STRAIGHT TALK

YOUNG BUCK Satirist Christopher Buckley will be speaking November 3 at the Celebration of Reading in Dallas.

First of all, I hear your power is out in Washington. Are all the phones working?

We have phones but no electricity, so we’re essentially back to the days before answering machines, which may not be so bad. What’s tormenting me is the thought that I might be missing calls from telemarketers. I might have won some incredible prize—like two days at a beachfront condo with an option to buy it—and not even know about it.

Your great-grandfather was sheriff of Duval County? Was he on your mother’s side?

No, my father’s side. My grandfather William F. Buckley Sr. was born in Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1881. His father was the sheriff. His name was John Buckley, and he was a Democrat, though we keep quiet about that. Apparently he voted both for President Andrew Johnson and President Lyndon Johnson. But he’s moved to California and is currently a candidate there for governor—as a Republican.

Who does the best impression of your father?

Years ago I ran into a third-rate Vegas comedian who thought I would be incredibly amused, standing there in front of a dozen other people, to hear his impersonation of my father. I listened patiently and, when he was finished, said to him, “That was wonderful. And what do you do for a living, Mr. Travalena?”

What are some pranks you’ve never followed through on?

I tend to act on my prank impulses. Some years ago I announced in the pages of Forbes FYI that the cash-strapped Russians were preparing to auction off the corpse of Lenin. It made the New York Times. And in 1982, while working for George H.W. Bush, I got ahold of the P.A. system on Air Force Two and announced a staff mutiny. The Air Force Two security officers were so amused.

Do you receive many responses from people who take your satirical pieces literally?

I wrote an op-ed piece once for the Wall Street Journal, ostensibly “by” Hillary Clinton—though my own byline was right there at the top of it—in which she said she wasn’t aware of having a brother. This was at the time her brother was caught taking money for arranging a presidential pardon. You should have seen the letters that the Journal got from readers outraged that Hillary was denying she had a brother. Americans can be very literal-minded. It’s part of their charm, a sort of innocence.

What are the political discussions like around your family’s dinner table at Thanksgiving?

I have 6 aunts and uncles and 49 first cousins. No one gets a word in edgewise. This may account for why there are so many writers in my family.

(See Dallas : Other Events.)

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