answering some basic questions.” WFB occasionally referred to this kind of thing as “infield practice” — which was strange for him, as I say in my opening paragraphs. WFB was not much for sports, unless you count sailing.

Can you? I put this question to my brother-in-law, a sailor. He responded, “Simple rule for me: It’s a sport if you know you’ve won when you cross the finish line. Sorry to all the ice-dancers in the world.”

(Irritated ice-dancers among us will direct their mail to my brother-in-law — North Fork, Long Island — rather than to me, thank you very much.)

WFB attended two baseball games in his life, at the insistence of Ira Glasser, who accompanied him. Actually, dragged him. Glasser was the head of the ACLU. He and WFB went to a Mets game in 1994, when WFB was almost 70; several years later, they went to a Yankees game. To the Mets game, they took the subway, because Glasser said it was all part of the experience. WFB had not been on a subway train since 1965, when he ran for mayor. Then, he made a ceremonial appearance.

How did he get home from the Mets game? The usual way: by limo.

As I say in my piece today, I remember one story from the Yankees game. After an inning or two, WFB went to buy a beer. The young woman behind the counter asked for ID. WFB — astonished — replied, “I’m 74 years old.”

He hated officiousness. He hated blind rule-following.

I remember another story from the same period. After 9/11, everyone was hot on security, as why not? But sometimes the measures could be a little silly. A guard at some building said to WFB, “Good morning, Mr. Buckley. May I see your ID?”

Anyway, in this piece of mine, I touch on a number of issues, involving the arts, society, and the individual. See what you think. Here on the Corner, I wanted to mention a Firing Line that WFB did in 1974, at American University in Washington, D.C. The topic was government and the arts and humanities. WFB’s guest was Ronald S. Berman, a professor of English whom Nixon had appointed the head of the NEH. He is brilliant and warm; WFB is brilliant and warm — it is a marvelous discussion. (One could almost weep.)

I’ll tell you something else of interest. This Firing Line aired in June 1974. At the end of the episode, an announcer said that the following week’s guest would be Vice President Gerald R. Ford. He would not be vice president for long!

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